LOS ANGELES (BP)–Children who watched certain daytime shows on cable’s MTV and BET were exposed to adult content — including that of a sexual, violent, profane or obscene nature — once every 38 seconds, according to a study by the Parents Television Council.
“We thought we’d seen it all, but even we were taken aback by what we found in the music video programs on MTV and BET that are targeted directly at impressionable children,” said Tim Winter, president of the pro-family watchdog group.
Delman Coates, an African American pastor and founder of the Enough is Enough Campaign to push for change and accountability from networks like MTV and BET, asked the Parents Television Council to conduct the study in order to increase awareness of the destructive images on television that are negatively impacting society.
“It’s these images of black men as gangsters and thugs and criminals [and] black women as being hypersexualized — which are actually long-standing stereotypes of black people that have endured since slavery — that I felt really needed to be challenged,” Coates said at a news conference releasing the study. “And that’s really what it is, a kind of coarsening of American popular culture.”
For the report, PTC analyzed adult content airing on BET’s “Rap City” and “106 & Park” and on MTV’s “Sucker Free on MTV” during afternoon or early evening hours for a two-week period last December. The analysts were so shocked at the high volume and degree of adult-themed material that they conducted an additional week of analysis in March. The data revealed even higher levels of adult content in March than in December, PTC said.
“BET and MTV are assaulting children with content that is full of sexually charged images, explicit language, portrayals of violence, drug use, drug sales and other illegal activity,” Winter said in a news release accompanying the report’s release April 10. “Not only that, but we discovered that some offensive words aired only in muted form in December 2007, but as recent as March 2008, these same words were not muted.
“Excluding one program on BET, neither BET or MTV carried content descriptors that would work in conjunction with the V-chip to block the programs from coming into the home or to warn parents about the presence of sexual content, suggestive dialogue, violence or foul language,” Winter added. “This is a major problem for parents who are told repeatedly to rely on their V-chips to protect their children.”
Walt Mueller, founder and president of the Pennsylvania-based Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, told Baptist Press he was saddened but not surprised by PTC’s findings.
“The envelope continues to be stretched as far as the boundaries of decency go,” Mueller noted. “At this point we won’t know the full cumulative impact of these realities until the children and teens who have been socialized, nurtured and raised assuming the behaviors depicted are ‘normal,’ ‘OK’ and at the very least ‘not wrong’ move into adulthood.”
Mueller said that with the breakdown of the family occurring in American culture today, media, by default, is well equipped to step into the gap and raise the kids.
The influence of the content peddled by MTV and BET will be more profound and life-shaping as children are exposed at increasingly younger ages, Mueller said.
“At this point, there doesn’t seem to be any reversal in sight,” he said.
In addition to children becoming more desensitized to the adult behaviors they see on television, Mueller said the phrase “I felt like it” will become “justification for all kinds of immoral and perhaps illegal sexual practices.”
“The values and practices media depicts that are so alarming to us today will be normalized by the time today’s children and teens reach adulthood,” Mueller predicted. “At this point, the only sexual behavior frowned upon with some sense of universality is pedophilia. However, if we continue on the track we’re currently on, I wonder if that will even be defined as allowable and acceptable behavior down the road.”
Among the key findings from “The Rap on Rap” from PTC:
— Analysts documented 1,647 instances of offensive or adult content in the 27.5 hours of programming they examined in December, for an average of nearly one instance every minute. In March, it was one instance every 38 seconds. To put the problem in perspective, PTC said their most recent analysis of primetime broadcast television during the family hour revealed one instance of violent, profane or sexual content every 4.8 minutes.
— Most of what children see in the music videos is sexually charged images. Forty-five percent of the adult content in the December data was of a sexual nature, 29 percent was explicit language, 13 percent was violence, 9 percent was drug use or sales, and 3 percent was other illegal activity. The percentages remained roughly the same for March.
— PTC documented sexually explicit scenes or lyrical references once every 2.2 minutes during the hours the researchers analyzed from December. The March content raised the rate to once every 90 seconds.
— The most commonly used expletive during the December and March study period was what PTC called “(muted) ‘n-word.'”
— During the December study period, children under 18 made up about 40 percent of the viewing audience for 106 & Park, 41 percent of the audience for Rap City and 39 percent of the audience for Sucker Free on MTV, PTC said, noting that doesn’t include the children who watched the re-airing of the programs throughout the day.
Mueller said the research underscores the need for parents and the church to step up their efforts at influencing children in positive, healthy ways.
“Families and the church should embark on a journey of teaching kids a biblical sexual ethic, along with teaching them how to move from a posture of mindless media consumption to a posture of mindful media critique,” Mueller told BP. “We must be teaching our kids how to think biblically and Christianly about everything they read, listen to and watch…. By learning these skills, children and teens will be better equipped to discern truth from lies.”
Winter, the PTC president, advised parents to be more involved in monitoring their children’s media consumption by establishing and following rules about media use and by discussing media content with their children. He also said advertisers need to be held accountable for the content their advertising dollars fund.
“Consumers must demand and receive the right to pick and choose — and pay for — only the cable channels they want coming into their homes,” Winter also said, referring to a proposed a la carte cable system. “It is unconscionable that parents who wish to protect their children from this content are nonetheless forced to subsidize it with their cable subscription dollars.
“Finally, we must demand from the networks an accurate, transparent and consistent ratings system that will give parents adequate tools to protect their children from inappropriate content.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. To read the complete study, visit www.parentstv.org.