By Kevin Wilson
I don’t claim to have ever met Uncle Sam, but I believe he had a message for me a few weeks ago. I was doing my taxes, and that message was, “Buy a new television.”
So, I’m awaiting my tax returns so I can do my duty as a patriotic American. I’m planning on upgrading to a new TV. While window-shopping, I’ve looked at all kinds of features that salespeople say will revolutionize television.
I’m generally skeptical of any claim about revolutionizing anything, and history would tend to agree with me. It was 12 years ago when the Philadelphia 76ers drafted 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley, and told anybody who would listen (and some who wouldn’t) that the rail-thin center would revolutionize basketball. So far, Mr. Revolutionary is a career 8.6-points-per-game scorer.
However, this is a history lesson about more than basketball. It’s about claims that can’t be quantified, and are said in the hopes that everybody will forget them years down the road.
You can talk about high-definition television revolutionizing the industry, but you have to remember the last item that was going to do that. It’s a little piece of equipment known as the v-chip.
According to the Federal Communications Commission Web site (fcc.gov), the v-chip is “a technology that lets parents block television programming they don’t want their children to watch.”
It works via encoding in the programming of each television show, as to whether or not it includes violence, obscene language or sexual situations. That’s what that rating at the top corner of your television means. The terms are abbreviated, because it’s too difficult to put “You’re a bad parent if you let your 5-year-old watch ‘24’” on the screen.
This was supposed to be a revolutionary device, except for some it’s anything but. The TV set that I currently own is about five years old, and it includes a v-chip that I never used until last week.
Out of pure curiosity, I put the chip on its maximum protection setting. Most of my television channels became a black screen with the “blocked” signal, but an infomercial for a “Girls Gone Wild” video came through the protection.
I figured that maybe I was a little too cynical, that maybe I needed to check on families that wanted to protect their kids from such programming. Unfortunately, most parents I know don’t even know if their TV has a v-chip, or how to even use it.
I could make an argument here about how hypocritical we are to expect government to help us out of any situation we deem as dangerous, but then never take advantage of an option like a v-chip. Instead, I’m going to make a short argument for progress in the other direction.
What I would like is a reverse v-chip, which would allow my television to ONLY broadcast shows full of violence, sex and obscenity. These things sell, and it would help men everywhere avoid the pitfalls of shopping networks and “Growing Pains” reruns.
I’m not sure what I’d call this chip, maybe the Re-V chip or something. But I can think of a term I had better avoid: Revolutionary.
Kevin Wilson is the managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail: