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Markets Vs. Government


Though everyone's television comes with a V-chip whether they want it or not, a recent Zogby poll reports that only 12% of the population actually uses it.


Six years ago, the FCC decided that, for the sake of "protecting" children from inappropriate subject matter, all TV sets 13 inches or larger were to come with a factory-installed show-blocking V-Chip.

Once again, the free markets have determined the desirability of a product rather than elected officials. Though everyone's television comes with a V-Chip whether they want it or not, a recent Zogby poll reports that only 12% of the population actually uses it.

It's difficult to imagine that Sony (SNE), Philips (PHG), and Matsushita/Panasonic (MC) appreciate being forced to manufacture something 88% of the population doesn't want.

Teller, of comedy duo Penn & Teller, wrote an opinion piece for the Cato Institute in which he said that "the V-Chip puts millions of dollars into electronics and legislation for regulating fiction," and that "sports and news-whose factual violence apparently troubles no one" would still be readily viewable since "only art and imagination bother Congress."

In April, FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate wrote of the need to increase "the amount of family-friendly, uplifting and non-violent programming being produced."

The link between violence on television (Tate actually cited the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as over the line, as far as violence is concerned) and violence in real life is about as tenuous as the link between an Ozzy Osbourne song and teenage suicide. When something is turned into a cultural taboo, it just makes people want it that much more. In the Netherlands, where drug problems are treated as such, rather than as crimes, there are 2.6 opiate addicts per 1,000 people, while the rate in France is 4.3 per 1,000, and 6.7 per 1,000 in the United Kingdom.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: robbing youth of their innocence?

The U.S. is quickly becoming a nation that shelters its kids almost to the point where they have little, if any, control over their lives, thus depriving them of the opportunity to develop judgment skills that will enable them to become clearer-thinking adults.

The Sprint (S) Family Locator allows parents to track their child's location via satellite.

The AllTrack USA Drive Right Car Chip plugs into your vehicle and records how fast your child is driving, keeps track of hard acceleration, hard deceleration/braking, time and date for each trip, and distance traveled.

Elementary schools across the country have forbidden children to play tag, because, recess is "a time when accidents can happen," according to Willett (Massachusetts) Elementary School principal Gaylene Heppe.

Danger! Danger! Danger!

But, as University of Toronto psychologist Jonathan Freedman told Kerry Howley in Reason Magazine:

"If the effects of [television] violence are so great, you'd think the violent crime rate would go up. You'd think there would be an epidemic of crime, but it's dropped like a stone-and it's now down to where it was before television was invented."

Crazy hair. Sane reasoning.

Until late 2001, when the Taliban was overthrown, television was banned completely in Afghanistan. Now, 19% of Afghan households own a television, though only 14% of the population has access to public electricity.

Interestingly, Afghans watch many of the same types of shows we do here in the States.

Like "Afghan Star," their version of "American Idol."

Seacrest, salaam…

And game shows, one of which rewards winning contestants with a gallon of cooking oil.

In Afghanistan, the government takes a very American approach to what they deem appropriate programming.

Zaid Mohseni, one of the founders of the Tolo TV network, was quoted in The New York Times as saying, "When we first put a man and a woman on the air together, we had complaints: this isn't legal, this isn't Islamic, blah, blah, blah. Then the criticism softened. It was O.K. as long as they don't talk to each other, Finally, it softened more: O.K., they can talk as long as they don't laugh."

His brother, Saad Mohseni, summed up the root of the problem with this:

"We don't have problems with the drug dealers or the Taliban or even the local populace. Our problems are all with the government, either because of red tape or attempted censorship."

All told, there's a much more effective feature than the V-Chip, currently installed on 100% of the world's television sets, regardless of size.

It's called an on/off switch.

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