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Stevenson Has Too Much Faith in Parents' Control of TV

Column by Joo Youn Park
Staff Reporter

In "Viewers Have Option to Watch Violence On Television," [Nov.9] Daniel C. Stevenson seems to grossly underestimate the influence the "idiot box" has on our society. In addition, Stevenson offers an ineffective solution (that of viewers choosing appropriate programs for their children) while condemning government anti-violence controls over the content of television and movies. Unlike the author, I firmly believe that there should be regulations on the content of television programs and movies.

In his column, Stevenson entertains the notion that such controls on the entertainment industry constitute "a blatant act of censorship and a violation of the basic freedoms of speech and the press." Apparently, Stevenson feels that these rights are absolute. The Supreme Court, however, thinks otherwise. In a case that involved the FCC in the late 70s, the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional to subject to federal regulation any media (radio, television, etc.) that uses the public airwaves. For this reason, the recent move by the FCC to fine Howard Stern was not a violation of his constitutional rights. Thus, Stevenson erred when he stated that television programs were "constitutionally protected" from censorship.

"The easiest and most effective way to eliminate violence from children's programming is for the parents of these children to change the channel, or better yet, turn the television off completely," writes Stevenson. One of the reasons why I believe controls are necessary is that the hardest and the least effective way to eliminate violence from children's television is parental intervention. Most American households have both parents working and the children come home from school before their parents do. The main source of entertainment for these children is the "idiot box" that is filled with violent images from movie commercials, cartoons, and soap operas that are available from the many channels available. And where are their parents to turn off the television set? At work. Babysitters? The babysitters will most likely be all too content to have the children occupied by a television set. Stevenson's solution to curb violence in children's television amounts to, in effect, parents following their children around with a remote control and zapping undesirable programs, a solution so thoroughly inefficient that is far-fetched.

Another example to illustrate that Stevenson's position is not a viable alternative to government control is that parents will have a difficult time monitoring the viewing habits of teenagers, who are perhaps the most profoundly influenced by television and movie violence. Stevenson mentioned that a teenage boy was killed while trying to pull a stunt that he had seen in a movie. I would like to ask the Stevenson: Where was his mother to turn off the movie in the movie theater? Or perhaps Stevenson felt that teenagers are capable of choosing sensible alternative programs over those brimming with violence. Stevenson must have great faith in people.

Stevenson goes on to say that the problem of television violence is the fault of a "violent and a violence-loving society" and that "we should rely on ourselves to choose sensible alternatives." It is absurd and foolish to expect that left on its own, a violence-loving society would try to cure itself of its addiction. Perhaps, it may be able to, eventually. However, our society cannot afford to wait; 25 years ago the ratio of crimes committed to the number of police officers was 1 to 3.3. Now, it is 3.3 to 1. I shudder to think what the ratio will be 25 years from now.