The first time I logged into Bud.tv, I had a heck of a time gaining access and proving that I was over 21 despite the fact that I’m more than twice as old as the age of consent. Presumably, that was because I’ve recently moved and I had to use my old information to get in. Frankly, it felt a little creepy thinking they had all of my personal information. I suspect that most people think that’s a small price to pay for keeping minors out of the website. I don’t agree, of course, and have grown weary of having to prove I’m an adult over and over and over again.
But as difficult as I — and many others it seems — found it was to register for Bud.tv, apparently it’s still not difficult enough for the attorneys general of almost half the states in the country. Here are the states who think it’s too easy for kids to get into Bud TV:
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Plus two U.S. territories:
- District of Columbia
- Puerto Rico
The twenty-three attorneys general have written to Anheuser-Busch requesting “better tools to make sure underaged viewers aren’t accessing its new Bud.TV site.” Apparently name, zip code and birthdate aren’t invasive enough because a clever kid could know that information about their parents or another adult. It seems they won’t be satisfied until at least people have to enter “their name and full address, or a driver’s license number, exactly as it appears on a government-issued ID.” But that’s still not enough, as they’d also like to have a postcard sent to the person’s address or have someone phone the house to insure the registrant is “legal-aged adult, and not a child below the drinking age.” The states believe that because A-B is creating the content for some reason they “have a higher responsibility to ensure that youth are not exposed to the marketing on [their] site.” Using that logic, why haven’t these states sent similar letters to every network and cable channel that creates original programming? Why not hold every media that creates its own content to the same principle? Or are only businesses that advertise as well as “creating the programming” held to a higher standard?
That seems absolutely preposterous, especially when you consider that all this effort is being proposed not to keep alcohol from falling into a minor’s hands, but merely to keep them from watching TV on the internet. To go to such great lengths to keep kids from watching the same commercials they can see by turning on the television seems ridiculous, but all too typical. Of course, there is more than just commercials on Bud.tv. There are also several inane tv-like episodic shows. From what I’ve seen so far they seem more tame than the average HBO show, and with no apparent nudity or swearing. From the descriptions of the shows, it’s possible some have mature themes but it doesn’t appear any worse than the average evening cable show.
But here’s a kicker:
Maine attorney general G. Steven Rowe, who helped to spearhead the effort along with Louisiana’s Attorney General Charles Foti, said he didn’t have any evidence that underage children are accessing the Web site, but said it’s clear that more could be done to safeguard children.
So all this strutting and puffing doesn’t even have any basis in reality. It’s just a headline-grabbing stunt to “protect the children” from a threat that doesn’t even exist.
Here’s how Media Post Publications’ “Just An Online Minute” (free subscription required) for today questioned their logic:
But, while it’s probably true that people under 21 can access Bud.tv’s content, it’s unclear why this poses such a problem for the authorities. After all, minors have been exposed to the company’s marketing for years.
Consider, in addition to advertising on programs like the Super Bowl — certainly viewed by people under 21 — Anheuser-Busch has served as official sponsor of dozens upon dozens of professional sports teams, ranging from the Chicago Bulls to the Carolina Panthers to the St. Louis Cardinals (who play their home games in Busch stadium).
It’s hard to imagine that watching a clip on Bud.tv will somehow prove more powerful with minors than the company’s myriad ads and other marketing efforts in the offline world.
There’s nothing I find particularly compelling on Bud.tv, and I’m usually no great fan of A-B’s business practices, but this political stunt by these states is yet another contemptible, shameless and public deceit pretending “it’s for the children.” Curiously, only three of the top twenty beer-producing states (as of 2005 statistics) are among the signatories, but twelve of the bottom twenty are. Coincidence? Most likely not, as following the money will rarely steer you wrong. Notice Missouri is absent from the list of complaining states, as is Wisconsin and Colorado, where the number two and three biggest breweries are located.
So no matter how you slice it, I can’t see where the problem is that all these states were so quick to complain about. First, the attorneys general admit there’s no evidence whatsoever that kids are watching Bud.tv. Second, it’s already more difficult to gain access to the website than any other free site I’ve ever visited. Third, once you make it to Bud.tv, there’s no pornographic, violent or overtly adult content that children need to be protected from. At worst, it’s the sort of stuff you’d see on cable television. If anything, these states’ stunt will probably backfire and generate more buzz and traffic to the Bud.tv website than if they’d just kept their pens in their pockets.
So I find myself in unfamiliar territory, siding with A-B when they say the following:
‘Despite these extraordinary efforts, some have urged us to make the age verification process more difficult and even more invasive of people’s privacy,’ said a company spokeswoman, Francine Katz, in a statement.
I felt the current age verification was already pretty “invasive of people’s privacy,” certainly more than I felt was appropriate or necessary. Think about it this way. The internet, in terms of parenting, is really not much different than television. It is and should be up to parents to decide what their children see and at what age or time in their lives. Trying to protect children from perceived harm is no business of the state or federal government. It’s a lazy parent that wants to turn over control of what their child can watch to the powers that be. I think these attorneys general might want to spend more time with their own kids instead of telling me how to raise mine. Perhaps then they’ll see fit to spend their time and resources more wisely, going after true criminals and others who would do the people of their states real harm, instead of some vague potential for children possibly seeing something intended for adults. Seriously, who would you rather see the top lawyer in your state prosecute; the killers, robbers and rapists or the website that your kids might hack into and watch innocuous short films on a tiny two by three inch screen?