Every Hour is Family Hour

Surfin’ on a Sunday afternoon. The Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Adam Thierer has an excellent op-ed in The City Journal that answers a recent cri-de-coeur from the Parents Television Council as to “Who Killed Family Hour?”, long regarded as the 8 to 9 p.m. time slot for TV broadcasters (although, as Thierer points out, it was more of a broadcaster convention and was never mandated by the government).

“The answer: parents like me! Armed with all these new viewing options and technologies, parents, not broadcasters, now determine the content of the family hour and when it will take place. We no longer have to sit down at 8:00 each night to be spoon-fed our daily dose of family-friendly fare. For example, in our home, my wife and I have designated one television for most of our children’s video consumption, and we use a DVR to amass a large library of programming that we believe is educational, enriching, and appropriate. We can catalog and archive dozens of programs and supplement them with VHS tapes, DVDs, and computer software. When we allow our children some TV time, we know that they’ll be able to watch our preferred episodes of Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, Blue’s Clues, and The Wiggles.”

I had to chuckle when I read that, because at the time my 4-1/2 year old son was watching a DVD of an episode from Gerry Anderson’s great Thunderbirds series, which he chose as a reward for good behavior. And as in Adam’s household, I can probably count the hours of actual TV that my son has watched “live” off the cable box, as in being transmitted that very minute, on two hands. Earlier, I had remarked that I used to watch the Thunderbirds when I was his age. “Did you have a lot of episodes to choose from?” he asked. “No,” I said. “We didn’t have DVDs. You had to watch the Thunderbirds on a certain day at a certain time or else you missed your chance to see it.” His only response was a pained look of what appeared to be incomprehension, incredulity and a trace of abject pity. I get it. That’s the way I look when I read PTC complaints about the scarcity of choices parents have for children’s viewing.