New FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate encapsulated the agency’s surreal worldview when she said she was motivated to crack down on shows because she had received hundreds of e-mails recently from people complaining about what they had been “subjected” to on TV. Although local broadcasts are free, no one is “subjected” to them, and the vast majority of viewers have increasingly sophisticated ways to screen out shows they don’t want their kids to watch. Virtually every household has a TV set with a V-chip â€” a crude but workable technology for limiting what children watch. And the more than 80% of U.S. homes with cable or satellite have the option of using the screening tools offered in set-top boxes.
As programs move to new venues and time slots, much of it at viewers’ control, it’s irrational to think that the feds can shield children by cracking down on what local broadcasters show. The commission should stop trying to censor broadcast programming and focus instead on helping parents understand and use the tools available to police their television sets.