TV rating system is a con job

By Charley Reese, King Features Syndicate, Inc.

June 1996 – This business of a rating system for television shows is a fraud and a con job. It’s a way to get Bill Clinton’s entertainment industry buddies off the hook.

The problem is not lack of labeling. It’s content. It’s gratuitous and graphic violence. It’s vulgarity. It’s profanity. It’s explicit and gratuitous sex. You don’t get rid of garbage by labeling it “garbage.” You throw it out.

Let’s get one thing straight. The people who produce and broadcast this stuff have shown utter contempt for the American people. They are invited guests into our living rooms via our public airwaves, and they have abused our hospitality by acting in a rude and disgusting manner. In a word, there’s no need to make any concessions to these greedy sleazebags now in charge of the nation’s entertainment industry.

We should insist that Congress clean up the entertainment industry’s act as the price of using the public’s airwaves. Obviously Congress will not do it on its own. No great amount of censorship, no interference in the true creative process is necessary.

All Congress has to do is to force the entertainment industry, with law, to adopt the same standards a better breed of entertainment executives voluntarily imposed on themselves in the 1950s and ’60s.

No profanity. No vulgarities. No on camera sex. No gratuitous and graphic violence. That’s all that needs to be removed. That standard should be imposed on everything – news, entertainment, talk shows, soap operas, so-called magazine shows, radio, television networks and cable.

It would be a pitifully uncreative person who claimed he could not tell a story without profanity, vulgarity and graphic sex and violence. Talented writers have created high drama and great comedy without these things for generations. Do you think any sitcom today will have the staying power of I Love Lucy?

Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and other great talents produced wonderful entertainment without ever once using gutter material. These talented people were not prudes, but they knew the difference between working a nightclub crowd and entertaining families in their own living rooms.

There is no excuse for not imposing these standards. Labels and V-chips are just political tricks to take the responsibility off the backs of the tycoons of sleaze who have turned America’s television sets into sewer outlets.

The television industry and its subsidiaries in Hollywood have directly contributed to the coarsening, vulgarization and brutalization of American life. With its incessant vulgarity and violence, the entertainment industry is guilty of contributing to the delinquency of minors. Any adult who showed pornography to children or engaged in sex in front of them would be prosecuted. We ought to consider prosecuting these people who are doing it electronically.

What goes on in a private theater or what someone wishes to bring home on a video is one thing. But what travels on the public airwaves by public license or by cable over public right-of-ways by public license or by publicly subsidized satellite is something else.

The vulgar have imposed their standards on the American people. It’s time for the American people to impose a higher standard on those who use the public’s assets for private profit. We would not put up with a guest who acted in a coarse and vulgar manner in our homes in front of our children. We’d throw him out. And that’s what we need to do to these cheap peddlers of sleaze, both on television and radio.

We will never end juvenile crime, juvenile pregnancy and juvenile drug use as long as we continue to allow the entertainment industry, with its enormous prestige in the minds of children, to glamorize the very behaviors we’re trying to persuade children to reject.

The public airwaves belong to us. Let’s clean ’em up.