Culture Notes


Issue: "Reno Under Fire," April 26, 1997

Countdown to TV oblivion

In what is being touted as the biggest advance in TV technology since color, the Federal Communications Commission has cleared the way for the ultra-high quality reception of digital television. Of course, this was accomplished by federal freebies to the TV industry worth some $70 billion. And in 2006 you will have to spend about $2,000 for a new TV set. The FCC has worked out an arrangement with the nation's broadcasters to make the transition to the new technology, in which the current analog signals will be replaced by computer-enhanced digital signals, which can carry far more data. The agreement will give use of the special airwave frequencies to television stations for free. An earlier idea had been to auction off the frequencies, a plan that would have raised as much as $70 billion to the federal treasury. Critics are calling the decision to let the TV industry have the frequencies for nothing the biggest federal giveaway of the 20th century. The new technology is to be available within 18 months, in time for Christmas shoppers in 1998 to buy the necessary equipment. Stations will have to broadcast in both formats for nine years, so that existing analog sets will still work up until that time. But after 2006, the broadcasters will go completely digital. Existing sets will be useless without a $150 to $300 converter, which will not yield the high-quality picture. The new digital sets, which will have the proportions of a movie screen, will be expensive at first. Another option: When your TV set reaches planned obsolescence, do without. Be television free by 2006.

Pretty outrageous

The cosmetic industry has opened up a vast new market: pre-teen girls as young as three years old. Last year, teens and preteens spent $4.7 billion on beauty products. The biggest jump is in the grade-school set. New product lines of lipstick, nail polish, and perfume are targeting girls 10 years old and younger. One of the most popular is a glitter nail polish sold under the ominous brand name "Sinful." One company, Imperial Toy Company, is selling makeup at toy stores and specifically markets its products to children three years old and up. "Be as pretty as pretty can be," goes the packaging for a deluxe mirror compact with twelve colors of eye shadow, four lip glosses, and two blushes. The Petite Miss Stackers, lip glosses for four-year-olds, are sold with the slogan "Pretty cool. Pretty cute. Pretty you." Little girls have been playing dress-up with mother's cast-off makeup for years. But now it is big business: Sales of the toddler makeup line-which the company insists is sold only for play-have doubled since it was introduced 10 years ago. The Petite Miss line has captured 60 percent of the market for pre-teen cosmetics. Major producers such as Maybelline have now released brands of their own. The phenomenon of makeup for children is another example of what Neil Postman has called "the disappearance of childhood," whereby contemporary culture erases the distinction between children and adults. It also demonstrates a new application of our society's twisted obsession with beauty (in stark violation of Peter 3:3). Most disturbingly of all-in our age of kiddie porn and sexual abuse-it marks another step in the growing sexualization of children.

Suds for kids

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The Federal Trade Commission is investigating America's largest breweries on the suspicion that their advertising campaigns are targeting children. Anheuser-Busch has been sponsoring rock concerts featuring underaged performers who appeal to a distinctly underaged audience. The company spent $1 million last year advertising on MTV, while its rival Miller Brewing company has spent $2 million to woo MTV's almost exclusively teenage audience. The brewers' regular TV advertising-with its menagerie of frogs, dogs, horses, and juvenile humor-also tends to appeal to children. The question for the FTC is whether the Bud Frogs appeal to children or adults who think like children. Or both.

Porno video

Pornographic video rentals have shot up 36 percent over the past three years, according to information obtained by the Christian fax service Entertainment Today. In 1996, hard-core pornography accounted for 13.1 percent of the total video market-over one in 10 of all rentals. This amounts to some $3.9 billion for the smut industry, up from $2.5 billion in 1994. This increase in demand has led to more product: 7,852 hard-core video films were made in 1996, up 40 percent from last year.


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