The Other Pollution Problem


By: Nathan Tabor

A curious Associated Press story out of China recently caught my eye. It spoke of the nation’s efforts to combat “social pollution.”

For the uninitiated, social pollution refers to the sewage that clogs television and radio airwaves. It’s the endless stream of sexually explicit material that corrupts kids and coarsens our culture.

In the past, Chinese regulators have cracked down on advertisements featuring crude language and images. Now, China has opted to ban broadcast ads for push-up bras, figure-conscious underwear, sex tonics, and sex toys.

According to the AP story, the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television stated, “Illegal ‘sexual medication’ advertisements and other harmful ads pose a grave threat to society.” The agency maintains that the ads “seriously mislead consumers, harm the people’s health, pollute the social environment, and corrupt social mores.”

I really could not have put it better myself. These types of ads are demeaning—particularly to women. They view people as mere consumers of commodities who must be titillated as much as possible. And they threaten the innocence of a nation’s most valuable treasure—its children.

American broadcast executives should take a cue from the Chinese. Yes, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, but with freedom comes responsibility. If television commercials hawking vodka and cigarettes are considered socially irresponsible, so should ads that sell sex.

Social pollution is just as dangerous and deadly as environmental pollution—if not more so. The byproducts of social pollution are AIDS, an assortment of STDs, pornography, and marital breakdown. It might also be said that there is a tremendous cost associated with social pollution. Think of all the health care bills that result from sexually transmitted maladies…the counseling bills incurred by families ripped apart by pornography and divorce.

Let’s be clear—I am not calling for censorship. What I am calling for are sensible policies that ensure that little eyes are not subjected to sexually suggestive broadcast ads. Ideally, network executives and local television and radio station owners should be willing to police themselves. However, if that fails, the Federal Communications Commission should take bolder steps aimed at cleaning up our airwaves.

No viewer needs to see Victoria’s Secret ads on a Monday night. No one should feel deprived if they cannot watch a commercial for 18-hour bras. Companies hawking shapely underwear can still get their message out through catalogues, magazines, the World Wide Web, and other publications. Television should be considered off-limits for prurient pitches.

Now that Al Gore is a media mogul, perhaps he should consider investing some of his time addressing the social pollution problem. It is every bit as significant as global warming—and it may actually have greater repercussions for our children.

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