A Philadelphia-based grassroots protest group says it helped take Wilmington, Delaware–based music station Kiss 101.7 off the air after complaints from its members about explicit songs led to fines and bad publicity. Every year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fines dozens of television and radio stations for broadcasting objectionable material, and penalties have ranged from $7,000 (for off-color jokes on a local morning radio show) to $3.6 million (for sexual content on prime-time TV). WORLD verified that another station bought Kiss last April and converted it to talk radio, but Kiss co-founder DJ Shorty T claims the switch had little to do with losing money, according to an interview with The (Wilmington) News Journal.
“Rage Against the Ratchet” founder Carvin Haggins takes pride in Kiss’ demise, but—like Porter—says explicit content is now so ubiquitous that sheltering children from obscene content is not as simple as slapping a label on an album, taking down radio stations, or bleeping out four-letter words. He says radio is “a blind man’s porn”: “They’re playing this stuff at 7 a.m. when they’re getting ready for school, all the way to 4 p.m., when they come home, so their minds are being inundated with pornographic lyrics.”
Haggins has taken his fight for music decency to Washington, D.C., where he hopes informal meetings with policymakers will drum up enough interest to introduce legislation that would keep radio stations from playing explicit songs—including even their clean versions—within normal listening hours. But even with help from grassroots affiliates in New York, Chicago, and Florida, Haggins feels like “David going up against Goliath.” How will his group persuade record companies, media conglomerates like iHeartMedia, and the FCC?
It can start with informing parents about their options. If you no longer buy CDs, you can activate parental controls on your children’s devices and look for content filters on favorite websites or streaming services. Plugged In, a Focus on the Family–sponsored site, is an excellent option for parents looking for extensive reviews of the latest entertainment with Christian sensibilities in mind. More proactive parents who hear obscene music on the radio can file indecency complaints with the FCC, which has a surprisingly easy-to-navigate complaint website.
It also couldn’t hurt to listen to this year’s Grammy nominees before they’re awarded on Feb. 12—your kids may stream their songs the next day.
Unlike music, other forms of entertainment (movies, video games, and television) use ratings systems to give audiences an idea of what’s appropriate for different age groups. But this doesn’t mean they’re accurate. In many cases, most companies do their best to manipulate the system to attract the widest audience and lucrative commercial tie-ins.
How it works: All televisions made after 1999 have a v-chip that allows users to ban TV shows rated above a certain parental guidelines rating. This enables parents to tailor their viewing within their own home. According to the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, an independent survey says most Americans are satisfied with the TV ratings system.
How it doesn’t: Networks, which rate their own shows, give deceptively lower ratings so they don’t lose advertisers, says Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council. Also, the v-chip does not work for streaming services such as Netflix, which has separate parental controls.
When it doesn’t work: VH1’s Dating Naked and Discovery’s Naked and Afraid (the titles say it all) are currently rated TV-14. Until recently, AMC’s The Walking Dead, which features graphic violence and gore, also had a TV-14 rating. Complaints from the Parents Television Council helped to change The Walking Dead, currently the second-highest-rated cable TV show, to TV-MA, the strongest rating allowed.