As the reputation of cable television has darkened considerably over the last few years with every lurid "Sopranos" whacking and every ghoulish plastic surgery on "Nip/Tuck," public protest and congressional inquiries have led the cable industry to promise change.
Change the tone of its TV slop? No, it promised a campaign to sell technological gadgetry to help the adults navigate around its gooey and graphic messes. Two years ago, the National Cable Television Association started a pathetic public-relations campaign suggesting cable was putting the parents "in control" -- by just educating them about the V-chip.
It's been a decade since Congress mandated the V-chip in TV sets, but the vast majority of parents have never used it, and many don't even know it's there. The cable industry promised to fix that by "spending" $250 million on a multimedia education campaign. They also promised a few other reforms, such as increasing the size of the TV ratings information box displayed on-screen at the start of cable shows and inserting the box after each commercial break.
Recent "public service" ads with the Ad Campaign have cute little scenes of parents talking back to raunchy television characters and telling them they're going to be blocked for the sake of the children. The commercials direct parents to an educational Website about the V-chip called TheTVBoss.org.
After all the promised ads and on-screen boxes, the facts are in. It's not working.
A brand new Zogby poll for the Parents Television Council shows that the vast majority of respondents (88 percent) said they do not have parental-control technology or have not used it in the last week. That's pretty much unchanged from a similar poll last September, which also found almost nine in 10 adults don't use the technology.
It's not because they don't see a reason to use a V-chip. The new poll also shows that 79 percent of respondents agree there is too much sex, violence and coarse language on television. Eighty percent agreed with that sentiment last September.
The public is still largely uneducated about the letters the networks use to describe potentially objectionable content. Only 8 percent of people surveyed could correctly identify the content descriptors -- S for sexual situations, V for violence, L for language and D for suggestive dialogue -- even when provided with the answer in a multiple-choice question. Last September, only 7 percent could correctly identify the letters.
If the cable industry had this poor a record of helping sell McDonald's burgers or Toyotas to the public, they'd probably have to look for work.
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