We’ve been famously or infamously nagging parents and educators to protect their vulnerable children from “bad” television for years, so we’re glad that, at long last, the creation of TV advocacy groups is on the upswing.
The latest initiative along these lines comes from the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), which has announced the formation of a “pressure group” to protect young viewers. The group, to be named “Child Watch,” will vet TV programs and advertisements and advise kids and their parents to steer clear of potentially disturbing TV fare.
In this regard, we would like to make these additional suggestions: The CWC should realize that one of the biggest stumbling blocks that lie in the way of reforms in current TV practice is the lack of proactive involvement of some of the government agencies charged with the supervision of TV practices.
Many complaints have already been raised by concerned viewers, some with detailed statistics to back them up (for instance, to prove that TV commercials aired per hour have occasionally exceeded proscribed limits). But official action has been slow and long in coming.
Therefore, if “Child Watch” seeks to effect real reforms, it has to light a fire under those government agencies to do the work they’re tasked to accomplish. That’s a tall order, so if the CWC means business, it should focus on that, first and foremost.
Otherwise, all viewer-initiated reforms will be for naught, if government agencies, which have the power to effect real rather than wished-for change, continue to do nothing, or little.
Only after that huge task shall have been accomplished can viewers’ cries for reform be heard.
Similarly daunting but essential is the need to work with concerned TV industry insiders to improve the content of the shows they produce. If they don’t see the need for it, the change won’t happen.
We know that some TV workers know the negative effects of what they’re doing, but they are constrained to abide by what their bosses insist on, because their competitors are doing the exact same thing. Only when the bosses see the light can meaningful reforms be put in place.
For that to happen, groups like the CWC should be prepared to reward compliant TV stations with the committed viewership of their members, which would help neutralize the negative effects of competition.
A numbers game
Thus, the CWC should intensify its campaign to add many more parents and educators to their ranks, because competition on TV is a numbers game, so reformists have to have the mega-numbers to give them the clout they need to go against current industry practices.
Finally, the CWC and its partners, like the National Council for Children’s Television, have to get the media to support their reform initiatives, because they need the viewing public on their side, and “mediagenic messaging” will enable them to do this on a scale that’s large enough to make a persuasive difference!