Editorial: 2¢ Worth Of Defining Indecency: Generating Too Much Money, Too Much Violency, Too Much Nudity Or Too Much Epithetry?

By Dom Serafini

I’m really taken by The New York Times’ conservative columnist William Safire’s statement that "an opinion is never wrong". From now on, there can be no argument for forcing me to find a real job.

Safire, who I recently heard speak at the U.S. Association of National Advertisers conference in New York City, also gave me the strength to find more reasons to dislike consolidation.

To me, indecency led to consolidation because the U.S. TV networks were scandalized by the indecent profits the studios were making off their backs. So, the studios bought the networks in order to stop their whining. Now, consolidation (which caused reduced localism) is blamed for other forms of indecency because corporate hats don’t understand that what is offensive in Idaho is fun in New York.

Consolidation is also blamed for endangering free speech, because big media is afraid of the government (no matter how small they try to make it) and does not wish to pay fines outside their PAC (political contribution) money.

Reportedly, in Los Angeles, the two all-news radio stations have stopped running live interviews for fear of indecency charges.

Now, in order to promote the v-chip (a computer chip in TV sets that blocks unwanted programs) the nets will even air public-service announcements to educate parents-about 80 percent of whom own a TV set already equipped with a v-chip, but often don’t know it.

The big four networks have abandoned their objections about the v-chip (with the risk of losing viewers), not in an effort to protect the public-as the chip was originally intended to do-but to protect themselves from charges (and fines) of indecency.

The fact that U.S. broadcasters seem to be acquiescing rather than fighting politicians over this as yet undefined description of what constitutes indecency could drive big audience-grabbing radio and TV personalities to emigrate to pay services. The industry has petitioned the FCC, but I’m not sure if full-heartedly.

If broadcasters lose the battle of indecency, they will be weakened with regards to the problem of advertising to children, which the Congress is fighting in order to control obesity. A proposed ban on advertising could wipe out the $750 million a year in the kids’ TV ad market.

With consolidation, content is still king, but it has to face new business models’ context, and big media has to find a balance between exploiting and exploring programs. In the new technology context, this balance is now completely slanted toward exploitation.

In the process, Hollywood is cannibalizing even its own U.S. syndication opportunities as it releases DVD versions of recent TV series. But, if syndication is dead on TV, it is alive and well on DVD.

Fox series X-Files, for example, generated some $1.5 billion in DVD sales in 2003. Last year more than 525 TV titles were released, and 11 of the 30 top-selling DVD were TV series, including Friends and Sex and the City.

Finally, since the transport (Internet) industry is looking for a patron saint that could save it from the uncooperative content side, Janus would be the perfect deity. Janus is the Roman god of gates and doors (ianua), beginnings and endings, and hence represented with a double-faced head, each face looking in opposite directions, symbolizing the past and the future. Janus also represents the transition between primitive (pre-Internet) life and civilization (post-Internet).

The month of January (the eleventh Roman month) is named after him, so NATPE could be his temple.

Dom Serafini