Why We Need Cable Choice

By Crystal Madison

Do you think child molesters are funny? Comedy Central does.

I recently had the misfortune of flipping the dial to this cable network during a showing of the Comedy Central Roast of Joan Rivers. The program was crammed full of jokes about rape, incest, child molesters, genitals and other subjects most people would find offensive.


And if you have cable or satellite TV—even if you didn’t watch it—you paid for it. Comedy Central’s celebrity “roasts” are always full of graphic material; but this special hit a new low, not only by making jokes about sexually abusing children, but by treating children abusively on the program itself!

The show opened with Joan Rivers coming on stage while holding hands with six children. She pulled at one little girl, ordering the child to say something. When the little girl didn’t speak, Rivers yelled, “That’s [bleeped f-word] enough!” (Of course, the language wasn’t bleeped when the child heard it in person.) Rivers concluded the scene by giving the tots the middle finger while saying, “I hate children!”

And there was more…a LOT more…of this kind of humor, most of it so sick that it has no place in a family newspaper. In just one tiny sample, comedian Gilbert Gottfried joked about a celebrity who has admitted to having been sexually abused by her father: “as a kid she was so ugly that her father would close his eyes and fantasize about her sister.”

Comedy Central defends its Roasts by saying they’re for adults – yet they are seen by large numbers of children. Last year’s Roast was watched by 349,000 12-14-year-olds – and 76,000 children aged 2-11!

Regrettably, this is not the only thing I have been paying for that I wish I hadn’t.  Every week we are all accomplices when Sons of Anarchy on FX plays it brand of extreme and explicit violence featuring shootings, stabbings, and beatings not to mention a cattle castration knife used to cut off a rapist’s testicles, and should be ashamed for our part in helping Glenn Martin DDS promote 11 year olds becoming strippers among other sexual content, graphic violence, and scatological humor in this animated show that airs on Nickelodeon.

And this is the kind of programming every cable subscriber is paying for, whether they watch it or not. A Comedy Central spokeswoman said that the Roast was “designed to appeal to the Comedy Central audience, not the PTC audience.”  But Comedy Central’s parent company, Viacom, has no problem forcing every cable subscriber in America to pay for their “jokes” about child molesters.

There’s a place for adult programming – and adult humor – on TV. But comedians using something as truly evil as sexually molesting a child as a punch line is beyond the pale.  That Comedy Central would show a program with these jokes still visible to viewers – including children themselves—is contemptible.  And that the entertainment industry would force every cable and satellite subscriber to underwrite it is reprehensible.

But this is the kind of programming that millions of subscribers were forced to pay for with their monthly cable bills. If you don’t think jokes about child sexual abuse are funny – if you’re tired of paying for shows you don’t want in order to get the cable network programming that you and your family do—please join the PTC in calling for consumer Cable Choice.

At a time when Americans are feeling the financial pinch, can they afford to pay for anything they don’t want and don’t need? Is it fair that cable TV forces its customers to buy dozens of channels they’ll never watch? Isn’t it time that the entertainment industry started playing fair with its customers? Every other business offers Americans a choice—when will Hollywood do the same?

Crystal Madison is the New Jersey chapter director of the Parents Television Council, a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment.

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