• Why “Just Change the Channel” Isn’t Enough

    by  • August 12, 2013 • Broadcast Decency, Sex, Sexualization • 15 Comments

    Last week a blog post by Rebeca Seitz caught fire online. If I had to guess why this particular blog post took off the way it did, I’d say it was because she described a scenario that is all too familiar to parents these days.

    In it she relayed her shock and horror that over breakfast, ABC’s Good Morning America aired a soft-porn ad for the network’s program Betrayal. The ad depicted a man and woman fully nude and having sex. Not exactly what you’d expect to see over your Cheerios. And it’s especially unwelcome when you’re just trying to get caught up on the day’s news and weather while you are getting your kids fed and out the door in the morning.

    How often have we heard the hoary cliché, “If you don’t like it, change the channel.” But Rebeca’s story perfectly illustrates why “just change the channel” is wholly inadequate.

    Rebeca, just like thousands (millions?) of parents before her, probably did change the channel. But by that time it was too late. Her eight-year-old son had already seen the image, and a little piece of his innocence died that day. He had already been exposed to something she wanted to protect him from.

    It’s not as if she was watching a TV-14 primetime soap, or Showtime mini-series. She was watching Good Morning America. She had no reason to expect such content with the morning news, but it is symptomatic of the general corrosion of the culture that this kind of content is no longer confined to the post-10 p.m. time slot when kids are safely tucked away in bed. It is everywhere at all times, and darn near impossible to avoid.

    But this is what the “just change the channel” mentality has wrought. It has placed the entire burden not on the networks to be responsible, but on the parents to be constantly on guard, even during times of day and on programs once assumed to be appropriate for viewers of all ages. It has given networks the green light to air whatever they want, whenever they want.

    It has entirely ceded the culture to the most corrupting influences out there. And no matter how vigilantly you try to guard against those influences, they creep in like toxic fumes through the cracks and crevices. I’ve never watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians, but I know the names of every member of that family — because popular culture has a way of permeating the general culture, to the point that it is impossible to avoid.

    The “just change the channel” crowd might as well be saying “throw out your television sets,” because that’s a more realistic solution than the one they’re suggesting. They want the networks to have all the say, and parents to have no say at all, even though the networks are using a resource that is owned by the very parents who are being forced into retreat. They’re saying “like it or lump it,” with no middle ground allowed.

    Maybe if more of us had taken Rebeca’s approach, if more of us had pushed back on the networks, if more of us had taken the broadcasters to task instead of merely “changing the channel,” we wouldn’t have to worry about our kids getting soft-porn with their breakfast.



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    15 Responses to Why “Just Change the Channel” Isn’t Enough

    1. R.D.
      September 20, 2013 at 8:13 am

      CRAP, Plain and simple.. if the boy is 8, and dosen’t “know” about anything, then it’s the PARENTS fault! if “changing the channels” isn’t enough, get rid of your t.v. There are WAYYY more of us who don’t mind, than there are prudish crybabys who want to control everyone else.

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        September 20, 2013 at 9:21 am

        Because a tiny clique of sex-obsessed, violence-worshipping “creative artists” have the “right” to impose their narrow-minded views on the American people — either by using the airwaves the people own, or by forcing people to pay for cable channels they don’t want. And if you object to what they’re showing, YOU have no First Amendment right to criticize it! You’re supposed to just swallow whatever garbage they churn out, and like it.

    2. Echo Moon
      August 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      i’m 58 and in no way am i a prude. at my age i know all about the birds and the bees. i have 2 adult offspring to prove i know where to put and what to do. both kid were planned and both born in may,
      but…… i am sick and tired of sex, sex and more sex being shoved down my throat and having my ear bombarded with it in music.

      do i want to see censorship take everything over? no! but the are so many other ways of getting the message out. better, more tasteful, quieter and provocative. what ever happened to “leave some for the imagination??? he77, imagination is usually always better anyway.

      i think more should be in place to protect and shield the young. and do the same for us older ones who only want the real thing in life not pretend crap on tv, in movies and music…..

    3. Marilyn
      August 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Even if it were possible to keep one’s own kids from seeing this stuff , their neighbor’s kids and their friends are seeing it and will be talking and snickering about it in our kid’s presence. It MUST be removed, there is no other solution. Thank goodness for PTC.

    4. Bradley Laing
      August 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

      —In the name of humanity, to quote my favorite cartoon coyote, what are you doing?

      —-The editorial does not end with asking people to call their local tv station and ask ABC to pull the advertisement.

      “Television is one of — if not the — most powerful, effective forms of media for transmitting our beliefs, our cultural norms, what we deem entertaining and encouraging as a society. I’m trying desperately to understand the merits of just removing ourselves from it,” she wrote. “When we do that, we cede the territory … and it becomes what it has become, which is what our children inherit. If we don’t engage, what changes?”

      We’ve seen the trend that begs for resistance. The executives who’ve ripped the Mickey Mouse ears off ABC are exactly like the rest of the Tinseltown elite. Money is the object, and stimulating the viewer with ever-darker material is the method.

      They only see children as part of a 2-to-17-demographic on a chart that won’t make them enough money. The serious profits are in tantalizing and titillating young to middle-age adults, and there’s never a poor time to sell them glamorous immorality.

    5. Lisa
      August 17, 2013 at 8:49 am

      I agree with Anita. Why can’t we just pay for the channels we want? I’m so tired of paying for channels that promote immorality. My children can’t even watch a Disney show without being exposed to “smutty” commercials. Instead of throwing the TV out, we’ll just throw our cable box out!

    6. Cindy
      August 16, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      They are really making it hard to watch anything. I was watching a movie on Lifetime. It was really getting into it and bam! They have two women kiss each other. You don’t even see it coming. They are putting it in everything to jam it down our throats. Needless to say even though the plot was good I changed the channel at that point. I don’t need it and I am not going to watch when they play tricks like that. i

    7. Tonka
      August 16, 2013 at 9:35 am

      No sexual content broadcast before 9pm in any time zone! $10K fine each occurrence. Imagine a better world where adult content, topics and discussions were slated for late evening viewing. Networks wonder why their ratings and market share keep dropping and it’s for reasons exactly like this. Banish Jerry Springer and Morey to wee hours. Eject How I met Your Mother and other series thriving on sexual innuendo to the post Midnight time slot. Once Hulu takes over the world of broadcasting we should be able to detonate those programs offensive to us from entering our homes kind of like parental block on steroids.

      • Steve Davis
        August 19, 2013 at 6:53 am

        10k fine??? Ha that’s nothing….! They get more than that for a 30 second commercial. $100,000. fine would be more like it. However we need to bring back the censors that once oversaw all of this crud. America was a much nicer place then. No ONE needs to watch, hear, or experience in any form, some of the garbage that is broadcast these days just to improve ratings. FEW people bother to complain, even if they care. The masses, seem to be morally satisfied with such programming, and it’s also the reason many churches are suffering from a lack of attendance. We have a new class of people these days…I’ll call them the I DON”T CARE CLAN…. these are the people that hurry, and can’t stand to wait in line, cut you off on the freeway, run red lights, won’t wait for a train, won’t stop to render aid, won’t mow their yard, without being notified by the city, park in the yard, and won’t bother to vote, or if they do, don’t care for whom or what, they let their children run rampant, in the stores pulling off the goods and leaving them in the floors just as they do themselves, leave the meat in the produce display since they don’t have time to put it back, they text, while driving 50 down the street with a load of kids, or with no kids they have a load of papers in their lap, won’t go to Church, since no one is gonna tell them how to live! They like to do as they please, and don’t get in their way.

    8. George
      August 16, 2013 at 6:51 am

      I’m glad that I’m not the only one upset by all this garbage on tv. I’m also very glad that PTC is around to push back on the networks and let them know that we’re not going to put up with their nonsense.

    9. Anita
      August 16, 2013 at 3:59 am

      I no longer have small children in the house. However, I miss the days when if you wanted to view sexual immorality and depravity, you could pay for a channel that would give it to you. I am angry that I can’t stop paying for Fox to air material that I find extremely offensive, unless I just refuse to see TV. I want cable choice. I also want all basic channels, at all times, to screen all material presented so that those who have no interest in sexually explicit, or extremely violent content, don’t have to see it accidentally.

    10. Bradley Laing
      August 13, 2013 at 11:49 am

      But parents know the impossibility of monitoring their children every second of every minute of every day – especially when a multi-billion dollar global corporation like Fox is constantly bombarding those same children with content like ADHD.

    11. Dana
      August 12, 2013 at 11:14 am

      I hate it when channels that used to be known for decent quality programming just turn to “Sex, Smut, and Nuthin’ But” all in the name of the almighty dollar–and never, ever turn back to what they used to be. That and “just throw out your TV” are insults to my intelligence.

      • A. Xak
        August 18, 2013 at 3:09 pm

        But Dana…

        You make up part of the demographic that make that advertising successful. That’s the only reason you’ll see these things over and over. Maybe stop watching it? Or make sure you have the control you should have over your husband so that HE won’t watch it either. Control is the solution to everything.

        • Dana
          August 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm

          You are wrong! You couldn’t PAY me to watch this drivel. All I want is quality, intelligent programming back–but that will never happen because there are brainless twits who DO watch it and the power$-that-be are making millions from it! Besides, how you YOU know I’m in the demographic you speak of? I’m not even married!

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