LGBTQ battle shifts to the tube
It would be only a matter of time before politicians would set their sight on television in their war with Disney over LGBTQ rights.
In a stunt no doubt timed to curry over favor with their constituents with an election around the corner, five Republican senators are demanding the TV Guidelines Ratings Board – a group tasked to assign TV ratings to programs (TVY7, TV-PG, TV-14, etc.) as mandated by the 1996 Telecommunications Act – to create a new rating for shows featuring LGBTQ characters.
GOP Senators Roger Marshall (Kan.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mike Braun (Ind.), Steve Daines (Mont.) and Kevin Cramer (N.D.) sent a letter to TVGRB Chairman Charles Rivkin concerned about LGBTQ content and demanded the board create a warning so parents can filter out any program with a LGBTQ character. The congressmen want a response by May 18 and an in-person briefing with members of the board.
“In recent years, concerning topics of a sexual nature have become aggressively politicized and promoted in children’s programming, including irreversible and harmful experimental treatments for mental disorders like gender dysphoria.”, stated the letter. It goes on to say “Considering that the cognitive markers of sexual desire emerge during puberty when adolescents undergo natural hormonal and physiological changes, it is wholly inappropriate to display this content in a TV-Y7 category and for other young audiences.”
The letter also mentions a Disney producer wanting more inclusion in children’s TV programming – especially in regards to the LGBTQ community. An e-mail sent by Sen. Marshall’s office to the Kansas City Star cited four children’s programs featuring LGBTQ characters – though none of them are produced by Disney. The company is currently in a battle with the state of Florida, whose state legislature passed a bill prohibiting teaching LGBTQ material to schoolchildren from kindergarten to third grade. Disney blasted the law, raising the ire of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis who in retaliation repealed the Ready Creek Improvement District bill signed in 1967, letting Disney be its own government in the area around Walt Disney World, located in the Orlando media market.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the volatile history between Hollywood and conservatives. Thirty years ago this month, then-Vice-President Dan Quayle criticized Murphy Brown – yes, the fictional Murphy Brown character (played by Candance Bergen) for having a baby out of wedlock. In 2004, the Super Bowl Halftime Show debacle (often referred to as “Nipplegate”) drew outrage from Capitol Hill and the FCC, leading to a host of changes including increased fines for swearing and nudity on television and led to the rise of advocacy group Parents Television Council as more racier material shifted away from broadcast and basic cable television. The incident had a detrimental effect on all media for years, from Howard Stern shifting from terrestrial radio to SiriusXM to content creators heading to premium cable and later, streaming – a territory senators are now trying to encroach on.
The LGBTQ controversy is the latest weapon Republicans are using in the “culture wars” to score political points – and fundraising dollars as the mid-term elections are drawing close.
While it’s unlikely the board would even consider this request – at least we hope not, this sets a very distributing precedent in regards to regulating content. And it may not stop there – if Republicans take the House and Senate and return to the White House in 2024, a new FCC commissioner could propose more content regulation in the name of quieting any LGBTQ talk and any other subjects conservatives don’t like – and would try to regulate streaming for the first time. A Republican chairman could use the LGBTQ controversy in Florida to target the FCC licenses of Disney’s eight big-market ABC-owned stations, including WLS-TV in Chicago.
With the GOP looking to expand their war on the LGBTQ community, we may see more nonsense before long.