July 18, 2003

Is HBO really that great? Or does most broadcast TV programming stink?

NEW YORK, NY (7/18/03) — Robert Peters, President of Morality in Media had the following comment in response to Thursday’s announcement that HBO earned a record 109 Emmy nominations:

“It is no secret that broadcast TV has for years been losing its audience to cable.  It is also no secret as to why.  Most broadcast network TV programming stinks—creatively and morally.

“But you would never know that from listening to broadcast TV executives.   According to them, the networks are losing their audience because cable TV premium channels don’t have to answer to the FCC or advertisers.  In other words, it’s because cable premium channels can be more ‘transgressive.’

“I don’t doubt for a moment that there is an audience for programming that offends standards of decency, but the very concept of ‘standards’ (as in ‘community standards’) implies that there is a much larger audience that would prefer programming that doesn’t offend those standards.

“And that is what opinion poll after opinion poll after opinion poll has shown.  The large majority of adult Americans think there is already too much sex, vulgarity, and violence on TV; and parents in particular are concerned about the effect such programming is having on their children.

“The networks (and many of their sponsors), however, aren’t really interested in providing programming that appeals to a cross section of the American people.  They want to reach teens and young adults, and one proven way to do that is by airing programming that is indecent or gratuitously violent.

“And so we have the spectacle of six broadcast networks, premium channels like HBO and Showtime, and basic cable TV channels like Comedy Central, FX and MTV all scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel in order to compete for the same limited and youthful and somewhat morally challenged audience.

“It’s gotten so bad that in some people’s minds quality and offensiveness are almost inseparable.  Thank God we didn’t discover that until after Shakespeare and Dickens came on the scene.

“Now, it must be admitted that TV programming can be both offensive and very well done; and that is part of the tragedy and mystery.  Why is it that so few genuinely talented people in Hollywood seem to posses even a grain of common decency?  Or, if they do have a grain or even two, why do so many of them apparently find it so easy to leave it at the doorstep of their workplace?”

Author: MIM   07/18/2003

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