Viewer Discretion is Advised: Controlling TV Content

Television content has changed over the years, from representing the standards of the American Dream in Leave it to Beaver to semi-satirically exposing the façade of suburbia in Desperate Housewives.  These stories explore the fundamental issues of social life but through different genres, visuals and themes.  These differences are the product of changes that exists in the social landscape through which television and media are born.  The argument of censoring or modifying content has existed throughout the years and will remain a topic of conversation over the years, however in recent years it has become more complex.

Television content reaches a vast array of audiences, individuals and societies..  While there exists regulatory practices to edit and flatten out content, such as the FCC, it will inevitably read as offensive material to someone.  It is their choice whether or not to expose themselves to material deemed offensive and therefore have a certain degree of control.  But with current changes in technology and public policy regarding television it becomes harder to distinguish control and choice.   There is no ultimate freedom of the viewer or ultimate control of the content, but rather a spectrum on which viewers assert their balance between the two.

Viewer Discretion is Advised

Viewer Discretion is Advised

The television primarily exists within the home, to be viewed and consumed by the household, yet it is subject to public policy.  When the message reads “Viewer Discretion is Advised” before the beginning sequence of the popular television series 24, it forewarns the viewer that the show could contain material they find offensive.  While some control has been exercised in providing the warning there is still tremendous freedom in the viewers choice to continue watching. Those who wish to control the content broadcasted to the public have taken further measures with the change in technology.  By supplying the market with the ideology behind the V-Chip, that is continual control over what your children watch, individuals are supporting a control in which the choice is made for you but not by you.  Parents who subscribe to this technology are adding fuel to the fire in calling others to modify the content for them, destroying their own power over content.

“With control designed in, our media are reconfigured to position us within the discourse of control technology.  We are subjected to the position of the parental function of authority and expertise” (Guins 45).

Television content is ultimately created by the relationship between viewers and ad revenue.  If a show generates a large audience it will continue producing content and thus a shift in content creation has emerged, evident from the numerous vampire related media following the success of the Twilight series.  If audience members control content creation and therefore the ideology distributed by television then interest groups, politicians and those in power will be threatened.  They will seek to control the content provided by demonizing it calling the audience to submit to authority through false “self-regulation.


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