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Industry Ears, Parents Television Council making it hard for media execs

 

Stanley Crouch

Daily News

June 22, 2008

Direct action has its benefits and its irritation.

Paul Porter knows this well. A former programmer for Black Entertainment Television, the infamous BET, he is now a member of Industry Ears, a nonprofit watchdog agency that he co-founded with Lisa Fager in 2004. It is dedicated to cleaning up those aspects of popular culture in which irresponsible material is aimed at children.

Porter's most recent victory was over Motown Universal when he organized a protest against a slick trash video promoting Ashanti's new recording. The protest was to be held at the fifth game of the NBA Finals. That would put the problem in a high-profile position.

Ashanti was to sing the national anthem and Porter's people would have been outside of the arena protesting the league's choice of a woman who was advertised in an ad designed to titillate with violence.

Sylvia Rhone, the black woman at the top, must have howled before firing off an e-mail announcing to Porter that the ad would be discontinued. She might well have commiserated with Debra Lee, who is at the top of the BET executive pyramid that has sailed atop a garbage scow for some time now, making it clear that it is all about the Benjamins. After all, black people should be free to make money, too. Don't forget this is a capitalist society.

But it is, just like the fate of pimps, getting hard out here for a black businesswoman. Especially since Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, Wal-Mart and General Motors have just pulled ads from BET rap programming. Porter believes it is the result of "The Rap on Rap," a study done by the Parents Television Council (parentstv.org), another watchdog organization which has on its Web site this statement: "Children who watched BET's 'Rap City' and '106 & Park' and MTV's 'Sucker Free' were bombarded with adult content - sexual, violent, profane or obscene - once every 38 seconds."

PTC President Tim Winter said, "BET and MTV are assaulting children with content that is full of sexually charged images, explicit portrayals of violence, drug, drug sales and other illegal activity."

Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that Winter noted with the exception of one program on BET, neither BET nor MTV carried content descriptions that would work in conjunction with the V-Chip to block the programs from coming into the homes of parents or warn them about the presence of sexual content, suggestive dialogue, violence or foul language.

Some of the pigs oinking at the trough on the garbage scow of popular entertainment are employed by Fox, that fount of self-righteous right-wing falsehood. The FCC fined Fox $91,000 for an episode of "Married by America" that aired on April 7, 2003. Hmm. Seems like Fox broke the decency code. As one would expect, Fox protested the ruling and filed a motion against it. I guess it's getting hard out here for a network executive willing to slime our kids.

The issue is neither right nor left. It is about protecting the children.

The point is not denying sex or violence or brutal, even hateful, language. We know they have all been used by serious artists to tell us true and sometimes disturbing things about ourselves. That is very different from pretending that the freedoms artists have gained against the puritanical censorship of work intended for adults should be irresponsibly applied to work intended to do nothing more than exploit or titillate our children by pushing them into areas that they are not mature enough to handle.

But, finally, if it's truly all about the Benjamins, our popular culture will begin to clean itself up when its makers begin to lose money. I think we are seeing some of that right now.
 

 

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