Wednesday, May 25, 2005

TV the Right Way 

Despite the lurid headline, this article from the Guardian (UK) describes the new guidelines for television programming across the pond. They're the kind of thing that would make the religious right bitch and scream stateside. Well, they're probably bitching and screaming in the UK, too. The difference is, over there the government don't give a fig for what the fundies say.

The policy is based in common sense instead of morality, as summed up thusly:
Ofcom has drawn up a 117-word definition of "context" that broadcasters can use to justify the depiction of sex or violence and the use of bad language, including the time the programme was shown, the channel on which it was broadcast, the size of the audience and whether viewers were warned about the content.

"It's about telling the punter what they are going to get before they get it," said Mr Hooper.
Indeed. It still baffles me that, in this age of V-Chips and parental controls on media devices, that there's still any regulation (read: censorship) of the public airwaves. For some reason, a sizeable number of Americans just don't get the simple concept: If you don't like it, don't watch it, and take control of your children's viewing habits.

They put it this way in the article from Britain:
The broadcasting code is intended to give broadcasters more "creative freedom" and allow audiences more responsibility in deciding what they watch.
And those are the keywords there. No artist should be told, ever, what they can or cannot do, short of harming other people. And viewers are the ones who are responsible for what they see on their TVs. After all, the things don't automatically turn themselves on and switch to soft-core cable porn.

In an ideal universe, people, parents in particular, would take responsibility. They'd learn how to use the parental controls, figure out what the ratings mean, and then make the decisions as to what their children could or could not watch. And the FCC (and MPAA) would get the hell out of the censorship business. Broadcasters would be free to show what they wanted to, provided the content carried the proper rating to make the V-Chip meaningful. But beyond that, there should be no content control whatsoever. Period. If the WB wanted to run a hardcore porn version of The OC, they could. People would either tune in or they wouldn't. But I'd bet that a show like that would be a huge ratings hit, at least for its pilot episode.

The irony of all the rightwing loonies trying to dumb everything down until it's safe for everyone and interesting to no one is that it contradicts that other facet of conservatism, the belief in a capitalist free market. If it's really true that "most people" (to use a Fox Newsism) don't want to see the naughty stuff, then lets put it to a free market test. Take the reins off the creative people. Anything goes. At the end of the season, we'll see which shows are hits.

After all, MTV's The Real World would be unwatchable if it weren't full of attractive, often pixelnaked, horny young people. And it's been on the air since 1992.

But we all know that Baywatch and its variations ran for a combined fourteen years, spawned five made-for-TV movies and an upcoming theatrical film, all because of its scintilating plotlines and brilliant dialogue...

(Funny story addendum: I once saw (and I have a witness) an episode of Baywatch with a hidden surprise. See, during one of those slo-mo, let's watch the wet hooters bounce while the women jog moments, some dude in the background on the beach with his friend suddenly turns around, drops trou and moons us, all in slo-mo and for quite a long time. I've never figured out whether it got through because: a) none of the production crew was watching anything but the boobies, or b) the producers saw it but said, "You know what? I'll bet no one will notice that naked ass because nobody will be watching anything but the boobies." In any case, it would be interesting to know whether anyone ever complained. The guy did have a mighty fine ass, after all. Mighty fine...)

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