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Medved Complains about Complainers; Implicitly Absolves PTC

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/24/2005 @ 9:47 am

In a USA Today column, conservative film critic Michael Medved takes an ostensibly sensible stand on those who complain about television content.

Ultimately, the only television schedule the public and activists reliably can control is the schedule of what we watch. We might not be able to determine what the industry makes, but we always make the final decision on what we take. In short, complaining about the weather may do nothing to change it, but you always have the option to come in out of the rain.

The sky — is it falling?

Sounds great. Finally, lip service from the Right. “Change the channel, dummards!”


Not exactly.

Medved’s complaints about the complainers are targeted at blacks, Asian-Americans, and conservative PBS-bashers — not folks like Brent Bozell who excoriate broadcasters for airing content they’d rather not watch. He takes issue with racial and ethnic groups’ contentions that they’re underrepresented in TV — if not quantitatively, then qualitatively.

The complaints by interest groups illustrate the same unfortunate tendency to emphasize supply-side solutions, rather than demand-side solutions, to the problems of TV’s impact. We spend too much time fretting over the way the industry produces programming, and too little worrying about the way the public consumes it. Statistical analysis shows that black characters are over-represented on TV, while Asians are under-represented. But that hardly means that the medium is good for blacks and bad for Asians. The influence of broadcast images depends on how selectively consumers choose to watch, not the ethnically based casting decisions executives agree to make.

So, don’t like subtle racism? Change the channel!

What’s missing in Medved’s complaint about the complainers is any mention of the Parents Television Council, the undisputed godfather of the whine-about-television movement. It would seem an astounding, almost ignorant oversight, save one fact: Medved is on the PTC’s board of advisors.

In fact, Medved is quoted on the PTC’s website complaining about the very things he just finished complaining about complaints about. Now that’s a lot of ‘complaints’!

“You can put your TV in the garage, avoid movies altogether, and use earplugs to spare your hearing from the sounds of hip-hop or heavy metal, but these forms of entertainment will still change your life through their influence on everyone else in society. Though you may struggle to protect your own kids from music that encourages violence or drugs or irresponsible sex, you can’t possibly protect them from all the other kids in your community who have received full exposure.” - Michael Medved taken from The Rock & Roll Rebellion by Mark Joseph.

Moral of the story? When the PTC complains, they’re speaking for all of us and our best interests? But when a racial or ethnic coalition complains, they’re asking for special treatment?

There’s a message in here somewhere. You find it. I’m confused.

Medved’s piece in USA Today.


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