On the Media: Edwards Views Alcohol Ads as Threat; Romney Sees Sea of Perversion

Media Group Quizzes Presidential Prospectives on FCC, Obesity, Violence and More

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Common Sense Media, an outlet "dedicated to improving the media and entertainment lives of kids and families," has just released the results of a questionnaire it sent to the major presidential primary candidates. Of the approximately 600 people seemingly running for president, only Sen. Barack Obama, Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John Edwards and Gov. Bill Richardson have responded to the questionnaire so far. According to Common Sense a number of others have promised to respond but haven't done so yet.

For those in a rush, Common Sense offers a quick chart of highlights at this link. The full questionnaire can be found here.

None of the candidates say anything completely out of character, though one has to wonder if Richardson was having a laugh (or, more likely, abusing a cliché) when in the course of answering the first question, he uses the phrase "our children are the future."

Not surprisingly, Edwards is all for legislation (if needed) to combat childhood obesity. "If the rest of the food and beverage industry won't follow the lead of companies like Kraft and Kellogg and stop marketing unhealthy foods to children, government action may be necessary."

Obama, on the other hand, sounds positively libertarian: "We're never going to be able to shield our children from all the potentially bad influences out there. And it would be counterproductive to just build walls that shield them entirely. Our best hope is to educate our children and give them the information and the tools they need to make wise choices."

Richardson takes a more practical approach and skips the media canard: "That is why I have banned junk food in New Mexico schools and brought back mandatory physical education." Now that's the kind of whacky idea that just might work. After all, kids aren't just shoving more Twinkies into their pie-holes these days, they're sitting around doing a whole lot more of nothing.

Richardson jogs over into parental-responsibility territory on the subject of violence in video games: "Legislation and teachers cannot do it alone, no matter how good they are. Parental involvement is more important to a child's success than any test or book." But while he starts off strong, he finishes weak, stumbling off into crazy-land: "As president, I will issue an executive order that provides all federal employees with eight hours per year of paid, one-to-one time with their children." Yes, that is a major reason behind childhood troubles these days: federal employees don't get enough time off.

Romney, meanwhile, seemed to be shouting directly to the religious section of the Republican party: "I want to restore values so children are protected from a societal cesspool of filth, pornography, violence, sex, and perversion. I've proposed that we enforce our obscenity laws again and that we get serious against those retailers that sell adult video games that are filled with violence and that we go after those retailers."

On the subject of ads during kids shows, Romney had nothing to say. (He actually skipped a number of the questions.) Obama, on the other hand, sets up a straw-man and knocks him out: "If parents can use increased information about programming to set their own standards for what they want their children to be able to watch, they shouldn't have that choice and control undermined by promos for horror movies and ads for the Las Vegas show aired in the middle of a cartoon." When's the last time a network aired a "CSI" commercial during Saturday morning programming?

Not surprisingly, all three Democrats think ongoing media consolidation is a bad thing. Romney -- perhaps out of fear of Rupert Murdoch -- didn't answer. All three Democrats also promise a more active FCC and Edwards goes so far as to mention a Fairness Doctrine. (To be fair, he doesn't say he'd bring it back. He just drops it in there, perhaps giving a shout out to the Huffington Post corner of his party.)

If the alcohol industry was under the delusion it has completely escaped the fate of tobacco, here's Edwards on the biggest concern about the media's impact on kids: "It's time for the alcohol industry to quit making millions encouraging teen drinking that destroys thousands of lives each year." Edwards claims that teens see more alcohol ads than adults do.

Obama, on the other hand, seemed the only one thinking the media glass might be half full: "We live in an age of historic access to information and interconnectedness. We need to make sure that all of our children have access to these technologies, and we must teach our children how to harness the huge potential of this technology. I want to make sure my kids are protected from the dangers of the new media world, but I also want to make sure they reap the benefits of it." It could also be that Obama took the time to read the belief statements of Common Sense, one of which states: "we believe that the price for free and open media is a bit of extra homework for families. Parents need to know about media content and need to manage media use." He used similar language in some of his other answers.

Romney recycles some of his earlier language for this one as well: "I'm deeply troubled about the culture that surrounds our kids today. Following the Columbine shootings, Peggy Noonan described our world as 'the ocean in which our children now swim.' She described a cesspool of violence and sex and drugs and indolence and perversions. ... I'd like to see us clean up the water in which our kids are swimming."

Wow. When it's put like that, you almost feel like the only answer IS legislation. And a Bible. And possibly a gun or two.
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