Media Morality – Does It Even Exist?

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Since the 2004 presidential election, the nation has been abuzz with the increased influence of “morality” in the voting preferences of Americans. Eleven states voted to reject homosexual “marriage,” Florida denied abortion for minors without parental notification, and gambling initiatives were repeatedly struck down.

Why is this so surprising?

Perhaps it is because, at first glance, one may not guess that we are a moral nation. Look at the TV shows, the music, the movies that we consume for entertainment. The recent trend in politics does not reflect the spiraling culture in which we find ourselves.

Dr. Janice Crouse, senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, added, “We have also learned from recent polling that 20-30 percent of the so-called values voters watch the television shows; they go to the movies; they read the magazines and they listen to the music. Increasingly, secularism is having more influence on Christians than Christians are having on the secular world.”

For the past decade, the hottest phenomena in media have featured sex, vulgarity and other forms of lewdness. Currently, ABC’s Desperate Housewives is the new “it” program. Based in modern-day wealthy suburbia, the characters include: Susan Mayer, a divorc and single mother who seduces a neighbor; Lynette Scavo, stay-at-home mom of four who uses her children’s attention deficit disorder medication to keep her own life on an even keel; Bree Van De Kamp, a mother who loses complete control of her family and attempts to murder her husband when he proposes divorce; and Gabrielle Solis, a bored wife who finds excitement in an affair with her 17-year-old gardener.

Airing Sunday nights at 9 p.m., the American public is eating it up. It is now the number two show on TV. Critics say that it is a wonderful, behind-the-scenes view of suburbia, addressing “the updated and eternal myth of momhood.”1

Consider a second case: ABC sank to new lows again with another drama series, Life as We Know it. This time targeted at the teen audience and airing on Thursday nights at 9 p.m., this show tells the story of three hormone-charged teenage boys and their obsession with sexual fantasies and desires. Dino Whitman, Ben Connor, and Jonathan Fields are all “utterly consumed by thoughts of girls” (one with his English teacher), and the show portrays their relationships with each other and those around them as they are “shaped into men.”2

Countless more examples of songs, movies and TV shows persuade the public to believe that greed, lust and dishonesty are “normal.” The next generation is getting these messages from our media.

Outrage over these types of shows is widespread. Concerned Women for America (CWA) and other grassroots organizations have organized massive campaigns against indecency, shedding light on the lack of regulation surrounding our media.

In April of 2003, CWA experts joined a coalition of family groups that met with three of the five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and urged them to take action and strongly enforce indecency violations. In addition, CWA backed the preservation of broadcast decency language in the Department of Defense Authorization bill in September, increasing FCC fines to $275,000 per offense. Congress will again address this issue when the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act is re-introduced in the 109th Congress.

Regrettably, the FCC has not been as effective as CWA hopes in fighting indecency. The Commission currently receives thousands of indecency complaints every day, yet acts on only a handful. In 2003, for example, citizens lodged more than 202,000 complaints, but just three notices of apparent liability (NALs) were issued to broadcasters for indecency violations, totaling less than $450,000. Only one of those three notices has been paid to date.3

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps stated in a December 2002 interview: “It’s not a credible enforcement process. If you’re going to have a credible enforcement process, you have to have punishments, and those punishments have to exact a toll.”4

Dr. Crouse adds, “Until we get serious about cleaning up American culture, our airwaves and the broader entertainment industry will continue to pollute our children’s minds and corrupt the overall society.”

To prevent such corruption, CWA champions cable choice for families and consumers. Parents should have the right to choose which stations they receive and will pay for, avoiding some of the unregulated trash cable offers. CWA Chief Counsel Jan LaRue testified in July before a House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, demonstrating the benefits of “a la carte” cable.

Though the situation in American media appears dismal, we must not slow down. Our continued resolve will include applying pressure on those who perpetrate indecency and harm our youth. We will continue to lobby the FCC for stronger enforcement standards, so that our complaints and voices will be heard. Let us “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and stand strong to return our nation to its moral roots.

Click here to take action.

Eva Arlia is an intern with CWA’s Ronald Reagan Memorial Scholarship Program.

End Notes

  1. Ellen Goodman, “‘Desperate’ Pressure of Momhood Brings On Mixed Feelings,” San Jose Mercury News, Section B, OP2, 22 November 2004.
  2. Life As We Know It plot synopsis, as found at
  3. Federal Communications Commission, Enforcement Bureau, Indecency Complaints and NALs: 1993 – 2004, revised 18 November 2004.
  4. Interview with Federal Communications Commissioner Michael J. Copps. Morality in Media. 4 December 2002.

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