But the cable industry didn't need for the ads to work. The whole campaign was a sleight of hand, a public-relations stunt to keep Washington from mandating more viewer choice in which channels the American people want to subsidize and welcome into their homes. They are providing the illusion of action, sponsoring pointless publicity that doesn't work, in the hope these hollow gestures will keep Washington politicians from derailing their corrosive race to the bottom.
The cable industry's TV Boss commercials never explained how to use the V-chip or cable-box parental controls. They just announced the fact that you have the technological gadget to do it. They never educated consumers about what the S, V, L and D represent, or the difference between a Y-7 rating and a TV-14. They merely pointed out the Website address and asked people to look them up to "learn more."
Their commercials carry the slogan, "Be the boss of what your kids watch." Parents can be the boss of their home, but they're clearly not the bosses of television, despite the cute Website address. Hollywood, and not the parents, is firmly in charge of the junk that dominates your set. Parents feel a responsibility to monitor what their children watch, but as the choices in cable TV proliferate, it gets harder and harder for parents to keep track. Parents don't feel they can possibly undo everything that the networks have done to shock, disgust and titillate the viewers, even the youngest ones.
This ad campaign doesn't address the most glaring problem with the V-chip -- that even if every parent became a technological whiz with the blocking buttons, the broadcast and cable networks do an incredibly slipshod job of accurately describing potentially objectionable content with those letters that nobody knows.
It's time for Congress to get serious about the cable industry's social irresponsibility, because it's clear the cable bosses aren't serious. This is the last gasp for the credibility of cable companies. Their promises to help parents are cynically empty.