Craig A. Johnson
Though the V chip does not pertain to online communications, it has
generated a lot of controversy, and is relevant to the ongoing
discussion and litigation of censorship and "indecency."
And, according to "cypher punk" Tim May, this magic technological
protector of the virtue of children can be defeated by using VCRs as
tuners, which many people do. Now, how many kids are not going to be
able to figure that one out??
------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 1996 01:21:31 -0500
From: Dave Farber <•••@••.•••>
Subject: IP: The Idiot Chip, by Frank Rich (2/10/96) (fwd)
The New York Times, February 10, 1996
The Idiot Chip
By Frank Rich [Columnist]
In the annals of dumb solutions to serious problems,
history will have a ball with the V-chip, the antidote to
trash TV that became the law of the land on Thursday when
Bill Clinton signed the telecommunications bill. Far from
making television safer for children, the V-chip will
merely postpone and confuse the issue until well into the
next century -- even as it provides politicians with
If you look at the bigger picture, this law is also about
a mammoth expansion of mass culture -- more media, more
outlets -- and a rapid expansion of power for the handful
of mega-corporations that control it all, from TV, movies,
music and publishing to both print and electronic news. It
was perfectly symbolic that on the day Mr. Clinton signed
the bill, Disney got its official Federal approval to
swallow up ABC.
Into this vast new universe of omnipotent media goliaths
comes the tiny V-chip, designed to help parents block the
coarse outpourings of an exploding digital universe.
Common sense alone dooms this gizmo to failure.
Who can rate some 600,000 hours of programming broadcast
per year by even our current 70-channel cable systems?
(Hollywood only has to rate roughly 550 movies -- 1,000
hours -- per year.) Should crime-sated local news be
blocked? "MASH" reruns? Reports from a future gulf war?
"E.R."? Pro football? "Schindler's List"? (If so, a network
may be tempted to duck a V-chip block -- which would lower
ratings and revenue -- by sanitizing the Holocaust.)
Even if all the practical, political and legal questions
raised by the V-chip could be miraculously resolved
overnight, it is still pie-in-the-sky. The chips are only
required on new TV sets, so it will be years before most
households, especially multi-set households, will be in the
Even then, parents with kids in different age groups will
have to choose between their younger and older children as
they decide whether to flick the switch each night. Weaker
parents will take the same path of least resistance they do
Delinquent parents, told that their children will soon be
in the hands of an electronic nanny, will have a new excuse
for doing nothing.
And like each TV generation before it, today's children
will grow up to fight this battle for their children on yet