TV Summit: Not Enough
WHEN Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and several hundred billion dollars' worth of media moguls cross paths to discuss TV content, ''summit'' is a good descriptive word for the scene.Skip to next paragraph
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But today's summits, like so many diplomatic summits, are just a start.
The wisest words spoken about TV quality in Washington this week were, in fact, uttered by Sens. Sam Nunn and Joseph Lieberman. They spoke in the presence of major religious leaders. The two senators argued that a ratings system for TV content and a V-chip to allow parental control of children's fare are not enough to really improve this principal teacher of America's children.
Before the big names of network TV, cable, and Hollywood TV production came to Washington, they huddled over dinner with Jack Valenti, czar of the movie-ratings system. He could usefully have reminded them of an exchange he had when Hollywood's rating system was young. He was asked how it was possible for a warm-hearted film about two elderly gents crossing America to be slapped with an R rating because of one bad word while a trashy movie with one savagely sadistic scene after another won a PG rating. Mr. Valenti's answer: He wouldn't want his own family to see the latter, but the industry was trapped by its ratings rules.
TV CEOs take note.
Lots of ideas have been floated for a constructive stimulus to add to the basically defensive act of arming parents with ratings and a V-chip.One involves using the awarding of new ''spectrum'' (air space allotments for digital TV broadcasting) as leverage to extract better programming. President Clinton is pushing for a prime-time ''family viewing hour.''
These are useful goads. But the potential auctioning of spectrum is really a separate matter. And quality programming for children and families should flow from the creative juices of such talented people as those employed by Disney, Dreamworks, Turner, and the others. They must see what their industry is doing to children - including their own and their writers' and producers' kids. At their best these CEOs have proven they know how to produce magical shows that intrigue and educate children and whole families.
V-chips will be a deterrent. But the summiteers need to find and promote some new Mr. Chipses of the air.