Entertainment Industry

Category: Parents Television Council

Parents group criticizes heavy sexual content on TV

VAMPIRE

On a recent episode of the CBS comedy "Two and a Half Men," it is implied that Jake, the teenage son of Alan's character, is having threesomes with some of his female classmates. Like everything else in the raunchy sitcom, it is played for laughs and no actual sexual acts are depicted.

Not laughing, though, is the Parents Television Council. The Los Angeles-based nonprofit media watchdog group which has made a business out of monitoring television content, released a study Wednesday blasting the broadcast industry for sexualizing teenage girls.

“The results from this report show Tinseltown's eagerness to not only objectify and fetishize young girls, but to sexualize them in such a way that real teens are led to believe their sole value comes from their sexuality," PTC President Tim Winter said in a statement. On a conference call with reporters to discuss the study, Winter said the issue of sexual content and its effect on teenage girls and children needs an "intense spotlight."

The report focused only on broadcast shows and not cable TV, movies or magazines. PTC looked at the top-25 shows among viewer 12 to 17 and then analyzed the amount of sexual content on them. Shows that stood out, besides the above-mentioned "Two and a Half Men," include the CW's "Vampire Diaries," Fox's "Glee" and CBS' "Big Bang Theory." Not on the list was the CW's racy "Gossip Girl," but that's because the show is not among the top 25 with teens.

Asked why PTC doesn't focus on cable or movies where there is as much if not more content that might be considered inappropriate or risque for kids and teens, Winter acknowledged that those channels also need scrutiny. He expressed particular concern about the upcoming MTV show "Skins," a remake of a British hit about sex- and drug-obsessed teens. He said he was not ruling out looking beyond broadcast TV for future reports on sex and kids.

"TV executives have made it their business to profit off of programs that depict teen girls blissfully being sexualized by casual partners," Winter said.

Broadcasters often make for an easy target vs. movies, cable TV and magazines because unlike other media they are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission and their advertisers are sometimes more susceptible to pressure from advocacy groups.

According to the report, underage female characters were depicted in a sexual manner far more often than adults and only 5% of those depictions showed the character expressing any form of "dislike" for being sexualized. The PTC looked at sexual innuendo, "erotic kissing" and "erotic touching," "implied intercourse" and "implied nudity" in making its assessments.

"Clearly there are inherent dangers in having a cultural milieu that accepts and encourages this sexual contradiction of encouraging underage girls to look sexy, yet realizing they know very little about what it means to be sexual."

Winters said the PTC was not looking to single out any particular show, network or producer with its report. It said it wants to make parents more aware and the creators, performers and distributors of the shows more understanding of the "magnitude of their influence." The goal, Winter said, is to "spark a new national dialogue."

TV Watch, a group whose backers include CBS, NBC Universal and Fox parent News Corp. said in a statement that, "parents understand that all programing is not for all children and, according to polling conducted solely among parents, take seriously their efforts to ensure their children view what is appropriate based on their age, taste and values. What is increasingly difficult to take seriously, is a patchwork of studies characterized by vagaries and omissions, apparently intended to raise money because the group has the word 'Parents' in its name."

-- Joe Flint

Photo: The CW's "Vampire Diaries," which was singled out by PTC study on sexualizing teen girls. Credit: Quantrell Colbert/CW

For the record: This post was corrected to reflect that the PTC is now based in Los Angeles and updated to include a statement from TV Watch, an organization whose supporters include several broadcast networks, reacting to the study. 

 

PTC study shows almost 70% jump in bad language on broadcast TV

TWOHALFMEN

On Monday night's episode of "Two and a Half Men," there were references to cocaine, prostitution and two women being intimate with each other. No, they weren't reading from star Charlie Sheen's diary, it was just business as usual for the hit CBS sitcom.

While viewers don't seem to be turning away from the show because of its increasingly racy content, it is giving fits to the Parents TV Council, the advocacy group that thinks the broadcast networks are becoming a cesspool of swear words and bad language.

According to "Habitat for Profanity: Broadcast TV’s Sharp Increase in Foul Language," a study released by PTC on Tuesday, there has been an almost 70% jump in bad words on broadcast TV (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the CW) in the last five years. Most disturbing to the PTC is that the time period showing the biggest gains is not the 10 p.m. hour when more adults are watching, but the 8 p.m and 9 p.m. hours, which attract younger viewers.

Among the words being used more often in prime time are "crap," "hell," "ass" and lot of other terms that are shorthand for breasts, genitals and various sexual acts that we can't print here. There are also a lot more cases of shows using profanities that are intentionally bleeped. The only questionable words (in the eyes of the PTC) that the study is seeing a decline in are "damn" and "bastard."

The study comes in the wake of a decision by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that called into question the Federal Communications Commission's methods and ability to enforce its indecency rules. The court specifically said the FCC's enforcement of its indecency rules was "unconstitutionally vague" and had a "chilling effect."

Unlike cable, a pay service, there are rules regarding content on broadcast TV, which is an over the air medium. Broadcasters often argue that the standards on language and content have changed over the years.

The PTC said its study shows that if the courts strip the FCC's ability to enforce its indecency rules or the rules themselves, the broadcasters will go to town.

"The statistics and examples in this study demonstrate that, freed of regulation in the wake of the Second Circuit Court's castration of the FCC's powers of enforcement, Hollywood's creative personnel and their TV network distribution outlets have deliberately unleashed literally unparalleled levels of profanity and graphic language upon the public -– the most egregious of it in a time slot in which children are most likely to be in the audience," the PTC said. "A 69% increase in scripted profanity on pre-planned, filmed entertainment is not equivalent to a couple slips of the tongue during live events. The statistics above demonstrate that use of such language by the networks is both deliberate and pervasive."

While few can debate that prime-time programming on broadcast TV has gotten more risque and violent, ultimately it is the advertisers whose commercials pay the bills that can have the most influence on what gets on the air. Interestingly, if specific examples of questionable dialogue are brought to advertisers attention, many might be surprised that their products are a tacit endorsement of what is on the air. Most advertisers do not buy commercials in individual shows. They buy packages of commercials on a network with an aim of achieving a certain ratings goal.

That said, as Fox sales chief Jon Nesvig recently noted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, "for all the advertisers looking for wholesome family content, there are others looking for racier content. It's our job to provide variety."

-- Joe Flint

Related:

Appeals court swears off FCC's enforcement approach

FCC appeals indecency ruling

Photo: Charlie Sheen, left, and Jon Cryer in CBS' "Two and a Half Men." Credit: Greg Gayne/Associated Press

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