• Broadcast TV Violence: As Bad As Cable – But Rated for Kids

    by  • February 18, 2014 • Misrated, Ratings Reform, Studies, Violence • 17 Comments

    thevissue_logo3(3rd in a Series about Media Violence)

    In a desperate attempt at damage control after the Newtown and Aurora shootings, entertainment industry executives met with Vice President Joe Biden in January of last year. They emerged from the meeting claiming they have a “longstanding commitment to provide parents the tools necessary to make the right viewing decisions for their families.”

    After allowing the networks a year to make good on their statement, in December 2013 the PTC analyzed content to see how well the networks upheld their “commitment.”


    We found that violence on the worst shows on broadcast TV is no different from that found on violent cable shows. Violent broadcast shows exposed kids to guns or bladed weapons every three minutes – as well as deluging the public airwaves with programs containing graphic bloodshed, like Revolution, The Blacklist, Supernatural, Criminal Minds, Sleepy Hollow, CSI, and Law & Order: SVU.

    These shows contained the most graphic and grisly violence, including child molestation, rape, mutilation/disfigurement, dismemberment, graphic killings and/or injuries by gunfire and stabbings, violent abductions, physical torture, cannibalism, burning flesh and suicide.

    Broadcast TV Study


    Shows containing that kind of violence on basic cable are rated TV-MA (mature audiences only); but every single one of the shows named above was rated TV-14 – appropriate for 14 year old children!

    The PTC has previously demonstrated the total failure of the TV ratings system; but this study proves that broadcast TV is just as bad as cable.

    This new study also found:

    - Based upon shows included in the study, there was only a 6% difference between the amount of violence on cable shows compared to shows that aired on broadcast television.

    - On broadcast television a bladed weapon or gun appeared on screen every 3 minutes.

    - Children watching 4 episodes of Revolution during the fall of 2013 were exposed to an average of 91.5 acts of violence per episode. That is equivalent to a child seeing one act of violence every 39 seconds.

    - Revolution — a broadcast show rated TV-14 — had more violence than all of the TV-MA cable shows in the study.

    With this proof that violent broadcast TV shows contain similar levels of violence as cable shows and yet are rated differently, it is clear that that
    Hollywood has maneuvered the entire ratings system to be intentionally misleading and it now requires a massive overhaul.


    TV ratings today only benefit Hollywood’s cash flow, not parents trying to protect their children. And TV programming today is more violent than ever– as we will show in our next report.




    17 Responses to Broadcast TV Violence: As Bad As Cable – But Rated for Kids

    1. Shari
      July 10, 2015 at 9:04 am

      I’m glad to see that you are fighting “violence” fight, but I would like to see you address the “sex” issue too. This really crystalized for me last night after watching the new show “Mr. Robot”, which is rated TV-14. For example, last night there was a S&M scene, where one of the “evil” characters gagged and tied-up his wife (at her request). Yes, consensual, but good for a 14-year-old to watch? This followed the husband in a pretty explicit sex scene with someone else. Maybe there needs to be a rating between TV-14 and TV-MA? I think this would be rated “R” in a movie theater. The only difference I see between this scene and the film “Shades of Grey” is the nudity.

    2. Josh
      June 2, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      I find it shocking at how much TV-14 rated shows can get away with in terms of violence. To me, it feels like the heavy yet unnecessary restrictions placed on language for broadcast television shows have to be compensated with extreme amounts of gore and violence. I don’t understand what’s so harmful about slapping a TV-MA rating onto a show that deserves it–why is it that so many stations try to avoid it? Isn’t that why a TV-MA rating was created in the first place? I doubt it will significantly decrease the ratings/viewership of the show–ever since the Walking Dead switched to TV-MA I’m sure it even garnered MORE viewership than before. The only reason why I’ve heard stations try to avoid the TV-MA rating is because MA rated shows aren’t allowed to be advertised as much (or something along those lines), but for some reason, R rated films are allowed to be advertised anytime, no problem! I just hope that the stations would be more responsible about rating shows appropriately instead of solely for faulty advertising schemes. But unfortunately that’s the problem when TV stations are allowed to rate their own show themselves–the ratings just become flawed and inconsistent, and way too lenient. (How is the relatively tame South Park rated TV-MA while graphically violent shows like Hannibal and 1000 Ways to Die are TV-14? And R-rated movies like Hostel and the Saw franchise are allowed to be broadcasted DURING THE DAY with a TV-14 rating, with nudity/language edited out but ALL violence left intact?) I’d rather have the already flawed MPAA rate TV shows than stations rate themselves–at least there would be SOME consistency. Another thing that bothers me is that nothing seems to be being done about it. It’s all just a bunch of complaints, and it’s left at that.

    3. Finn
      February 21, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      While I do think this is a well-done study, some things I noticed:

      1. The Walking Dead is listed as TV-14 in the video, despite being TV-MA since the Sandy Hook incident.

      2. Why’d you pick on Supernatural of all things? It’s one of the tamer shows on broadcast TV that should be actually rated TV-14. Why not pick on one of the more extreme shows to prove a point like Hannibal or The Following?

      • PTC-CR
        February 24, 2014 at 9:33 am

        In the study, we did mention that “The Walking Dead,” had a change of ratings, urged on by parents across the country demanding a more accurate rating. Most parents,however, were probably unaware of the rating change, and many children still do watch this show. To get an idea how much violence their children are actually seeing on this show, see our infographic at http://w2.parentstv.org/Main/Research/Studies/CableViolence/vstudy_info2.png.

        This does not change the fact that many, many shows on Broadcast TV have more lenient rating than on Cable for similar violent content. Hence, a very misleading ratings system in dire need of reform.

        As for “Supernatural”, we are not out to pick on any show specifically. Numbers don’t lie. Our researchers do a very thorough job monitoring the amount of sex, profanity and violence on broadcast shows. In the study period, Supernatural happened to have the 3rd highest amount of total acts of violence on broadcast TV.

        Note that, unfortunately, “The Following” and “Hannibal” were not part of the study due to their Spring 2013 debut and did not air during the study period. If it makes you feel better , you may be correct that these two shows may have bumped “Supernatural” down two notches on the “most violence” list on Broadcast TV.

        Note that last year, “The Following” and “Hannibal” were also regulars on the the PTC “Worst of the Week” columns. In fact. “The Following” hit the “Worst of the Week” again this last week. http://w2.parentstv.org/Main/News/Detail.aspx?docID=3024.

        To get the “Best of” and Worst of” columns delivered directly your inbox weekly, sign up for our Weekly Wrap and e-alerts at

        …and you may be hearing more about “Hannibal” very soon. Stay Tuned.

    4. Jan
      February 21, 2014 at 8:36 am

      Let’s just stop watching TV. A national boycott would make a big hole in a lot of pocket books. Those who could do something about all the broadcasting and policing of material are not doing their job. If we were to evaluate why we watch TV and what we might learn that is good and helpful me thinks it would be very minimal, so let’s read, let’s play, let’s go for a stroll, let’s talk, let’s embroider, sew, paint, knit, crochet, let’s do a family tree, let’s pray, let’s exercise, let’s volunteer, let’s…..

    5. Stephen Goodrick
      February 21, 2014 at 7:52 am

      The violence will not stop. The money gained overshadows whatever viewers want and the writers will continue to provide trash because they are rewarded for their craft and creativity. Ratings will not affect the providers, only sponsors will; sponsors will be affected by customers; customers will be affected by their own guilt, remorse, appetite for violence, sensuality, and sensationalism. The only way to resolve the violence is to appeal to viewers/customers. But just as you saw in England’s efforts to rein in internet pornography, this is most difficult as it is an endorphin delivery device. You are dealing with human addiction. Keep up your efforts but begin to call the obsession for violence for what it is. 44 years ago I was shocked to see and read how the most popular Mexican newspaper, La Opinon, depicted and photographed violent accidents: They showed all the blood and gore possible because it appealed to the Mexican public’s appetite for sensation. The obsession with death, suffering, sensuality and tasting something forbidden is as old as human beings and culture, education, and faith are the only cleats we have to maintain us on this slippery bank from sliding into that river of filth described by the Prophets Nephi.15:27 and Ezekiel 24:13. This human condition we find ourselves in seems hopeless but these ancient Jewish prophets made the devine observations and then offered the solution: Repentance through faith in Jesus Christ, or the Lord Jehovah. He knows how to purge the evil from the hearts of his people. Give Him voice through your medium and He will help those who desire to be free and clean. Media moguls who are making lots of filthy lucre from their efforts will not change their hearts–they can’t–it’s bigger than them; their lives and their sensibilities are commandeered by the adversary of our souls–who uses the precise power of the dollar (and honors among their “friends”) as the taunting song to lure them to even more diabolical levels of the drug.
      The Mexican newspaper was simply responding to the same obsession it’s readers had. Start there. Appeal to people about how they personally feel about the violence and carnality. It must become unprofitable and disgusting to the purveyors of this trash before they will stop. The Word of God will have a more pursuasive effect upon these victims than laws and threats. Your challenge is to make genuine appeals relevant to individuals.

    6. Le Neko
      February 21, 2014 at 5:55 am

      In France, the official ratings given by the CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel, Superior Council for Broadcasting) are even tamer, i.e. even worse.

      For example, the movie “Rock” (1996) with Sean Connery, rated “R” in the USA, “VM14″ in Italy, “18″ in Spain (etc.) because of its amounts of intense violence, was labeled as “for all audiences” when shown in French movie theaters, and as “-10″ when shown on TV! In France, the content of many violent movies is under-rated this way, which is obviously worrying.

    7. B. Rioux
      February 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      I gave up several years ago and just donated my tv to an recent immigrant family.

    8. R. Orison
      February 19, 2014 at 8:48 am

      Wow, we are going in the wrong direction. We are adding to a society where violence is becoming the norm. The behavior of these poor taste shows is going to lead to more shootings and killings of the inocent. Please stop this kind of behavior. If you don’t stop it, who will? You certainly don’t want the blood of the inocent on your hands.

      R. Orison

    9. Gene Best
      February 19, 2014 at 6:50 am

      There is no solution except to change the family Its about as bad as it can get and most families let kids watch this trash.. Cable choice may slow it, but too many people will still choose it. Its very sad.

    10. JPS in NJ
      February 19, 2014 at 6:34 am

      My ideal ratings system would take account of positive AND negative aspects. It would be balanced instead of being exclusively about filtering out bad stuff. Christianity is one example of where to get lists of virtues and vices in order to think about what to include on the plus-and-minus scale.

      Take Law & Order: SVU, for example. You say it has bad things, serious crimes and all. It should also be taken into account what good it has that might offset some of the bad. E.g., while it has severe crime, rage, lust. it also may display courage, compassion, justice, and teamwork.

      Wouldn’t the content creators in Hollywood be happier to have their products rated honestly if the good were also tallied, in a balanced rating?

      Such a rating would not only be good for parents, but for everyone who wants to be a better person.

    11. Elizabeth Leatherman
      February 19, 2014 at 5:37 am

      My kids (teens and a 10-year-old) and I watch almost no TV. It’s not nice, like when I was a their age in the Seventies.

    12. Stephen Lorson
      February 19, 2014 at 2:44 am

      The solution is very simple. Post who the advertisers are. Let parents contact them and inform them that they will NOT shop or use their products. Money talks, BS walks. All done in compliance with the FIRST AMENDMENT. The ONLY amendment that Hollywood is proud of.

    13. Sandra Walden
      February 18, 2014 at 10:40 pm

      I think TV shows should at least be held to the same ratings as movies. Violence ONLY at least PG 13, language, nudity or sex R rated.

    14. Bill Amberman
      February 18, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      The attitude of the entertainment industry seems to be that they should be allowed to produce any type of movies, TV shows and music that they want (i.e. – “free speech”) and it’s the responsibility of parents to keep their kids away from them. Good luck. It’s akin to allowing criminals to freely roam our streets and it’s up to us to put bars on our doors and windows to keep them out. The tail is wagging the dog. Somehow things were different in our parents and grandparents days.

    15. Ed
      February 18, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Having the entertainment industry rate its own products is like the fox guarding the chicken coop. Only a 3rd-party rating system can have credibility. I suggest that PTC, in conjunction with other interested groups, start their own ratings web site and seek to have parents and others comment on and rate the shows. These user comments and ratings could be used to derive PTC’s ratings. It should eventually be possible to automate the rating process, so that PTC staff don’t actually have to watch all of these objectionable shows. Then interested groups and ordinary citizens should ask TV manufacturers to provide an interface to their TV sets so that any set owner can specify the ratings they want to block from being shown on their TV, and which Web site they want to obtain those ratings from.

      One should be able to ask, e.g., TripAdvisor to filter out all hotels with less than a 3.5 rating, and TV owners should be able to program their TVs to filter out all shows with objectionable sex or violence, as rated on the PTC site.

      This will put control of TV programming back in the hands of consumers.

    16. Bonnie Sager
      February 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm


      I am proud of your diligence on behalf of America’s parents. Of course it’s difficult for parents to do what you are doing, which is probably the most important effort for our children. Please don’t let us down. Continue! God bless you!


    Leave a Reply to Gene Best Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *