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The Viacom Debacle

y Fr. Robert J. Carr

I am a great fan of bull riding. Therefore, my favorite three lettered sports organization is actually not the NFL, but the PBR (Professional Bull Riders.) The night of the Superbowl, I actually was more tuned to the bull riding marathon over on the Outdoor Life Network. So, I have to admit, I missed most of the Pats/Panthers match including the now controversial Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake major "malfunction." I did see a part of the half-time show and what I saw just led me more quickly back to OLN and the PBR.

I work in the inner city. My experience has been that the music industry is one of the worst influences on urban youth. When you take that awful charge and add to it mainstream television you can see the convergent point-MTV-is just a great station to exclude from your channel line up.

The reality is, however, that the half-time show was not on MTV, it was rather seen on its sister station under the VIACOM parent umbrella, CBS. Indeed, if anything, CBS exploited the Superbowl venue as free advertising time for MTV.

Once called the Tiffany network, CBS is now no more tiffany than Tiffani. Indeed, it is becoming more and more like the condom network. However, as I said before, I do not consider the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake "malfunction" to be the worst thing seen on the half-time show. I think the hip-hop of P. Diddy and Nelly along with the antics of Kid Rock, along with JJ/JT debacle were horrendous if for no other reason than they legitimized one thing--MTV spirituality.

CBS and VIACOM have made quite a bit of money broadcasting falsely that the Catholic Church does not keep children safe. However, one of the stars of MTV is a rap artist named 50 Cent. Go to and tell me that MTV belongs in your living room. You will notice a graphic indicating the download progress is in the shape of a bullet. Once the webpage appears, look at one of inner city youth's most popular heroes. This is what VIACOM, the Former Tiffany Network and the current Condom Network are selling to our teens, especially in the inner city. This is also now with the help of the NFL. Add to that the messages coming out of Death Row Records, the whole "teens [like dogs and cats] are going to have sex anyway message", the "anything for money programming known as 'Survivor'," and every other part of the VIACOM package. Now explain to me why any disciple of Christ has any reason to watch those brands.

None of that investigation means anything until we look at it as the Catholics we are. Jesus told all his followers that they are the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World. You and I have the vocation to preach His truth. We are not doing that if we ignore the violent, self-destructive propaganda coming out of the entertainment industry. Some will say we should engage in legislation, that is a possibility. However, we need to engage our communities in evangelization. We need to evangelize our youth and our culture so that they understand the very evil represented by this whole commercial culture that has been forced down good American throats. In fact, the bright side of the debacle is that it has shown to the world what VIACOM and the Entertainment industry have been preaching for years.

Brazilian priest Father Jonas Abib reminds us that one of the greatest tools of the Devil is to focus us on self-promotion. He adds this is the evil that the entertainment industry embraces. You and I need the tools of discernment in our entertainment choices. We need to be the Christian leaders to our society. We need to take a stand by choosing to serve the greater good and not the financial good of some stockholders and executives in the media. There is a unique irony in this whole mess. CBS and the Catholic Church had a relationship at one time. You may remember that it was on that network many Catholics watched Bishop Fulton Sheen. William Paley's enterprise sure has come along way since those days, a long way down.

The PBR has a Christian element to it including devout Catholics. I have told some of those Christian bull riders that their message in light of the challenge of their sport is an important one to our youth. The sign of a strong man is not one who is shot nine times and survives, as is the boast of 50 Cent. Manliness, toughness, and strength are character realities that are found in good people of faith. Indeed, one bull rider told me if the youth want to model their lives off a guy who's most important character trait is that he has survived a gangland shooting in which he was shot simultaneously nine times, well there are countless such models in prisons around our country.

You and I have the challenge of living our faith so that the falsehood of our culture is detected at its first syllable because we are filled with the truth of Christ. Let this VIACOM debacle be a call to us to know what happens when we forget our vocation in Christ. This is what happens when we forget that we are the Salt of the Earth and the Light to the World. We need to emphasize this truth to our culture and societies. We also need to pay special attention to our school boards and our local broadcasters. First, we must daily repent of our sins of omission and commission and recommit ourselves to serving and evangelizing as servants of Christ everyday.

As Christians, we invite everyone to eternal joy. How infinitely greater a gift we offer than anything you can find on television, radio, movies, magazines or CD's or for that matter during any Superbowl.


Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Parochial Vicar, 617 542-5682



CBS, NFL, MTV, PBR, OLN, Superbowl, Bull Riding

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