Org bows into decency fray

TV Watch to battle gov't control of content

WASHINGTON — With seed money from Viacom, News Corp. and NBC Universal, the silent majority in the broadcast indecency debate is getting a major, collective voice — comprising several that rarely ever agree.

TV Watch, a new coalition advocating parental responsibility over federal regulation, debuted Wednesday with a teleconference announcing results of a national survey showing that 91% of Americans do not want their programming choices dictated by “the sensitivities of a few,” an allusion to groups like the Parents Television Council, which has called for more governmental regulation of content.

“We all have different tastes,” said TVW exec director Jim Dyke. “And there’s no debate that some content is wrong for children. But there is a debate about who should decide what to watch or show.”

At least one org has already formed to represent what it refers to as “the millions of Americans” who are not complaining about content (Daily Variety, April 4). But TVW is the first with such a broad and influential membership, which includes the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Creative Coalition and Center for Creative Voices in Media.

Dyke is a former communications director for the Republican National Committee. Adam Thierer, a co-founding member of TVW, is director of the libertarian Progress and Freedom Foundation’s Center for Digital Media Freedom.

3 firms fund org

Viacom, News Corp. and NBC U are also members. While Dyke declined to disclose TVW’s operating budget, he did say that the three media giants — all of which have been hit with FCC indecency charges — provided the seed money.

Parents Television Council topper Brent Bozell dismissed TV Watch as a front doing CBS, Fox and NBC’s “dirty work.”

TVW’s survey was jointly conducted in March by GOP and Democratic pollsters, who queried 1,000 adults across the country. According to the survey, “A significant population of Americans is concerned about content on television but say that government regulation is not the answer. Instead, they want the information and tools they need to make their own choices about the programming content that they and their families watch.”

Echoing recent pledges from the National Cable and Telecommunications Assn., Dyke and Thierer also said TVW will mount a substantial campaign to educate parents about what they can do to control content. Both the cable and broadcast industries seem to be pursuing a preemptive strategy based on a 2000 Supreme Court decision, which held that effective content controls coupled with sufficient public awareness of how to use them invalidate any need for governmental restrictions.