December 4, 2005



SpeakSpeak Gets Called Out Over TV Watch Membership

Posted by Amanda Toering
Friday May 06th 2005, 10:29 am
Filed under: General

The Seattle Post Intelligencer has an article about the strange-bedfellowness of the TV Watch coalition. In it, SpeakSpeak gets chastised (rather gently) for signing on to the group. Here’s what the P.I.’s TV critic Melanie McFarland has to say:

Of course, some people are going to question how a group like SpeakSpeak.org, a blogger site formed to battle right-wing influence over the media, can in good conscience bed down with The Media Institute, which has accepted sizable donations from controversial conservative Richard Mellon Scaife. Or how The Creative Coalition can join hands with Frank Luntz, the GOP pollster known for shaping doublespeak into administation talking points, who conducted TV Watch’s poll alongside Peter D. Hart Research Associates.

And here’s what we have to say (even though we haven’t been officially asked).

First, thanks for the mention. Most media outlets ignored our participation — maybe because they’d never heard of us; maybe because we’re grassroots (i.e., we’re YOU), and that makes us easy to dismiss; or maybe because we’re the pipsqueak kid sister in the coalition family. Who knows? In any case, it’s nice to finally be included, because we feel that our members are a very important part of the coalition. We are, in fact, the Just Folks whose support TV Watch will need in order to be successful.

Second — we were not informed of the other coalition members’ identities until the press was informed of the other coaltion members’ identities. We didn’t know how many there would be, nor their political leanings, nor their hat sizes. And on reflection, I’m really grateful for that. Had I known that SpeakSpeak would ever be included on a list with Grover Norquist, I probably would have said ‘no way.’

And that would have been petty.

Here’s the deal. Coalition members were asked to sign on to the coalition’s three guiding principles:

1) Americans should determine what is seen and heard in their own homes, based on their own personal tastes.

2) The television industry should rate programs, advise viewers about the content they are about to see, as well as promote awareness of the tools and information that allow parents to exercise control at home (v-chip in your television, parental controls on cable and satellite, television ratings, parental involvement).

3) Either we take responsibility for what our children watch or the government will decide what all of us can watch.

What’s not to love? We think those are pretty reasonable. And we think — as we’ve said all along — that this indecency debate is one where true liberals and true conservatives should agree. There is common ground here, boys. The common ground is the icky taste that government control of TV leaves in our mouths, whether you’re a Green Party ‘Deadwood’ fanatic or a Grover Norquist small-government conservative.

McFarland also takes issue with the poll numbers released by TV Watch during its launch:

Even if TV Watch’s view is shared by millions who just want Bozell and his minions to leave their “Desperate Housewives” and “The Shield” well enough alone, the wildly divergent politics involved still makes one question the figures upon which the group is hanging its crusade.

This is not to say the organization’s claim that almost 66 percent of Americans believe that the indecency dispute is actually depriving them of content they want to see is specious. Who isn’t sick of the ruckus? And sure, 91 percent of Americans, when prompted correctly, probably will tell you that, to quote the survey, “the sensitivities of a few should not dictate the choices for everyone else.”

Compare this data to recent numbers released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The Pew study found that 48 percent of Americans fear undue restrictions on the entertainment industry, versus the 41 percent who consider the industry’s production of harmful content to be the true danger. Even so, 75 percent of respondents favor tighter enforcement of government rules on content airing while kids may be watching, saying they back the anti-decency proposals before Congress — proposals that are in themselves bipartisan efforts.

The implication is that the numbers have been massaged. (As she opines above, the study’s lead pollster is known for “shaping doublespeak into administation talking points.”)

I don’t disagree.

Let’s be honest: Polls are bullshit. We all know this. But we all use them, when we can, because they legitimize what we feel in our hearts to be true. This is true for righties and lefties alike. I could cruise through the Starbucks in which I’m currently sitting and, depending on how I phrased the question, prompt 68% of latte drinkers to agree that Brent Bozell is either a red-headed sideshow act or the second coming of Christ.

Polls — they lend credibility, and they don’t. They don’t, and they do. We like them, and we hate them. Depends on the mood, and the fact being “proven.”

That said, it’s nice to finally have one that justifies what you and I believe and leaves Bozell out in the sideshow cold.

Anyhow, rant aside, here’s the point: We all need to come together on this. The coalition needs to focus on only this problem, and on how to fix it. We need to avoid being derailed by the dozens of other issues on which we inevitably disagree — in a most nuclear fashion, no doubt.

The Unfortunate Truth of TV Watch is that its labor and delivery required network seed money. This money will maybe able to do what SpeakSpeak has been trying to do on $5 and $10 donations. But that’s the reality of the situation. It takes money to fight money.

And we’re here now. So put the politics aside and let’s do it.

Acknowledge the common ground — and on everything else, look the other way. Participation in this joining of forces doesn’t necessitate “bedding down” with anyone.

And thank god for that.



7 Comments so far

II joined SpeakSpeak the minute I heard about its existence — even before the website was up — because there has to be a voice that neutralizes those PTC whackos. My heart sank yesterday when I read that TV Watch was formed by the major networks. I didn’t even know about the Frank Luntz/Grover Norquist connections. They don’t trouble me as much. Joining with the networks in this fight is like helping the fox lobby for control of the chicken coupe.

At the end of Melanie McFarland’s article, referring to the new “conservative” programming on PBS that’s supposed to provide balance, she says “To use language the CPB should understand, we majority shareholders should be the ones they should seek to serve, not whatever party’s holds the reins at the moment. They may seem to be very different, but broadcast television’s face-off with the FCC and CPB’s threats to PBS require the same remedy.”

SpeakSpeak should remain the voice of the majority shareholders. I hope we can do it without being strong-armed by the management.

Comment by Annette Osterlund 05.06.05 @ 12:40 pm

Nice job, Amanda. Time to co-market your site with other free speech and first amendment folks to gather in fund raisers and funding drives. Sounds like these other groups will be looking to partner up to stop the legislators backed by the PTC and the other censorship groups.

Comment by David Essig 05.06.05 @ 12:45 pm

Thank you, Amanda, for creating this site and actually being heard out there. It is time for people to take responsibility for their actions including those of parenting. The people from the “other side,” the ultra-conservative control freaks, do not speak for me nor most of the people I know. It is high time for us to be heard. Remember the “Moral Majority” who were, in fact, neither. We cannot let the people who simply want power steal our rights to think, act, and believe as we do. I do not want to be in lockstep with these kind of people.

So, please, continue the good fight and we will continue to do our best to help out.

Comment by Issy 05.06.05 @ 3:37 pm

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I don’t care who is in the TV Watch coalition and where the money comes from. The principles of the organization are worth fighting for and as Amanda points out, it takes money to fight money. Does the PTC care from where its dollars come? I just wish the networks would fight this war out in the open instead of hiding behind a coalition of interest groups.

Comment by Ernie Peacock 05.06.05 @ 3:51 pm

After reading the article I was horrified to realize that I was partnered with Scaife and the networks as well as that unprincipled Luntz. However, as the reporter said we are “strange bedfellows” and it is necessary to fight the PTC and the AFA. I agree we need to get the networks out in the open as a force to fight this censorship of the airwaves by groups that clothe the real reasons in the rhetoric of it is good for family values. I am sick of small grouops controlling what I see on TV. As the reporter said the PBS stations should cater to the majority that funds them, the people. If it means that they have to pull all of the government’s money out of the station so be it. I would rather listen to the annoying pleas for funds all the time than have public TV controlled by the close minded people who now control our government.

Comment by Barbara Ehrentreu 05.06.05 @ 9:42 pm

I am a proud member of any group that insists on my right to view or hear what I choose in the media not what some other ignorant, narrow-minded person decides I should be allowed to view and hear. It is time for all parents to take responsibility for their own families. I use television and the radio also, and I refuse to be limited because you are too lazy to care for your own children. My television and radio are not their babysitters.

Comment by Michele Balfour 05.07.05 @ 1:53 pm

The problem with a poll asking people if they want tougher enforcement of indecency rules, is that it ignores the VAGUENESS of indecency rules.

If the FCC just said to broadcasters on the public airwarves, don’t say these 20 words between 6 AM and 10 PM and don’t show nudity during those hours, I’d be fine with it.

The problem is that “INDECENCY” is whatever the FCC arbitrarily decides it is, after-a-broadcast.

Comment by Eric Jaffa 05.07.05 @ 7:20 pm



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