Friday, March 11, 2005

Dysfunctional Family Hour (Click PODCAST)

I have been hearing the term "Family Hour" being used, or misused lately in regards to obscenity on television. I found that people have their own definition of the "Family Hour". For example maintaining the hours from 8-9 PM (the first hour of primetime) to programming suitable for children or placing limits on creative freedom. When I surfed the net I also found definitions of the "Family Hour", but again they were based more on opinion/agenda than on fact. The best definition I found was from the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Family Viewing Time

After talking to people and reading a great deal of material I have come to some conclusions.

A good portion of our Broadcasting Regulations stems from a joke. I'm not saying that these standards are a joke, although some of them come close. Ironically they actually comes from George Carlin's comedy routine on the "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television". This routine appeared on his Class Clown album. I'd like to think that is an example of the power of comedy but it's because radio station WBAI (a Pacifica Radio Station in New York City) played similar routine, "Filthy Words," from George Carlin's Occupation: Foole album over the air. The broadcast was then brought to the attention of the FCC. Pacifica received a citation from the FCC, which sought to fine Pacifica for allegedly violating FCC regulations which prohibited broadcasting "obscene" material. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FCC action, by a vote of 5 to 4, ruling that the routine was "indecent but not obscene," and the FCC had authority to prohibit such broadcasts during hours when children were likely to be among the audience. FCC v. Pacifica Foundation , 438 U.S. 726 (1978).

The "Family Hour" in Television has not been in effect for almost 30 years. Even thought the networks attempted a self imposed "Family Hour", Television Broadcasting is a business that has become more competitive since the "Family Hour" began with twice as many networks, countless cable channels and a booming Home Video/DVD market.

Terms like "Appropriate Family Viewing" are open to interpretation, and there are many interpretations.

There will always be a battle between the morality and children's advocates and the creative talents who bring us these shows. The morality and children's advocates will want to see more restrictions that go beyond the hours between 8 and 9 PM on the broadcast stations and are now even targeting the cable channels. The Creative talents, who by their nature will want to express their creative freedom, push the envelope and defend their First Amendment Rights. If you read my Bio you know whom I side with. Blogger: User Profile: Tony Figueroa

But I want to give you my own definition of the "Family Hour", and this is solely based on my memories as a child in the 1970's.

The first time I heard the term "Family Hour" was in regards to a controversy involving Cher showing her bellybutton on her variety show.

I remember the "Family Hour" as the early evening hours when there were shows that appealed to (not sanitized for) all members of the family. "Happy Days" was a great example. I thought "The Fonz" was cool and my mother was nostalgic for the 50's. If there was a joke or a reference to the 50's that I didn't get, she would explain it to me.

I remember watching regular programming and talking about the show afterward. Some times if the show was going to feature the characters discussing subjects like divorce, drugs or teen pregnancy there would be a mention of it in the TV Guide and a mention of it prior to the shows opening where parents were encouraged to watch the show with their children.

My mother did not have a Ratings System, V chip, or The Parent’s Television Counsel to tell her what I should or should not watch. All she had was common sense and a TV Guide, and we didn't pick up the TV Guide every week. Sometimes she would say, "That show is on past your bedtime", "You are too young to see that show" or "That show is so stupid. It will ROT YOUR BRAIN".

I won’t quote George Carlin’s "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television", but I will give you a link where you can also find the whole routine Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television . Instead I will quote Oliver Wendell Holmes JR, "You cannot define obscenity without being obscene".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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