Politicians Discover Sex and Violence in the Media -- Again

Finally, a subject the politicians can all agree on: the media is bad, bad, bad!

In recent months, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman have joined two of the Senate's most conservative Republicans in requesting $90 million in federal funds for research on how the Internet and other electronic media "affect children's emotional and behavioral development." Clinton called sex and violence in the media a "silent epidemic."

Actually, the epidemic in values-free entertainment isn't silent -- you can hear it blasting out of every radio speaker and cineplex. It's the politicians who are periodically silent. Over the past 25 years, they have jumped on the sex-and-violence bandwagon about every five years or so. Remember V-chips and before them, Tipper Gore? why does the problem never seem to get better? Quite simply, it's because a small number of publicly traded companies control most of what our children see and hear -- and the business of these corporations is to make money, not shape our children's values.

I don't blame the media conglomerates for this. Remember, these corporations are owned by you, the public. And in a free market system, a corporation's mandate is to maximize return to its shareholders. If you held stock in Viacom, for example, how would you react if the company hired a born-again Christian CEO who announced that he was pulling the plug on MTV's sexy rap videos, vowing to make similar changes across other operating units? Well, you might be outraged or delighted -- but either way, you'd dump the stock.

So, we've established that the media can't solve this problem by itself. That leaves only two possible courses of action: (1) increase regulation, or (2) leave it to parents, churches and other private entities to come up with their own solutions.

I'm not a big fan of regulation. In particular, I don't like the fact that the content of traditional broadcasters is regulated by the FCC ("wardrobe malfunction," anyone?), while that of the media they compete against (satellite, cable, the Internet, iPods and Xboxes) is not. This unlevel playing field makes virtually all existing media legislation unfair in my mind.

However, if the pols could somehow create a regulatory structure that is fair to all media, I'd be in favor of it. Because families in both red states and blue states know that they (even with church support) are no match for the daily bombardment of the media.

About the Author

Scott Baradell, an accomplished corporate brand strategist and communicator who has been the senior corporate communications executive for two Fortune 1000 companies, leads the Idea Grove. Most recently, Scott served from 2001 to 2004 as vice president of corporate communications for Belo Corp.

Scott Baradell