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Broadcasters "Have Seemingly Lost Their Collective Social Compasses," Opines Prof. Jeff McCall '76

June 23, 2007

Jeff McCall 2006.jpgJune 23, 2007, Greencastle, Ind. - "Philosopher G. K. Chesterton noted a century ago that 'oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people,'" notes Jeffrey M. McCall in today's Indianapolis Star. The professor of communication at DePauw University's op-ed continues, "This reflection might explain why there is so much bad and bizarre behavior coming out of the broadcasting industry lately. The personalities and producers in the electronic media have seemingly lost their collective social compasses. They apparently don't recognize how odd their material is and how out of sync it is with 'ordinary' Americans."

Dr. McCall, author of the book, Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences, offers the newspaper's readers a laundry list of "recent lowlights." They include: "Don Imus thinks it is OK to degrade a women's college basketball team. Shock radio personalities Opie and Anthony laugh while a homeless man talks of sexually assaulting Condoleezza Rice. Two New York radio hosts make a prank call to a Chinese restaurant and then proceed to launch ethnic slurs and sexual insults. A Sacramento radio station holds a water drinking contest, complete with "humor" about urination, leading to the death of a woman. Rosie O'Donnell uses a network stageMcCall Book Viewer Discretion.jpg to blather about 9/11 conspiracies, "radical Christianity" and American soldiers as terrorists. NBC News rushes to air video of the Virginia Tech shooter, making sure the NBC logo is prominently displayed in the presentation, only wondering later if the move was harmful to victims' families."

McCall, a 1976 graduate of DePauw, writes that "sex and violence will continue to be staples" in the new television shows that debut this fall. "Instead of stepping back and assessing the cultural footprint it puts on society, the broadcast industry distracts itself by fighting the Federal Communications Commission, which after years of dormancy has finally taken an interest in what violent and indecent content might be doing to society. An FCC report to Congress this spring raised the prospect of regulating television violence. The National Association of Broadcasters responded by stating 'responsible self-regulation is far preferable to government regulation.' True enough, but had the television industry been more 'responsible' in the first place, Congress and the FCC wouldn't now be meddling."

The column points out, "A study commissioned by the Culture and Media Institute finds that 73 percent of Americans believe the entertainment media are having a negative impact on the nation's moral structure." The professor declares, "For things to change, however, citizens need to become more assertive in letting media outlets know how they feel. The public needs to convince media leaders that their material really is odd and out of step with the majority of society. Sadly, although Americans routinely complain about bad restaurant service or a defective product, only 5 percent have ever complained to a media outlet about content."

Taking the time to send a note or pick up the phone, McCall says. "Public outcry was instrumental in Imus' exit, in canning NBC's far-fetched Book of Daniel last fall, and in keeping FOX's ridiculous proposed program aboutmay 2006 fox mccall.jpg O.J. Simpson off the air. Media outlets will want to dismiss public complaints as censorship, but such citizen activism is free speech at work in a rhetorical battle for how we want our culture to be reflected in the media. It is time for ordinary citizens to take control of what our society defines as 'odd.'"

The complete text appears at College News.org.

On June 4, Jeff McCall discussed his new book with WMAQ news anchor Dick Johnson on the NBC Chicago's morning news program, and in May appeared live on Champaign, Illinois CBS affiliate WCIA-TV.

Learn more about Viewer Discretion Advised in this previous story.

Source: Indianapolis Star

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