To the Editor:

Feb 092004

J.J. Babb argues that Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl incident should

“expose” to us the importance of parents monitoring their

children’s programming. The problem with this argument is that it

if we reduce the issue exclusively to the individual level of

parental responsibility, then we take all responsibility out of the

hands of the broadcasters. In the United States, the vast majority

of the mainstream media is controlled by six corporations.

Decisions on what to air are almost exclusively determined by

ratings. For the most part, it doesn’t matter if a program is

violent, sexual, racist, sexist or otherwise objectionable, as long

as it sells.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Most Americans do not know that

legally, the airwaves belong to the people. We accept what

broadcasters want us to think: that if we don’t like what’s on the

air, the only power we have is to change the channel or prevent our

kids from watching. It’s too bad we don’t think of ourselves as

media citizens who have the power to protest media we don’t like

and lobby for media we do.

Almost all Western countries in the world offer comprehensive

media education programs in the schools. The United States is the

exception. Instead of media activism, and instead of media

education, Americans often feel the only solution is for parents to

change the channel. Media is too complex and important to simplify

the issue exclusively to the issue of parental responsibility.

Naomi Rockler

Assistant professor of Media Studies, Department of Speech


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