(Editor's Note: This article was published first in the print edition of The Stand, May 2022)
“Our vision across all political spectrums … is a media environment that is safe and sound for children and families,” said Tim Winter.
For 27 years, Parents Television Council (PTC) has been a leading advocate for family-friendly, kid-friendly television. It was an offspring of Media Research Center, and it recently broadened its focus, expanding its name to Parents Television and Media Council.
Today as always, PTC intends to protect children from the deluge of offensive entertainment content that can be found on any screen. In a recent interview, PTC president Tim Winter sat down with The Stand to discuss the organization’s efforts as they take a stand to protect young eyes and minds.
The Stand: How did PTC begin?
Tim Winter: Our founder was Brent Bozell, and [he was] one of the godfathers of the conservative movement in the 1980s. He partnered with our cofounder, Steve Allen, who was liberal. But as the first host of The Tonight Show, Steve was a Hollywood icon and pioneer in the television industry.
Those two people probably never checked the same box on the ballot or agreed on much of anything. But what they did agree on was that the entertainment media culture was toxic to children and dangerous to their well-being. So the mission [became] protecting children from the graphic sex, violence, and profanity that has been so pervasive in entertainment.
TS: How has PTC seen media and culture change since those early days?
TW: It really has changed so much. When we think back to 1995, most people consumed their entertainment through major broadcast television networks, the four major broadcast television networks. That kind of gave way to a growing number of cable channels in the 1990s and early 2000s. In a couple of decades, we went from a 25-cable to a 500-cable channel universe. Then, cable gave way to streaming.
When we began PTC, our mission was squarely focused on sex, violence, and profanity on primetime broadcast TV. That’s what children were watching. The [graphic content] at that time was mostly programming that may not have been intended for children, but it was consumed by them.
[Since then], it has changed from sex, violence, and profanity for adults but kids were seeing it, to kids being in the scenes. From that, it morphed into kids delivering the explicit content. Now, we see the outright sexual exploitation of children. All for the sake of entertainment.
TS: What are some of the successes PTC has seen?
TW: We’ve been very involved over the years with public policy efforts in Washington, D.C., where there are legislative or regulatory remedies that are available to further PTC’s mission. We were instrumental in securing the enforcement of broadcast indecency laws of the Federal Communication Commission, the FCC.
We’ve helped pass the Child Safe Viewing Act, the Family Movie Act, and other pieces of legislation that help protect children from toxic programming. We also work very feverishly to make sure that television sponsors – the advertisers – are held accountable for the television programming they sponsor.
TS: What are some of the concerns PTC has with streaming?
TW: Actually, there are two very big concerns we face with streaming that we did not face with broadcasting and most cable networks. Number one is [the absence of] advertisers. Number two is [absence of] FCC regulatory oversight.
The FCC has oversight of broadcast television and can enforce indecency standards. But it cannot enforce indecency standards on streaming because it comes through the internet. It’s a different legal animal, and unfortunately, there are no FCC guidelines. However, one thing that we have been advocating for years is one standard content rating system.
Each TV network decides how to rate each show, and they almost always rate it too young, as opposed to too old. They rate things with really graphic violence, sex, and profanity as appropriate for children to watch. They do it because if they rate it accurately, advertisers won’t support it, and viewers won’t watch.
We’ve been working for wholesale reform of the rating system and its oversight. And that’s something that we continue to work on. We want one system. Parents are asked to learn motion picture, TV, video game, and music content rating systems. There should be one standard content rating system across all forms of media, which includes, we believe, streaming media. If parents are going to be tasked with being better parents, then give them something they can understand and implement.
TS: Where do you see PTC in the next 10 years?
TW: We don’t yet know what new technological advances will be made or what the future holds in terms of how entertainment will be produced or distributed. But what we do know is that technology will be there. And children will be consuming it.
If we’re going to be able to help parents be better parents, and if we’re going to help protect the innocence of our children, we have to be nimble and able to quickly pivot and address any concern that pops up in terms of toxic entertainment. The reality is, wherever technology goes, PTC will be there to help parents protect their children.
TS: How would you encourage individuals to get engaged in the culture war?
TW: Every voice matters. Once you learn about a campaign, tell your friends. You never know who you’re talking to and what impact they might be able to have. I would also encourage readers not to underestimate the clout they have with their voice, with a few strokes of their keyboard on their computer to take action. Speak up and speak out. It’s vitally important. Every voice truly
TS: Is there anything else you would like to add?
TW: The most important thing I can do as president of PTC is to make sure that parents across America are armed with information about what’s on television. And I think we have done exceptionally well over the years at providing research and data for parents to help them make more informed viewing choices for their families.
Parents sometimes don’t understand how important it is in terms of what their children are consuming with entertainment media. They buckle their kids in their cars with seatbelts, lock their doors at night, and try to give them healthy food. But they stop short of understanding the importance of what their children are putting into their minds and how it impacts their long-term health.
If we’re going to try to build up children to be our next leaders, we have to give them the moral compass as well.
PTC resources for parents: Click that mouse!
“The more people you have clicking that mouse, the greater the impact,” PTC President Tim Winter said. “AFA has been instrumental over the years. [Like you,] when we recognize something that needs to be addressed, we reach out.”
The Stand editor Randall Murphree repaid the compliment: “I remember depending on Media Research Center and PTC for support when we were both monitoring television’s four major networks. They’ve been a faithful ministry partner through the decades.”
Winters’ mouse reference is to the thorough and frequent email alerts available for parents to take a stand on entertainment issues that impact their children.
To find PTC’s superb resources and help to make your voice count in the culture, go to parentstv.org or call 800.882.6868.