Yesterday I received an e-mail from the American Family Association urging me to write my local NBC affiliate and asking them to refuse to air the program The Book of Daniel. I’m told that the program is anti-Christian, and must be stopped, even though it hasn’t aired yet. Somehow, I’m never supposed to watch this show, never supposed to make an evaluation for myself, and I must also try to force others to give up their own choice by making sure that the program is not seen by the general public.
Now I could comment on how counterproductive this strategy can be. I recall when similar attacks were made on NYPD Blue before it showed. The attacks made the show even more unpopular.
But what I really can’t understand is what is wrong with everybody’s power switches and channel changers. Why is it that we are presumed unable to make a simple choice and watch a different channel? Believe me, companies get the feedback from that because they need the advertising revenue that results from a popular show. I recall nearly 20 years ago that the local cable service in Bellevue, NE added the Playboy channel to their lineup. People were up in arms! We can’t have our children watching this sort of stuff! (And I agree–we can’t.) The thing that seemed to be left out was that one had to pay and explicitly ask to have the channel added to your service. If you didn’t want your children exposed to it, all you had to do was not order it. (I discuss the problem of the need to control our own television sets in my essay Off-Switch Censorship.)
Now I have not yet seen The Book of Daniel. What I plan to do is watch the premiere episode on Friday night. After I’ve watched it, I’ll know what I think about it, not before. I have a working channel changer, and I can handle it. And whatever I choose, everyone else will have a similar opportunity. If it’s a lousy show, it will probably fail.
I sent the following e-mail to my local affiliate, WPMI in Mobile, AL: “I have seen a number of messages asking people to bombard NBC affiliates demanding that they don’t show this program. As a result, I feel that I should speak up and tell you not to give in to pressure by censoring potentially challenging shows. I haven’t seen “The Book of Daniel,” but I will certainly take a look at it and decide whether to watch it for myself. The one and only form of censorship that is appropriate is my off-switch and my channel changer. Don’t be pressured into cutting down the range of choices available to your viewers.”
They responded that they are going to air the program, and they agree that people should have a choice. I congratulate them. That’s the way to do it.