CENSORSHIP & THE
Have you noticed how kids as young as two and three seem to
know their way around TVs, VCRs and satellite receivers, without ever having to
consult instruction books? Genetics, a shared consciousness, who knows, but one
thingís for sure kids are cunning, devious little blighters and youíve got to
stay at least one step ahead of them, if you want to control what they watch on
A lot of video components now have parental locks, that inhibit
various vital functions. The level of security varies widely, from really quite
good to an absolute pushover, but they all have one thing in common, they only
work if you use them! Itís no good reprimanding your kids if you donít bother
to lock out saucy foreign channels on the satellite receiver, leave viewing
cards for triple X rated smut channels in the slot, or a naughty tape in the
VCR. However, even if you do enable the security features on your VCR or
satellite box, donít forget to hide the instruction books, which invariably
contain everything a junior hacker needs to know.
Few TVs have any security features, though hiding the remote
control handset can be quite effective. Around three quarters of all VCRs and virtually
all satellite receivers have some form of parental control. The most
rudimentary ones simply disable the remote and front-panel controls, often by a
simple combination of button presses, or holding down a particular button on
the remote for more than a few seconds.
More sophisticated systems require a three or four digit PIN
code; they can be fairly secure, provided theyíre used properly. Remember to
change the PIN code from the factory default -- itís usually set to something really
obvious like Ď0000í or Ď1234í -- and donít write it down in the instruction book
or anywhere it can be found. Some instruction books also contain unlock codes
-- if case you forget the PIN -- or details of how to defeat or reset the lock,
so donít leave them lying around. PIN coded equipment is normally totally
reliant on the remote handset, which has the numerical keypad, so as a second
line of defence against really smart kids you could always conceal the button-box
Whilst a complete lockout is undoubtedly effective, itís a
bit of a sledgehammer approach; some satellite receivers have the facility to
restrict access to certain channels instead, so it can still be used. Unfortunately
this can be quite complicated to set up and you have to make sure it also
disables manual tuning operations as well. If your receiver doesnít have any
channel restrictions simply wipe the offending stations from the tuner memory; well,
itís worth a try and it might confuse some under tens for a while...
If your VCR or satellite receiver has no security features at
all there are several simple techniques you can use to disable video equipment,
though be warned, youíll probably only get away with it once or twice. Tell the
kids you have to use the VCR to make an important time-shift recording whilst youíre
out. Remove or loosen the satellite dish
input connector, so that the picture disappears. You can effectively isolate
VCRs and satellite receivers by plugging their aerial leads together, though if
the equipment uses AV leads as well, they will have to be removed too. Removing
the BSKYB viewing card from a satellite receiver doesnít achieve much though, as
many of the foreign channels carrying soft-core porn are unscrambled.
Several months ago you might recall there was quite a few
stories in the press and on TV about the so-called ĎV-Chipí. The idea is that the
TVs equipped with A V-chip, can restrict access to various types of material.
At the time it was suggested that V-chipped TVs could be in the shops within a
year or two. Since then everything has gone rather quiet.
V-Chip hasnít quite disappeared -- trials are currently
underway in the US and Canada -- but the initial enthusiasm here wore off
quickly. Broadcasters would have to transmit codes, that tell a V-chipped TV
which category of programme it is receiving and whether or not it can be
displayed. Clearly this will only work if all broadcasters -- including foreign
satellite channels receivable in the UK -- adopt the same system, and that
seems highly unlikely at the moment. Whilst it is theoretically possible for
the Government to introduce legislation, making V-Chip or a similar technology
compulsory on new products, it would have no effect on existing equipment, and
it would take years for it to have any impact. Donít hold your breath...
In the end itís not fair or sensible to expect technology to
oversee our childrenís viewing habits. It remains a parentís responsibility,
thatís how it should be, and itís one we abdicate at our peril!
R. Maybury 1996 2811