LOS ANGELES (BP) — Prime-time television series promoted as “family comedies” are increasingly using sexually graphic language in scenes including child actors, the Parents Television Council (PTC) said in its latest research.
More than four-fifths, 81.5 percent, of all shows studied had scenes of adult actors using explicit sexual dialogue in front of juvenile cast members, PTC said in “Lewd by Example,” its study of 332 episodes of family-themed situation comedies on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and the CW.
“When it comes to airing sexually charged dialogue in front of children, the broadcast television networks eagerly appear to be saying ‘me too’ when they could be saying ‘#metoo,'” PTC President Tim Winter said Sept. 10 in releasing the study. Findings come “when our nation is grappling with a crisis of inappropriate sexual provocation. Furthermore, the networks are marketing this alarming content trend as being appropriate for children to watch.”
The PTC said it found 89 instances of adult actors using sexual dialogue or engaging in discussions of sexual matters in front of child cast members, about once in every two hours of programming.
The U.S. Congress should ensure that the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, the agency overseeing the TV content ratings system, makes sure ratings are accurate, consistent, transparent and publicly accountable, the PTC said.
“We are working with Congressional offices to require the FCC to review and report on the TV content ratings system and oversight of that system by the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board,” Winter said. “It is time that this 20-year-old ratings system is thoroughly reviewed and updated to protect children from harmful media content.”
Winter also called on networks to air programming that is safe and suitable for children during time slots children are likely to utilize.
Research correlates the actions of teens to the content of television shows they watch, the PTC said, with television rating as a type of “super-peer” influencer for early-maturing teens.
“TV discussions of sex have been scientifically proven to influence teens in their own sexual behavior,” the PTC said in its study. “When Hollywood is increasingly conscious of the harm done by crude, sexually harassing language used in front of women, and is taking steps to reduce or eliminate it, it is tragic that the entertainment industry remains oblivious to the effect of sexualizing talk in front of children — both child actors, and child viewers at home.”
The most egregious offender was “A.P. Bio,” which NBC markets as a “comedy about how not to teach high school biology.” The series debuted in February and surpassed its closest offender in such language and scenarios, Fox’s “The Mick,” which debuted a year earlier.
“This demonstrates a clear trend: the increasing reliance of shows like A.P. Bio and The Mick on sexual dialogue and situations in front of children will only increase the number of programs which include such scenarios,” the PTC said in its study. “The likelihood of this is underlined by the fact that A.P. Bio has already been renewed for a second season, thus setting a clear precedent for fall 2018 shows.”
Other top offenders in descending order were ABC’s “American Housewife,” CBS’s “Life in Pieces,” and Fox’s “Family Guy.” All Fox and NBC comedies in the study used such language in front of children, the PTC said, followed by 75 percent of ABC shows and 60 percent of CBS sitcoms. Such examples were negligible on CW, because family comedies including children are mostly absent from the network’s lineup. “Jane the Virgin” was the only CW show studied.
Lewd by Example, available at parentstv.org/lstudy2018, examined 184 hours of programming “in which children play a significant role” during two “sweeps’ periods including November 2016; February, May and November 2017, and February and May 2018.