" F*** Television Censorship"
by Ben Flick
Access is threatened today by the government by putting a brown paper bag around "risquÃÂ©" material on the Internet and television. Industry, responding both to government pressure and consumer demand, has compounded the problem by creating easy tools for censorship. Government is privatizing censorship, pushing it out. Recently there have been efforts to make television and the Internet "family friendly," by giving parents tools to create "kid-safe" environments. But the consequences may be far-reaching, as the tools used in the home to shield children from certain ideas and images increasingly appear in schools and libraries, where they limit the ability of the entire community to gain access to valuable information. The promise of the electronic media - to create a more vibrant and democratic "marketplace of ideas" than has ever before been possible - could be undermined, if rating and filtering is widely embraced.
By directing a bright light at these censorship tools, we may persuade viewers and users to resort not to ratings and filters, but to open and unfettered access to information and freedom of expression to demand more speech, not enforced silence. The Telecommunications Act creates a statutory scheme to regulate content of television programming. It mandates that new television sets be equipped with a V-chip capable of blocking programs, and it requires to prescribe guidelines to identify programming containing sexual, violent or other indecent material to help parents limit children's viewing - unless the television/cable industry "voluntarily" devises its own "acceptable" rules for labeling programs. The terms "violent" "sexual" or "indecent" are not defined in the Act. In July 1997, the major networks, with the exception of NBC, agreed to begin using TV Parental Guidelines, a television rating system, to supplement the previously introduced movie-style age-based rating: TV-G...