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Press Release

Graphic Torture Scene on ABC Belies Industry Lip Service on Media Violence Issue

PTC Calls Out Hypocrisy, Disregard and Age Misratings

Release Date: 1/15/2013

LOS ANGELES (January 14, 2013) – Last Thursday, Vice President Biden met with entertainment industry leaders to discuss media violence and its impact on American families and culture. Also last Thursday, ABC’s Scandal included an incredibly graphic torture scene – the broadcast coming just hours after ABC Entertainment chief Paul Lee claimed “[ABC’s] job is always to get a sense of what the culture is feeling.”

The brutal nature of that scene, which was rated as appropriate for a 14-year old child, refutes statements made by an industry claiming to be responsible and concerned about societal violence. On the heels of their meeting with the Vice President, the heads of the major broadcast television networks have commented publicly about media violence, distancing themselves from any accountability while proclaiming their own corporate standards for responsibility.

Today Parents Television Council president, Tim Winter, issued the following statement on the matter:

“It is sickening just how quickly the entertainment industry was able to move past the tragedy of Newtown and get back to business as usual. Every television network president has publicly defended their programming while refusing to accept one iota of responsibility for contributing to a media culture soaked in violence. And they continue to hide behind a failed content rating system that currently proclaims every series on the public airwaves to be appropriate for a 14-year old child. The system is horribly broken, and the resulting harm falls sadly on our children and grandchildren.

“On the very same night that Vice President Joe Biden met with entertainment industry leaders to discuss the issue of media violence and its impact on children, ABC – the television network owned by a company named for Walt Disney – aired an intense, explicit and bloodied torture scene during its show Scandal. For nearly three minutes, viewers were subjected to graphic and disturbing scenes of a man struggling to breathe while being waterboarded, his nose being broken and his face beaten into a bloody mess, blood spattering on the walls, and being kicked and beaten into submission. Is this what Mr. Lee believes the culture is feeling? And does he feel this material is appropriate for a 14-year old child?

So graphic was ABC’s torture scene that the network issued an advisory at the beginning of the program. This decision suggests the network understood that the show was inappropriate for children, and they should have rated it as TV-MA. Unless and until the content rating system is accurate, consistent, transparent and accountable to the public, parents and families simply cannot rely on the industry to tell the truth – especially when the industry faces an inherent conflict of interest to rate programs accurately.

While ABC’s conduct in this instance is particularly outrageous, every network shares some level of culpability. NBC’s Bob Greenblatt defends his content by pointing his finger at crime procedurals on CBS. CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler defends her network’s violent content, saying it is intended for adults, yet she is rating those shows as being appropriate for children. Fox chief Kevin Reilly claims his broadcast doesn’t influence a behavior change for the viewer. Is that what he tells his advertisers, who pay him billions of dollars every year solely for the purpose of influencing the behavior of his viewers?

“If the Obama Administration is serious about a ‘national dialogue’ about the roots of violence in our country, it must include real responsibility from those who produce and distribute violent media content as well as real reform of the failed TV ratings system,” concluded Winter.

The Parents Television Council® (®) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. This national grassroots organization has more than 1.3 million members and 56 chapters across the United States, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. The PTC™ also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.

To speak with a representative from the Parents Television Council, please contact Kelly Oliver at (703) 307-9404 or email at