Originally centered on educational programming, the cable network TLC has become a channel increasingly focused on sex.
When it launched in 1980, TLC was called The Learning Channel, and offered fascinating and educational programming for the whole family. conveying information to viewers and rarely if ever contained anything even mildly offensive or disturbing. The casual channel-flipper could find his attention captured by a fascinating bit of information, and profitably spend an hour or even an entire afternoon learning about subjects as disparate as domesticated animals, steam engines or the Kalahari desert. Such programming was also perfect for children, as it could make learning painless and enjoyable.
But today, the former Learning Channel advertises itself exclusively with the saccharine acronym “TLC” – as if being a channel devoted to learning was somehow something of which to be ashamed. Moreover, the channel has become increasingly obsessed with graphic sexual content. The titles of TLC’s programming lineup alone tell the story: Sister Wives (about “polygamy and plural marriage”); Buying Naked (in which “clothing-optional clients shop the real-estate market in nudist communities”); the “progressive polygamists” of My Five Wives; Virgin Diaries (which portrays virginity as some sort of freakish psychological problem); the oddball fetishes of Strange Sex; and the self-explanatory Sex Sent Me to the ER.
Even the network’s seemingly innocuous programming is advertised with sex on TLC’s website. My Strange Addiction features stories about “The Advantage to Having a Large Bra Size” and “38KKK Bust Size,” while Say Yes to the Dress, about women shopping for wedding dresses, is promoted with clips titled “Boobarella” and “Triple D Letdown.” TLC also advertises the entire network with a clip titled “Sex Stories That Will Make You Blush.”
And now, the network is offering a program titled All About Sex. On the talk show, “comedian” Margaret Cho will be joined by a panel of women who will feature “open conversations about sex,” as well as discussing the week’s “craziest sex-related news.”
It’s no surprise that many adult viewers are interested in sexual content – as witness the existence and success of networks like The Playboy Channel, as well as the many pay-per-view channels featuring even more explicit content. The fact that these networks are available only to those who specifically request, and are willing to pay for, such content makes their existence largely unobjectionable; those interested can easily see them, while those offended by them do not have the channels forced on them, nor are they required to subsidize content to which they object.
But TLC is a different story. As a network on the basic tier, every cable and satellite subscriber in America is forced to pay for TLC’s tawdry content. And because it’s on the basic tier, TLC’s sex-slathered programming is easily accessible to children and teens.
Perhaps it is appropriate that the network now goes by the name “TLC”…for that name can easily stand for what it has become: The Lechery Channel.