Tuesday, November 24, 2009 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

What's next from PTC, a call for banning books?

Because it's guaranteed to produce a wry chuckle, I occasionally check the PTC (Parent's Television Council) website to see what shows have recently most offended their delicate sensitivities. Apparently, the latest outrage has to do with some sexually suggestive song and dance routines broadcast on the ABC Television Network as part of the American Music Awards. Elvis' swinging hips, anyone? In any event, the PTC website screams: "PTC Slams ABC for Tasteless 'American Music Awards' Broadcast."

Now I didn't see the broadcast and I have no interest in opining on whether the show was, or was not, actionably indecent as a legal matter within the framework that has been constructed by the FCC over the past several decades. Frankly, the whole broadcast indecency regime is undiluted nonsense as far as I'm concerned and it should have been struck down as unconstitutional years ago.

The larger point that I want to touch upon is just how out of touch with reality PTC and its cohorts are. On this issue I do have some expertise, as I spend quite a bit of time working with teenagers at our local high school. I can assure the gentle reader that today's teenagers are exposed to considerably more graphic content than those of my generation were and - surprise of surprises - it's not by way of the family television set.

Indeed, to complain about content on television today is about as relevant to youth culture as complaining about obscenity in books. Why doesn't PTC go back to complaining about Ulysses and Candid, or Leaves of Grass and the Canterbury Tales for that matter? I'm sure there is much worse in Lady Chatterley's Lover than anything broadcast on the ABC Television Network. Putting aside the constitutional questions, wouldn't it seem rather silly and pointless today to ban these books purportedly to protect mores of our youth? The Naked and the Dead has some vulgar passages, but is anyone under the age of 18 reading it? I don't know that I've ever heard a kid say, "fug."

One is tempted to ask whether the PTC might not be able to find something important to do, but of course that misses the point. There probably is no surer way of raising money from the religious right than by wailing about the decline of decency and the erosion of moral standards - that same tired refrain that would-be censors have been echoing for centuries. What a racket.

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 11:25 AM | Mass Media , Media Regulation