TV device leaves foul things unsaid

protecTV: The set-top box bleeps objectionable words in shows' audio and closed captions to help ensure that kids hear and read no evil.

February 28, 2002|By Heather Newman | Heather Newman,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

George Carlin made a living for years having fun with the seven dirty words you couldn't say on television.

Those taboos are long gone to a point, at least in the evening hours. Now swear words regularly pop up in both network and cable programming, posing a dilemma for some parents.

You don't want to watch your children every second they're in front of the television, but you don't want your youngster cheerfully parroting bad words at the dinner table, either.

Diane LaPierre, a Canadian mother of four and former forklift operator in Calgary, Alberta, stumbled across the problem when she suggested that she and her son try reading the closed captioning on his favorite cartoons as a way to practice reading.

Before long, all her sons were hooked on reading and spelling naughty words - not just swear words, but hateful and bullying terms, she said. That drove her to start Caption TV Inc.

The result is a new product, protecTV, which scans closed caption information to bleep more than 100 objectionable words, phrases and variations from both the captions and the audible broadcast.

Captioned words are replaced with X's and the sound is silenced.

The $80 unit does have some weaknesses. If the bad word isn't closed captioned, protecTV won't catch it. That means it did a dandy job of wiping the bad words out of HBO's prison drama Oz, for example, but not such a good job of cleaning up Comedy Central's raunchy cartoon South Park, which doesn't always list bad words in captions. And programs not captioned aren't be touched.

Second, because picking the moment the word is spoken isn't an exact science, the silences last longer than a single word.

Finally, the unit connects between your VCR, satellite television box, DVD player, personal video recorder or cable box and your television using audio/video cables. While you can run the outgoing feed from the protecTV to your television using a coaxial cable, you can't connect the incoming cable line directly to the protecTV box. That's a pain for folks who have cable television that doesn't require a box.

But in all, protecTV did exactly what it promised to do: eradicate bad words and phrases from the dialogue and captioning on programs.

It's not a substitute for watching your kids - the unit is extremely easy to install, which means they are probably going to be able to disconnect it. But it may be a way to give them access to programs with content that doesn't bother you.

Information: www.protectv. com or 866-887-7683.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.