Think of the children

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Fresh Air tonight was on the FCC's indency rules. The last guest was Terry Winter from the Parents Television Council, pitching the usual line about how we need the FCC to restrict indecency on television in order to protect children. Thing is, though, that pretty much every television manufactured since 2000 has a V-chip and so can be programmed to stop children from watching "offensive" programming. So remind me again why we all have to have our programming dumbed down to the level suitable for 12-year-olds?

3 Comments

Congress cannot and should not protect the morals of children. It's not their job.

For parents that do care, there is a simpler sloution than the v-chip. CURB your television! It's not a complete solution, not a solution at all, but it is a step in the right direction.

So remind me again why we all have to have our programming dumbed down to the level suitable for 12-year-olds?
Because there are too many 52-year-olds who are emotionally 12.

I think there's a legitimate question of what the "default settings" should be. Should content that's inappropriate for kids be the default, and the parents have to block it via some moderately complicated set of tricks with their TV? Or should it default to being blocked, and the parent has to opt in.

This has at least three effects: First, it determines how much hassle it is for parents to restrict their kids' TV viewing to something reasonable. Second, it has something to do with how likely their kids are to see inappropriate things on TV at their friends' houses. And third, it imposes a certain amount of control from above (or at least hassle from above) on people who aren't restricting their kids' viewing, either from inattention or from a conscious decision that what kids watch on TV doesn't matter much.

This strikes me as being one of those cases where we're trying to decide how to shift around property rights to minimize the damage done by some externality. Do parents default to the right not to have sex and violence on TV, with people who want to sell/buy sex and violence required to do some extra work? Or do adults default to the right to see whatever they like, with people who don't want to see sex and violence (or who don't want their kids to see it) required to do some extra work?

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