The Use of the V-chip: Insightful Tool or Blatant Censorship Recently, there has been widespread debate over the use of a new form of technology that may be coming to a television set near you in the very near future. In fact, some say this new technology, known as the V-chip (the V stands for violence) may finally filter out the trash programming that infests the average television set and reaches millions of impressionable children each and every day. Many others, on the contrary, believe that the V-chip is nothing more than blatant censorship and in actuality just a form of parental passivity. Approved by the federal government about three months ago, the V-chip is works in a very simple way.
About a year ago, most major television networks reluctantly agreed to put ratings on their programs which would indicate the presence of sexual content, violence, or inappropriate language, among other things. The ratings system, which consists of the following basic categories: TVY All Children. TVY 7 Directed to children 7 and older. TVG General Audience. TVPG Parental guidance suggested. TV 14 Parents strongly cautioned.
TVM Mature audiences only. The last three ratings categories (TVPG, TV 14, TVM) also have additional codes which better explain why the program received it's particular rating. The presence of violence (V), sexual content (S), coarse language (L), and suggestive dialogue (D), are the primary areas targeted by the rating and code system. What the V-chip does is it blocks out the programming based on the television rating system. Once parents set what they choose to be blocked, nothing with the parent ally chosen ratings codes will be broadcast in the particular home. The only way to access such programming is through the use of a PIN number from the television remote control.
Those who support the implementation of the V-chip see to have a plausible argument. According to an article entitled Screening A La Carte, published in The American Prospect, supporters of the V-chip say it's a technological wonder, the shining light that will help lead parents back to control over the morass that commercial television has become (51). The author also indicates that although a screening agent such as the V-chip isn t a perfect solution to solve the programming problems on television, it's definitely a step in the right direction, one that breaks the impasse between what television now is and what millions of American parents say they would like it to be (54). Although not the final solution in regulating what is deemed objectionable television content, its proponents feel that the V-chip is the first step in making television programming more acceptable in general.
The opponents of the V-chip, though, may seem to have a much better case against its use then those who advocate it. An article in The Humanist, appropriately entitled Stuff a Gag in the V-Chip, illustrates the point that censorship in general, particularly the V-chip, is totally unwarranted. The problem with ratings and censorship, in addition to conflicting with the pesky Constitution, is that brains are never part of the equation a single formula applies to Bellini, Bergman, and cheap skin flicks (3). This quotation makes the simple comparison between programs that are informative and tastefully done to those that deserve the label of trash. Although they may both contain some sort of nudity, one being a documentary of sorts or artwork and the other being a cheap pornography, they both receive the same rating nonetheless and therefore would both be blocked out by the V-chip. Those against the use of the V-chip also site the unconstitutional nature of the device.
In a piece entitled The New Censorship from Editor & Publisher, the author Patrick Maines makes basically sums it up by saying that this new measure by the federal government is undoubtedly unconstitutional, as it comes in direct conflict with the First Amendment. He goes on to state that although its proponents claim it will prevent youngsters from viewing, and therefore acting out violent behavior, it will ultimately fail in accomplishing its objectives. In fact, Maines went as far to say that children have become the new rationale for censorship (1). Perhaps one of the biggest detriments to the use of the V-chip is the effect it will have on parenting. In Screening A La Carte, it makes the point that the V-chip can unfortunately be categorized as one more example of the quick-fix gizmo to which Americans have long been prone (51). The V-chip also shows a total lack of concern amongst the parent.
In households where parental concern is high and the parents are actively involved in their children's lives, there would be no need for the V-chip. Parents in these particular types of households would also be able to differentiate between what should and shouldn t be witnessed by their child. In this case, the threat of violence being acted out by the child is relatively small (Maines, 3). On the other hand, in households with unconcerned parents, the risk of violence is substantially greater, but once again the V-chip would do little to combat this. If the parents are so unconcerned and uncaring, one must wonder if the V-chip will even bother to be activated (Maines, 4). The bottom line is that if parents are truly concerned with what is being broadcast into their homes, then the parents themselves should be the ones to do something not a box you plug into your television.