Don’t let government control America's TV programming

The Parents Television Council’s letter to The Hill (“Pass bill to protect children from indecent TV material,” April 2) fails to mention the vast array of information parents have at their disposal that helps them understand programming content, as well as the universal existence of parental controls via cable, satellite or the V-Chip. The ratings, posted boldly at the start of all entertainment programming, allow every parent to block programming before it hits the screen — a revolutionary change from 30 years ago that offers parents more control over content.

PTC is correct in pointing out that television is as pervasive today as it was in 1978, when the Supreme Court considered the landmark FCC v. Pacifica case. But what PTC fails to point out is that today, Americans can choose from hundreds of non-regulated cable and satellite channels, the Internet, DVDs and DVRs for their entertainment, presenting a significantly different landscape from 30 years ago. In typical PTC fashion, their omission of key facts is designed to strengthen their argument for congressional intervention.

The PTC continues an aggressive push to influence federal policy, but of the approximately 30 million out of 130 million households with children, 87 percent of parents believe they should be in charge of making television decisions, not the government. Overwhelmingly, Americans believe that parents — and not the government — should control television programming.

This vocal faction manipulates the process using “astroturf” campaigns, generating mass complaints to regulators using identical e-mail forms including several from individuals who didn’t watch the show about which they complained. Activists would have policymakers and regulators believe that broadcasters intend to pollute the airwaves and that Americans are offended by most of the 617 million regulated broadcast minutes in a year, a conclusion inconsistent with all available facts.

Americans have more mediums and content choices today than ever, making parents’ job that much more challenging. Fortunately, the pervasiveness of information via the ratings and parental controls allow parents to control television programming to suit their sensibilities. Americans reserve the right to make decisions over appropriate programming based on their own taste, values and style. It is a right solidified by parents’ ability to control their children’s viewing with information, technology and old-fashioned rules.

Charleston, S.C.

No sympathy for Hill aides

From Frank Mack

Congressional aides upset about their personal information being advertised will get no sympathy from me (article, “Aides’ private info exposed,” April 2). The way I see it, they’re getting a taste of what the rest of us have had done to us already. I’m tired of everyone asking me what my Social Security number is. Their employers are responsible for the misuse of this identifier. Tough stuff!

Melrose, Mass.