Cable TV: more responsible fare

IT should come as no surprise that there is increasing discussion on the part of some communities, educators, and parents about the programming on cable television. A number of programs contain scenes that could hardly be considered other than promiscuously graphic. Usually, however, they are carried late at night, when families can prevent viewing by children.

What is of equal if not greater concern is the nature of some of the materials presented during the daylight and early evening hours on cable networks that cater, among others, to young people. Some presentations, although technologically innovative in their use of music, film, and unique rapid-fire editing, are marked by sadism, attacks on women, satanic themes, and images of torture and destruction. The cable people maintain that what they show is no worse than what appears in many films or television dramas. Further, they decry any efforts that could be construed as censorship.

But that misses the point. One does not have to advocate censorship or advertiser boycotts or other questionable assaults on the freedom of speech to at least ask the cable industry to exercise greater responsibility in presenting programming geared to children. Some cable channels are noteworthy for the quality of their programming: Nickelodeon and Disney, for example. As Peggy Charren, president of Action for Children's Television points out, parents have a special responsibility to ensure that young children are properly supervised when watching, or contemplating watching, television - especially some of the programming on cable. Parents can always elect to turn off the TV set or obtain a locking mechanism that keeps out cable. And surely, cable broadcasters, many of them with children of their own, would want to ensure that violent depictions are either not shown or, at the least, are aired late in the evening when younger children are not likely to be watching.

The cable programmers might want to consider another factor. The video cassette and recording market is starting to take off. Prices of VCRs will likely continue to fall. By buying a VCR parents will increasingly be able to help influence what their children watch by going right around cable altogether if the content becomes so objectionable on cable that it threatens the well-being of impressionable young people.

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