We watched The Simpsons again last night. I thought it was safe to go back since the regular season is over. A promo for a new show rated featured a very, very scantily clad stripper from the back and side, gyrating. This is softcore porn. The ad also featured explosions and other violence. Sorry I can’t be more specific. I was desensitized after the three other ads with gunfire and explosions. Another ad, for a razor, strongly suggested a woman stripping off her top in front of man. And my favorite part, there was a movie promo for Toy Story 3, a movie intended for young children. So who does Fox and its advertisers think is watching this animated show? Obviously, a wide range of ages.
I talked with Melissa Henson, director of communications and public education at the Parents Television Council. The council advocates for more family-centric prime-time television. She said the content of ads is increasingly a cause of concern for parents.
“Even if you are fortunate enough to find a program that you feel comfortable allowing your children to watch,” she said, “the chances are good that you will encounter an ad for a racy show that appears later, or a scary ad for a horror film or a violent video game.”
(Those ratings themselves are subject to question. Is a scene in a strip club depicting a woman in a G-string gyrating in front of the camera appropriate viewing for a 14-year-old? My son is 14. I don’t find softcore porn appropriate for a 14-year-old, no. Do you? I will discuss this in another post. )
The Federal Communications Commission is authorized to restrict indecency on broadcast television between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. when children are likely to be watching. But in order to act, the FCC must receive a complaint. (The agency isn’t allowed to monitor and censor TV shows.) Henson said she doesn’t believe the indecency standard for ads has been tested; the agency has to receive a complaint before it can investigate.
Unfortunately, according to Ms. Henson, the FCC has a backlog of 1.6 million complaints. (The FCC wouldn’t comment) So what else can you do?
Most importantly, you should write to your representative in Congress. Your representative handles constituent concerns about federal agencies, and also can work to change the law on behalf of his or her constituents. Let the person who represents you in your government know your thoughts on what is happening on the airwaves, which belong, by the way, to the public.
And to get attention, print out your letter and mail it with a stamp. Email and phone calls are good, too, but a letter arriving by U.S. mail gets the most attention in your representative’s office.
Also: Write to the advertisers. In the case of promos for a networks’ other shows, you can write to the networks’ executives. Again, send your letter in the mail. But if it’s a choice betweeen email and no action, then by all means, email. Usually, you can find contact information on line. Here is the address for News Corp. the parent company of Fox Broadcasiting, and the names of the executives.
Write to the other advertisers on the show. Heck, why not write to Disney and Pixar and tell them you don’t think their ad sits very well next to strippers.
Write to the people and organizations who are part of the TV Watch coalition. TV Watch believes that parents can control what their children see on TV by using the V-chip to block shows according to their rating. As we’ve seen, the ads are not rated and thus cannnot be blocked. Let them know what you think about parental blocking controls. List of TV Watch coalition members.
I found an address for almost every one of these organizations and people. Some of them seem not to actually exist, though. I will post that information soon.
You can give feedback on tv parental guidelines here.
Some further reading on the pornification of our culture. A culture in which strip club scenes are getting to be standard fare on TV.