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Professor: Loss of family programming cost for quality TV

LISTEN: Prof Robert Thompson - Media and Family Culture

It’s no coincidence that a drop in family-friendly programming occurred as some of TV’s best shows began to air, a media professor said.

“We have way better shows on the air today,” Syracuse professor Robert Thompson told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Bruce St. James Show on Friday. “By better I mean more artistic, more sophisticated, more intelligent than we ever had.”

The current “Golden Age” of television is primarily full of dark television dramas that are far from family-friendly.

“What some people don’t like, the really good stuff, is inappropriate for kids,” said Thompson.

The current conflict in American living rooms stems as an older generation wants to consume quality programming that’s good for kids. When today’s parents were growing up, most of them could watch TV at anytime with little parental concern.

“Until we got to the ’70s — and really to a great extent until we got into the ’80s — most of the stuff on TV was fairly OK for everybody in the house,” said Thompson. “That is clearly not the case anymore.”

Of course, TV rules and broadcasts were also more stringent. Toilets were hardly ever shown, spouses slept in separate beds until the Kennedy era and the word “pregnant” was unacceptable. There was also just a few networks to choose from.

Today, we have hundreds of channels at the touch of a button subject to a ratings system operated by a V-chip in the set. However, that system is backfiring.

“I have yet to meet an American citizen who knows how to engage the V-chip on their television set,” Thompson said.

In addition to the technological difficulties, the ratings system itself has backfired.

“A lot of people who called loudest for the ratings system didn’t realize that they ratings system that they got was going to be the opposite effect of what they wanted,” said Thompson.

If the entertainment industry has a ratings system to designate certain levels of approved content, it will take advantage of it.

“Once you’ve got a TV-MA rating, that gives you the invitation that you can do TV-MA things,” said Thompson.

Despite the debate, Thompson said he’s happy with the current state of TV, even if it is a bit more difficult for parents.

“I’m glad that we’re able to have television now where people talk in the words people usually talk in — they are worried and think about the things that really go on in our society,” he said. “But the price we pay for that is you do have to be aware that a good portion of the stuff on television is not going to be appropriate for little kids.”