Oct. 28--The last time I flipped past ABC's Family channel, "Pretty Woman" was on.
After all, what could be more family friendly than a prostitute finding true love in a five-star penthouse?
With my 5-year-old sitting on the couch, I ended up watching Disney -- one of just a handful of TV channels that get significant airtime in my living room.
Let's see: Disney. Nick. PBS. The Food Network. A news channel or two. AMC now and then. Occasionally ESPN.
Does that even count as a handful?
Yet I'm paying for 60-something channels.
"Families are being taken advantage of," complains Melissa Henson, director of communications and public education for the Parents Television Council.
"In our house, we like to watch Disney Junior. But to get that package, we have to pay for five or six other networks that we would never watch."
Several cable channels have recently shown characters being how do I put this in a family-friendly newspaper? being overly familiar with themselves, according to a report from the Television Council.
The shows are targeted at teens and pre-teens, but they make an old R-rated movie like "Pretty Woman" look rather quaint.
"Cable channels are increasingly less family friendly," Henson says. "But families are subsidizing them."
Worse yet, the graphic content trickles down to broadcast networks, where cable shows go into syndication, albeit with the most explicit parts edited out.
But seriously, no matter how much they edit out of "Sex and the City," do you really want your teen daughter getting relationship advice from Carrie Bradshaw?
Executives reach for the old excuse that they're simply giving people what they want to see. But the ratings suggest otherwise.
Of the top 10 shows last week, according to the Nielsen ratings, none had explicit sexual content.
Except for the goriness of NCIS and the sometimes off-color humor of Big Bang Theory, the whole top 10 was appropriate for all ages.
"If the graphic content is so popular," Henson says, "unbundle the networks and see how long they survive. Let the people who want it pay for it."
And stop making the rest of us pitch in.
Last month, the Canadian government announced plans to introduce "cable choice," letting subscribers choose channels a la carte.
Now, somebody just needs to figure out a way to get our TV from up north along with our prescriptions.
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