Parents across America should thank Time magazine for putting the issue of indecency in broadcast and cable television on its March 28 cover, asking the question, "Has TV Gone Too Far?"
A poll commissioned by the magazine suggested the majority of Americans believe this to be true. Most Americans want a change.
Time's poll found more than half of America's TV watchers - 53 percent - think the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should place stricter controls on broadcast-channel shows depicting sexual content and violence. An imposing 68 percent believe the entertainment industry has lost touch with the moral standards of the audience.
So much for Hollywood's cushiest defense: We only reflect society. Society is now responding, loudly and unambiguously: No, you're dramatically out of touch.
The numbers condemning Tinseltown cascade: 66 percent said there is too much violence on open-air TV, 58 percent said there's too much cursing, and 50 percent found too much sexual content, the Time poll said. So upset is the public that about 49 percent agree that FCC regulation ought to be extended to cover basic cable, which includes raunchy reality shows on MTV and the over-the-top FX shows "The Shield" and "Nip/Tuck" on many cable systems.
This is no fluke. Other polls have found similar results.
In February, a Fox News-Opinion Dynamics poll asked: "In general, do you think Hollywood moviemakers share your values or not?" Thirteen percent said yes, but an overwhelming 70 percent said no. Fox News also asked, "Do you think Hollywood is in touch with the life of the average American, or is Hollywood out of touch with most Americans?" Nineteen percent said Hollywood's in touch; 72 percent, out of touch. Showing that this issue crosses party lines, 61 percent of Democrats agreed Hollywood does not reflect the values of most Americans.
After the election last November, a CBS/New York Times survey wondered, "What kind of impact would you say Hollywood is having on popular culture? Is Hollywood lowering the moral standards, raising the moral standards, or not having much impact on the moral standards of popular culture?" That may seem like asking if the sky is blue, but 62 percent of those polled agreed Hollywood lowers the public morality. Six percent, probably composed of the clueless and those employed by the entertainment industry, picked the ridiculous answer that Hollywood raises moral standards.
The CBS/Times poll also inquired, "How worried are you that popular culture - that is, television, movies and music - is lowering the moral standards in this country: very worried, somewhat worried, not too worried or not at all worried?" The largest segment, 40 percent, chose "very worried," and 30 percent said "somewhat worried." That's another poll showing 70 percent of Americans are telling Hollywood they're going overboard. (The smallest response was "not at all worried" at 12 percent. I'd bet a majority of that minority isn't attempting to raise children today.)
Last year, the Chicago Tribune asked about sleazy language on the radio: "How about radio personalities who use implicit or explicit sexual expressions on the air? Should it be allowed to be on the air, or should it not be allowed?" Thirty percent said it should be allowed, and 64 percent said it should not be allowed.
The Tribune pollsters explicitly asked about Washington's controversial role in policing the airwaves: "Recently, the Federal Communications Commission ... began fining radio station owners hundreds of thousands of dollars for broadcasts they considered indecent. This led to the cancellation of some shows. Do you approve or disapprove of the FCC's actions?" Once again, there's a chasm in public opinion: 58 percent support major fines, and only 33 percent do not. Once again, this is a bipartisan concern: 51 percent of Democrats favored major fines.
Finally, consider a Gallup poll question from last year: "In your view, does the entertainment industry need to make a serious effort to significantly reduce the amount of sex and violence in its movies, television shows and music, or don't you think they need to do this?" Again, 75 percent said Tinseltown, Motown, and any other entertainment towns need to tone it down. Only 24 percent said they're in favor of the current system of profit-seeking provocation favoring whatever circus will goose the ratings numbers.
The public is making its feelings known in poll after poll. This issue isn't going away, and the anything-goes entertainment elite is not on the winning end. It's time for a cleanup.
• L. Brent Bozell III is the founder and president of the Parents Television Council, an entertainment watchdog group. He and his organization play prominently in the Time article he refers to. © 2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.