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TV’s ‘family hour’ not family friendly

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The so-called television “family hour,” it turns out, is not so family friendly.

A new study by the Parents Television Council shows that a program broadcast during the first hour of TV’s prime time — often called the family hour — has an average of 12.48 instances of foul language and sexual and violent content. That’s an average of one objectionable moment every 3.5 minutes, not counting the commercials, the study said.

And it’s getting worse. Since 2000-01, the last time a similar study was conducted, sexual content has increased 22.1 percent and violent content 52.4 percent.

Traditionally, the networks have broadcast their less objectionable programs between 8 and 9 p.m. Eastern time, when children are more likely to be watching. In fact, the worst family hour offender last season was a cartoon, Fox’s “American Dad,” which had an average of 52 objectionable moments an hour.

More than three-fourths (76.4 percent) of all family hour programming had foul language, while 54.8 percent contained sexual content and 46.2 percent had violent content, the study said. Only 10.6 percent of all family hour programming had no objectionable content.

“The entertainment industry is intent on producing programming that appeals to our baser instincts,” said Dwayne Hastings, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “There is very little on network TV, including during the family hour, that is edifying.”

The networks “are not only preying on our children,” Hastings said, “their programming is polluting the minds of adults as well.” Networks “want us to lower our standards to the same shallow level they apparently embrace,” he added.

“Television is stealing our children’s minds and, if we are not careful, softening our own,” he said. “It would be far better for our families if we designated the so-called family hour as a time we went to our local library or bookstore instead of planting ourselves in front of the television.”

The study sample examined only original programming — that is, it did not include reruns — sweeps weeks periods of November, February, late April and early May. All total, the study encompassed 180 hours of programming on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW and My Network TV.

Fox was the worst offender, with an average of 20.78 objectionable moments an hour. The CW was the “cleanest” with 9.44 such moments an hour.

Among the study’s other findings:

— NBC’s “My Name is Earl” was the worst offender in the foul language category, with 16.33 instances an hour.

— Fox’s “The War at Home” — which has been cancelled — had the highest amount of sexual content with 33 instances per hour.

— Fox’s “24” was the worst offender of violence for a non-animated show with 28 instances per hour, although it had no sexual content and was one of the cleanest in that category. Fox’s cartoon “The Simpsons” had 30 instances of animated violence per hour.

— Only four family hour shows had no objectionable content: NBC’s “Deal or No Deal,” “Grease: You’re the One That I Want” and “Identity,” and Fox’s “Are Your Smarter than a 5th Grader.”

In a separate study the Parents Television Council also examined reruns broadcast in the family hour. In some instances, networks placed programs in the family hour that had originally been shown later in the evening. Those reruns, such as ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” contained an average of 19.76 instances of objectionable content an hour — 58 percent more than original programming.

Six years ago, when the last study was released, PTC officials held a press conference with Sens. Joe Lieberman and Sam Brownback, urging the networks to clean up the family hour. Lieberman and Brownback even sent a letter to the networks.

“The initial response was somewhat encouraging, with advertisers and some of the networks announcing efforts to clean up the Family Hour,” the latest PTC report says. “Unfortunately that initial encouragement was short-lived. In the past six years, the Family Hour has become even more hostile to children and families. There is no safe haven for children on nightly broadcast television.”

Parents, the PTC said, should pressure “their local broadcast affiliates to refuse to air programs containing high levels of inappropriate sex, violence and profanity during the Family Hour” and also pressure “advertisers to stop underwriting offensive Family Hour content.”

Said the ERLC’s Hastings, “Don’t just turn off the TV; communicate your disgust to those who bankroll this filth — the advertisers. Network executives are more likely to appreciate our concerns when they begin to feel pressure from the companies who buy advertising from them.”
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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  • Michael Foust