Supreme Court Broadcast Decency Debate Meaningless for Much of Society

by on November 13th, 2010
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COMMENTARY | Every evening, for decades, American families gathered in front of the television for a few hours after dinner and watched family friendly programming in front of the home’s one television set. Times have changed; however, and families today often have not only a television or mobile device streaming content into every room of the home but, a general lack of interest in sharing family-friendly evenings in front of the family room television. Why shouldn’t the Supreme Court accept changing times in broadcast decency rulings and loosen the seemingly forgotten censorship reins?

Mobile devices and easy access to the world have changed the face of society and of the family. Whether deemed positive or negative, it is a fact that today’s families are often more connected to technology than to one another . Children are even able to stream movies and web content directly to gaming devices in any room of a Wi-Fi accessible home. How important is broadcast television to today’s families? Nickelodeon’s iCarly 2012 New Year’s Episode pulled in over 5.5 million viewers, which means broadcast television was missing a lot of kid and tween viewers during that time slot.

Family downtime is not regularly scheduled for modern families. Thirty years ago, Mom was home with the kids and Dad arrived in time for dinner consistently. In many families, the family dinner time is random at best. Leisure time in families is limited. DVR’s and other recording devices may preserve some early primetime television show for convenient family viewing, but, for the most part, seasonal, prime time television has lost much of its family appeal.

Parents should be responsible for family television viewing. Parents today are well aware that many media offerings are not appropriate for kids. Truly, parents diligent in monitoring a child’s media exposure has likely already cut out many broadcast television, prime time, family hour shows in favor of cable kid-friendly network offerings as insinuations and innuendo are present long before 10 p.m.

How important is broadcast television to daily life? Perhaps Justice Samuel Alito hit the proverbial nail on the head with his comment that broadcast television prime casts should “die a natural death.” American society, for the most part, no longer relies on three to five local, broadcast network channels for its view of the outside world. Times have changed. Technology has changed. Censoring broadcast television at 8 p.m. seems futile when many late night programs are available at earlier hours across a variety of cable, satellite and Internet content providers.

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