Monday, November 15, 2010

Advertising and Social Responsiblity in Network Television

To paraphrase the infamous Jerry Lee Lewis song, “there’s a whole lotta’ cusin’ goin’ on” in broadcast television, at least that’s what the Parents Television Council claims. The PTC just released a report detailing what they believe is an increase in foul language in scripted network television during the 2010 season. What might be of interest to students of advertising is that the PTC believes advertisers should exercise their power over the networks as purchasers of commercial time to, as the report says, “encourage greater responsibility in programming…” Well, ain’t that calling the kettle black. Advertising, which isn’t exactly known as the cornerstone of social responsibility itself, is being called upon to influence network television to be socially responsible. The report acknowledges these two “institutions” are tacitly in cahoots, as the only thing advertisers want is to reach a targeted audience, and the PTC believes that the only way broadcasters can attract those audiences is by pushing the edge of the envelope. Now let me be clear, I’m not a fan of the PTC, but there is a germ of truth to the point that those airwaves used by the networks are public and therefore subject to government rules and regulations. The question for you is: should the TV space be a free-for-all no holes barred arena, or do we as a society need to go beyond the “turn it off if you don’t like it” mindset to establish clear parameters in which broadcasters can operate?

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