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It's Time for the FCC to Address "A Continued Coarsening of Television Content": Prof. Jeff McCall '76

It's Time for the FCC to Address "A Continued Coarsening of Television Content": Prof. Jeff McCall '76

May 10, 2019

"The Federal Communications Commission has the opportunity to address a sham that has been foisted on television viewers for over two decades," begins a column by Jeffrey M. McCall. Writing for The Hill, the professor of communication at DePauw University adds, "The Commission is currently preparing a report to Congress about how well the television content ratings system works. This should be a brief document and need only read, 'It doesn’t.' The report is due out this month."

Dr. McCall offers, "The system that determines content ratings for television programs emerged from the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That law called for the media industry to create a system to rate content of programs so viewers would be alerted to edgy programs containing sexual content, foul language or violence. These ratings are supposed to assist parents in protecting kids from unsuitable content. The V-chip, a technical blocking device in televisions, is designed to block programs rated as unfit for children. The utility of the V-chip hinges on having programs sensibly and accurately rated."

The television industry created the Television Oversight Monitoring Board, which determines ratings for each show, which are briefly displayed on screen as a program begins. McCall calls the system "flimsy", adding, "The effect has been a continued coarsening of television content."

He observes, "The FCC’s mandate in this process is limited. The Commission is only supposed to provide an assessment of this content ratings mess. It is time, however, for the FCC to lead and use this report to recommend a reinvention of this fraudulent system that has never functioned fairly."

According to the professor, "The media industry has signaled it will get on its First Amendment high horse if the FCC dares to move beyond issuing a pro forma and industry-supporting report. That’s a ridiculous smokescreen. The FCC is not about to get into the program content business. The cultural corrupters in the media industry can continue to produce whatever gross material they want. The FCC should just see to it that the seedy programs are labeled accurately, as was the idea back in 1996."

The column concludes, "If the media industry really thought there was a First Amendment action related to fairly rating television shows, it would have run to federal court back then. The television industry is just worried now about long overdue accountability. The upcoming FCC report must give them reason to worry."

You'll find the complete essay here.

Jeff McCall is a 1976 graduate of DePauw, where he was a Rector Scholar and speech (communication) major. He went on to earn a master's degree from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. He joined the DePauw faculty in 1985.

A former journalist himself, McCall is regularly quoted in stories on media matters. He talked with Yahoo! Finance about the friction between Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the National Enquirer and recently spoke with Fox News about the challenges facing the news division at CBS.

Source: The Hill