February 15, 2000
volume 11, no. 32

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INTRODUCTION     In order to provide the reader more than just a rehash of what a movie or video is all about which really only serves to promote a film or program despite the rating, we have decided to bring you a more in-depth feature by enlisting Michael Vincent Boyer, editor and publisher of the excellent monthly tabloid magazine "Goodbye Hollywood". Like fellow columnist Pat Ludwa, Michael also hails from northern Ohio but for the past twenty plus years has lived in the deep south. Yet, because of his intrinsic inside work with the Hollywood establishment as Director of the Alabama Film Commission, he is well aware of the state of the industry and most of what he has seen is not compatable with the teachings of the Church. For that reason he began his monthly publication and has begun writing a regular in-depth, thought-provoking, sometimes shocking column for the DailyCATHOLIC. After Lent he will expand even further in providing a brief daily guide of programs that may not be all they're cracked up to be, or a program that might slip through the cracks and be forgotten even though it is excellent. This happens often and Michael will be on top of it to enlighten readers as to what Hollywood is truly up to as he infiltrates the devil's workshop - Hollywood USA!

   Because he will dealing with how all this affects Catholics we continue to call it: "MOVIES & MORALS." Also, because he will be treating videos both in VCR rentals and video games and how we need to be on our guard, we're also calling it: "VIDEOS & VIRTUES;" and finally, he'll also be covering programs and programming decisions for television and how we need to keep in mind the great cardinal virtue of Temperance to guard and guide us in our viewing - thus calling it: "TELEVISION & TEMPERANCE." Therefore, all three titles are appropriate to effectively convey the topics he'll be covering.

   For past columns by Michael Vincent Boyer, see MOVIES & MORALS-VIDEOS & VIRTUES-TELEVISION & TEMPERANCE Archives.    If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at mboyer@goodbye-hollywood.com

    What Hollywood doesn't want you to know

    part two

    A Brief History of the TV Ratings Disaster

        Senator Joseph Lieberman's on what the public wants:
        "higher quality and lower amounts of what might be called 'Must Flee TV' and the attitude of 'anything goes' mentality."

        During debate in Congress over the Telecommunications Act in 1996, the issue arose over a provision for television manufacturers to install a chip that would block offensive programming through the use of a remote control and on-screen menu. Originally, and more appropriately, the small device to be installed in TV sets was known as the C-Chip (C for Choice). In a speech concerning the Telecom bill, President Bill Clinton referred to the device as the Vi-Chip (V for Violence) as if that was the only content concern from American audiences. Because the president has a bad habit of redefining the English language, we will clarify his attempt at deception by simply using "The Chip". In order for the process to work, a ratings system needed to be in place for entertainment related programs that would display the show's rating in the upper left hand corner of the screen and allow the user to block certain content-rated shows.

        The entertainment industry put on a show of outrage, declaring war on the legislation claiming the tired old "censorship"{ cry, even though the legislation actually offered freedom of choice. TV manufacturers cried foul saying the installation would raise the price of television by hundreds of dollars per set. Advocates for choice were insulted by the industry's condescending position toward viewers and by television producer's own failure at letting entertainment sink so low in the first place. Various congressmen and interest groups kept up the pressure for action. When the Telecom Bill finally passed, leaders of the television industry were allowed to set up a ratings system to work in conjunction with "The Chip". Everyone involved knew that was like letting the fox guard the hen-house. But, as the maniac Ted Turner said in a brief episode of sanity, "If we don't do it, someone (government) will do it for us." Adding to the complication was the loophole that each network and cable station would be allowed to apply their own definitions of standards to each individual ratings code. The industry quickly rallied around MPAA president Jack Valenti to help broker a solution. It was Valenti who established the ratings system for feature films in 1968 by abolishing the movie industry's own Production Code of ethics, a move that caused the rapid decline in feature film quality and content and the dramatic increase in vulgarity and depictions of debased moral values. What better choice than the two-faced industry lobbyist who pretends to placate the audience while doing the bidding for the industry. However, the TV industry was moving ahead at snail's pace.

        But, by early 1996, the TV industry finally gave in to rising public pressure and said it would work together to promote a rating system compatible with "The Chip". But, a new call to arms was about to begin. The system proposed by the industry was almost identical to the one developed by Valenti for the motion picture industry. No surprise there. Throughout all of 1996, the defenders and detractors of television ratings waged a heated debate with the public and congressional leaders saying that the system was basically worthless without additional content descriptors that would denote sexual situations, violence, coarse and suggestive language. The industry talk and media coverage of the ratings fell silent just before the presidential election in November 1996 with a few industry leaders actually saying they agreed with Clinton's support of ratings. After all, Hollywood knew Clinton had to pretend to support morality if he was to beat Bob Dole, who the entertainment industry despised after Dole challenged them to clean up their act in early 1996.

        But, once Clinton's victory was cinched, it was back to the same old stone-walling as the manipulative Jack Valenti said the industry would not budge from its original age-based system, and added that the government need not interfere or "we're going to be in court in a nanosecond." Despite the threat, it was a short time before the industry, minus NBC and BET, signed off to adding content-based descriptors to the age-based labels. Senator Joseph Lieberman said that the public wants "higher quality and lower amounts of what might be called 'Must Flee TV' and the attitude of 'anything goes' mentality."

        As for "The Chip", television manufacturers are still pleading for more time to "fine-tune" the system, even though the little electronic chip was invented back in 1993 by Canadian engineer Tim Collings and could cost as little as one dollar if installed directly into sets by the manufacturer or up to $35 if retrofitted into special digital cable boxes, according to Shaw Communications of Canada.

        Finally, parents are still confused and misled about ratings given the fact that each network and cable channel decides what is and what isn't offensive. And as one industry insider said, "That's the way we like it."

Michael Vincent Boyer

Tommorow: The devil's disciples: Hollywood and Washington part one: The Ties that Bind


February 15, 2000
volume 11, no. 32

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