WASHINGTON (BP)–Violence, vulgarity and profanity are more prominently displayed on television’s family hour than ever before, according to the Parents’ Television Council in a report released Aug. 1 on the 2000-2001 television season.
PTC’s president and founder, L. Brent Bozell, was joined by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D.-Conn., and Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., in criticizing the amount of “foul language,” sex and graphic violence that have increased since the last family hour study was conducted for the 1998-99 season.
“The family hour has historically offered a safe haven for families — a time where parents knew that it was alright to allow their children to watch television,” Brownback said. “The family hour is on a death watch. In the last several years, the amount of violence, vulgarity and profanity in supposedly family hour programming has skyrocketed.”
Lieberman, a longtime critic of the entertainment industry, echoed Brownback’s remarks.
“The report being released by the PTC today reminds us that what was once a safe haven is increasingly turning into a danger zone for America’s children, with more that 10 million kids watching during the first hour of prime time,” Lieberman said. “Overall, [there are] too many messages that reject rather than reflect the basic values that most parents are trying to instill, messages that are clearly inappropriate for children and that may well be harmful to their development and our moral health as a nation.”
The PTC report indicates that sexual material has fallen 17 percent since the last study to 3.1 instances per hour, but sexual topics such as oral sex and pornography, which where virtually absent from television a decade ago are now becoming commonplace in the family hour. The report also showed that foul language increased by 78 percent from the previous study and the rate of offensive violence in family hour programming jumped 70 percent.
“You have to ask, how worse can it get?” Brownback said. “The losers here are America’s families and America’s children. According to the Television Bureau of Advertising, the average child watches more than three hours of television a day.
“One of those hours is usually the family hour,” he said. “By the time the child has reached the age of 18, he or she has seen 13,000 killings and 100,000 violent acts.”
Brownback asserted that hundreds of studies have shown that what people watch on television has an impact on their thoughts and actions, which he said he finds frightening.
The UPN network tops the list in terms of the amount of broadcast material the PTC considers offensive, while CBS produces the least amount. The report claims that UPN had 18.1 instances per hour of offensive content, followed by NBC with 9.1, Fox with 7.5, WB with 7.5, ABC with 6.7 and CBS with 3.2 instances per hour of offensive conduct.
Brownback and Lieberman both renewed their pleas for the networks to tone down their content during the 8 o’clock hour.
“We are not asking the networks to whitewash their entire slate of programming, but to just restore a safe haven for children on television.” Lieberman said. “We’re asking them to de-sour the family hour.”
Brownback reminded the networks of their responsibility, saying, “TV is the chief purveyor of our nation’s stories.
“The content of those stories, and the quality of those programs, helps shape the imagination, attitudes and assumptions of the next generation,” he said. “It is a tremendous power, and one that ought to be exercised responsibly.”
Lieberman and Bozell said previous efforts to get the networks to police themselves with a ratings system had failed. They indicated that the networks had instead abused the ratings system to produce even more shows with content they found objectionable.
“These are the public airwaves. These are owned by us; [they are] not owned by Hollywood,” Bozell said. “Hollywood is a guest in the home.”
Bozell also noted, “It is only within the last few years that Hollywood has taken the attitude that they don’t care what the message is that children get.”
Lieberman said he believes that cleaning up television’s family hour needs to be balanced with a devotion to the First Amendment.
“In your quest for ever better quality, you can draw some lines,” Lieberman said.
He hinted that a law exists that has been invoked in the past to block offensive language in radio and could be invoked against television by the Federal Communications Commission.
“Maybe it is time to appeal to the FCC to [take] another look at programming, [and for them] to use the power that they have selectively,” Lieberman said. “This power, incidentally, has been sustained by a federal appeals court here in Washington as constitutional.”
UPN responded to the PTC in a statement saying, “At UPN, we strongly believe in the viewers’ right to make an informed choice about what they watch, which is why we voluntarily and clearly label every UPN program with a content rating.”
NBC said in a statement, “All NBC programming is reviewed by our Standards and Practices department and on-screen ratings are provided at the beginning of each show, allowing parents to make an informed choice for their family.”
Representatives of FOX, ABC, CBS and WB had no comment.
Rossomando is a staff writer with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.