Television: the Default "Educator" of Society

Interview With Brent Bozell

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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia, MARCH 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Hollywood should have the courage to promote traditional values in movies and television because it would find a willing audience, says a media expert.



Brent Bozell, 49, is a lecturer, syndicated columnist, television commentator, businessman, publisher, father of five and the founder and president of the Parents Television Council, a Hollywood-based organization dedicated to restoring responsibility to the entertainment industry.

ZENIT approached Bozell, a graduate of the University of Dallas, for his insights into the media.

Q: Recently a plan was proposed in Congress to require cable-TV firms to offer a la carte pricing; that is, subscribers would not be forced to pay for channels they did not want. Do you think that proposal would solve the difficulties that parents have in controlling the programming that comes into their homes?

Bozell: Cable choice certainly would help parents control the programming that comes into their homes. But it is not going to make television any cleaner. In fact, it is a license to make programming even filthier.

However, those who find it offensive will not only be able to prevent it from entering their homes; more importantly they will be able to stop underwriting it which has been the greatest sin of all.

What is thoroughly unforgivable is that cable companies have been forcing consumers to finance sleazy programming that they find offensive. Cable choice will put an end to that racket.

Q: Given that kids can access questionable material elsewhere -- at friends' homes, via Internet, etc. -- what should a parent do? How much hinges on the moral formation of youngsters?

Bozell: The surveys are depressing. The average child spends 4 to 6 hours per day watching television. That same child spends only 15 minutes of quality time with his father.

By the time the child graduates from high school he will have spent more time in front of the television than in front of a teacher. Meaning what? -- that television is "the great educator" of society, given that reality.

It is incumbent that parents monitor the television because of the wretched values taught to their children.

Q: In your Family Guide to Prime Time, you rate television programs. Is prime time TV becoming more family-friendly?

Bozell: The answer is no, but there have been some very good programs in recent years such as "Touched by an Angel" on CBS and "Seventh Heaven" on WB which have also been quite popular.

In fact they were No. 1 shows, but Hollywood is seemingly allergic to the idea of continuing a good thing. When NBC first aired "Friends" and it was a big success, there were 34 different "copy-cat" shows just like "Friends" premiered on TV.

There haven't been any copy-cat shows for "Touched by an Angel" or "Seventh Heaven."

The point here is that there is a definite market for wholesome positive programming both on television and in movies, as witnessed with "The Passion of the Christ" and the recent Narnia movie -- both of which earned hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.

But Hollywood, contrary to everything it says, is not driven by profits. If it were, it would air more shows like this.

Q: What are some the telltale signs that a child is being negatively affected by TV? What should a parent look for?

Bozell: There are all sorts of scientific studies which confirm common sense -- an impressionable child who copy-cats what his role models do on his favorite TV shows will emulate its behavior.

This is why studies show that children who are exposed to sex on TV at a young age are far more likely to engage in it at a young age, and children who are exposed to violence at a young age are far more prone to be violent. It is simple common sense.

Let's go beyond that. If a child is watching and is a fan of the programming on MTV, it follows that they will emulate its behavior.

It should surprise no one that children today cuss like sailors because it is all they hear on MTV. It feeds into other behavior patterns: disrespect for authority, disdain for religion, cynical attitudes. All these behaviors are taught on television and imitated.

Q: Some experts advise parents to talk frequently with their kids about TV content. Does this work in practice?

Bozell: U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman made the observation that good parents try to instill good values at the dinner table only to have that very same evening the idiot box [television] telling the child that the parent ought to go "pound the sand."

It would be nice if there were a role reversal: Parents ought to teach their children how and why what they are getting [on television] is not just offensive but down right immoral.

No parent wants to have to do this and some parents may believe they are doing an exceptional job by limiting exposure to offensive programming. But the sad reality is that one way or another, children will get it. Parents have no option but to confront it.

Q: It seems that movies that are family- and values-friendly are more popular. Is Hollywood responding to this demand?

Bozell: Not everyone in Hollywood is opposed to traditional values. There are some wonderful people out there doing a lot of good things, like Phil Anschutz and Walden Media, but they are swimming upstream.

The culture of Hollywood is radically opposed to traditional values. Witness George Clooney and others patting themselves on the back for their "courage" in promoting gay cowboy movies and all the other liberal claptrap in this year's movies.

Real "courage" was Mel Gibson. Real courage would be that [movie] which said that homosexuality was wrong. Real courage would be a movie that portrayed Joan of Arc as a saint and not as "crazy Joan."

Real courage would be movies defending traditional values, but there are not enough people there to do that.