Hollywood Buys "Antichrist"
  Country Music: Too Much Freedom-Loving?
  The Obscenity Blackout
News Columns
  Notre Dame Pacifier?
  Weak Knees at the White House
  Bias In Specter-Scope
  Media Reality Check
  Notable Quotables
  Press Releases
  Media Bias Videos
  30-Day Archive
  Gala and DisHonors
  Best of NQ Archive
  The Watchdog
  About the MRC
  MRC in the News
  Support the MRC
  Planned Giving
  What Others Say
MRC Resources
  Site Search
  Media Addresses
  Contact MRC
  MRC Bookstore
  Job Openings
  News Division
  Business & Media Institute
  NewsBusters Blog

Support the MRC

This column was reprinted by permission of L. Brent Bozell and Creators Syndicate. To reprint this or any of his twice weekly syndicated columns, please contact Creators Syndicate at (310) 337-7003 ext. 110





 L. Brent Bozell


The CEO of Silliness

by L. Brent Bozell III
November 17, 2006
Tell a friend about this site

The late Steve Allen used to cite a delicious analogy to describe why the public airwaves should be kept free from offensive content. If a stranger walked into your house, stood before your children in the living room, and started stripping and cursing, would you feel their innocence had been violated? Why then, he'd ask, should TV networks be allowed to do the same, using the airwaves owned by those very parents?

NBC/Universal CEO Robert Wright might offer a different perspective. Faced with this scenario with his grandchildren, he might instead praise the intruder's "creative integrity."

In his distinguished capacity as head of the NBC empire, Wright has pronounced from the hallowed editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal that dictatorship is on the march in television. The threat of fines from the FCC has created a "climate of self-censorship," an unmistakable "chill in the airwaves," in which "the viewing public is the biggest loser."

He lauds his own talent at prediction, and how he warned in the same newspaper in 2004 that the titans of "creative integrity" in Hollywood would look less obscene than those who would urge the government to punish the broadcasting of obscenity. (How Orwellian: freedom is slavery, and opposing obscenity is obscene.)

Watch a week of Wright's NBC and decide if you've just watched a schedule full of chilly self-censorship. It's more likely you'll set a lot of violence, a lot of sexual themes and scenes, and coarse dialogue, including language that would be edited out of this newspaper, as obscene, if I were to repeat it. You won't be running for your rhetorical parkas from the chilling effect. The only recent chill discovered on NBC was that company's Saturday-morning censors slicing any mention of God out of the "Veggie Tales" cartoons for little children.

Wright fancies himself as an enthusiast for Technology as our solution to every problem in television. He suggests that the V-chip blocking technology is a "21st-century solution," unlike those fines of a "bygone era." But Wright doesn't say that his own NBC went for years refusing to provide the "content descriptors" that would enable V-chips in TV sets to work.

Instead, he makes a complete, head-over-heels fool of himself, boasting that broadcasters are "the most responsible, community-focused providers of programming in the business." This is about as plausible as claiming Janet Jackson's Super Bowl flash was a public service announcement on the perils of designer clothing.

Wright further argues that the rise of media technology, and the potential absorption of minors in the staggering media choices of 100 cable channels, TiVo recorders, video-on-demand services, and DVDs, why should broadcast networks be saddled with any expectations of community standards, like a "family hour"? Children watch more cable, he says, and "spend time on the Internet with unlimited access to material of every description." This is really the sixty-something CEO arguing with all the sophistication of a spoiled ten-year-old child: "Why do I have to do the chores? No other kid on the block is doing chores!"

More precisely, he is arguing that broadcast TV, as the oldest technology, is being discriminated against. In his Journal screed, he tries to use mathematics to underline the pointlessness of the parents-decency movement. FCC fines are "doomed to failure" since 85 percent of households have cable or satellite TV, and two-thirds of the households who get broadcast TV only have no children in the house. Thus, the FCC is "basing its actions on a policy that is relevant to five percent of households."

What kind of an argument is this? People with cable access don't care about broadcast-TV indecency? People who don't have children in the house (grandparents, uncles and aunts, priests) don't care about indecency?

But he's playing with numbers, so let's reply with the same. Bob Wright's empire at NBC/Universal includes full or partial ownership of eighteen - yes, 18 -- different networks. That means they have the ability to put out 432 hours of programming daily. Total number of hours regulated by the FCC? Ready? Sixteen hours. Only 3.7 percent of Wright's programming is under the FCC's purview, yet he can't even bend a muscle to be a nice "community-based provider of programming" on less than four percent of his air time.

Wright devotes hundreds of words to the denunciation of the FCC and a dismissal of anyone who cares about decency on the public airwaves, but he never gets to the point. What Wright is presently lobbying for in legal briefs and government halls is simply the "right" to drop the F-bomb or the S-word on national television, at any time, anywhere, in front of anyone. He's lobbying for a large weekly oil spill to be spread across the cultural landscape.

If I were Robert Wright, I'd make it a point not to get to the point, either.


Voice Your Opinion!
 Write to Brent Bozell



Home | News Division | Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts 
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact the MRC | Subscribe

Founded in 1987, the MRC is a 501(c) (3) non-profit research and education foundation
 that does not support or oppose any political party or candidate for office.

Privacy Statement

Media Research Center
325 S. Patrick Street
Alexandria, VA 22314