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Just Change the Channel

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Whenever one of us complains about what is being shown on television these days, we are likely to hear the favorite cliché: “If you don’t like it, just change the channel.” Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council took on that tired cliché by explaining how meaningless it really is.

What started the discussion was a blog post by a mother complaining about what she saw on Good Morning America at breakfast. They aired what could only be considered a soft-porn ad for a program called “Betrayal.” The ad depicted a man and woman fully nude and having sex. This is not exactly what you expected to see over a bowl of oatmeal while trying to get everyone out the door.

The cliché (just change the channel) rings very hollow as an appropriate response. The mother and her children weren’t watching a prime-time soap or a cable mini-series. They had no reason to expect such content on a morning show they were watching to catch up on the news or to check the traffic and weather. Her son’s innocence died a little bit on that morning.

Melissa Henson rightly observes that the “just change the channel” mentality puts the burden on the parents and relieves the networks of any responsibility. Incidents like this require parents to be constantly on guard even at time when you would never think such an image would be shown. This mentality also gives networks a green light to air whatever they want whenever they want.

Melissa Henson says that the “just change the channel” crowd might as well be saying “throw out your television sets.” That is a more realistic solution than the one they are suggesting. And I am not surprised that I am hearing from more and more of the listeners to my radio program that they decided to get rid of their television sets. It is easy to understand why people are doing that. The “just change the channel” cliché implies you should have no say in what is pumped into your home through the television set.


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