PTC Urgently Calls on Congress to Protect Kids from Harmful Media Content
In a new research report comprising a decade of primetime broadcast TV shows, the Parents Television Council found that there is substantially more profanity and violence in youth-rated shows now than ten years ago, but that increase has not changed the age-based content ratings the networks apply.
The PTC’s research found that programs rated TV-PG contained on average 28% more violence and 43.5% more profanity in 2017-18 than in 2007-08. There was over 150% more violence, and 62% more profanity total, on programs rated TV-14 in 2017-2018 than in 2007-2008. (Read full report here.)
“Hollywood tells parents that the content ratings are the best line of defense between children and inappropriate content. But our new research completely upends that reasoning. Within the last decade, TV content rated as appropriate for children has become much more violent, and much more profane. Scenes with decapitation and dismemberment, and dialogue with words like asshole, bitch, bastard, dick, piss and prick, receive the same content moniker – PG – as Shrek, Finding Dory and the Lego Movie. Simply put, parents cannot possibly rely on a TV content rating system that labels increasingly graphic content as appropriate for children,” said PTC President Tim Winter.
“How can there be such a dramatic increase in violence and profanity, and yet it is still rated as appropriate for kids? Because the TV content ratings are administered by the same networks that produce the content, and they are financially incentivized to rate the content as appropriate for children. But the sham doesn’t end there. The TV Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board is tasked with overseeing the ratings system, yet its membership is comprised of the same network executives who inaccurately rate the content to begin with.
“The Federal Communications Commission released a congressionally-mandated report this past May, affirming the numerous, intrinsic failings of the existing ratings system and its ostensible oversight. Five months have now passed since the FCC delivered that report to Congress, and since that time the industry has done absolutely nothing. And left to the industry’s own devices, nothing will ever be done.
“With the release of this report, we are urgently calling on Congress to ensure that the TV content ratings system, and the TV Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board, is overhauled to improve the accuracy, consistence, transparency and public accountability of the TV ratings. It is time for the TV content ratings system to reflect the realities of today’s entertainment media technologies and cultural landscape. Bold, positive and comprehensive improvements to a 22-year-old system are needed to bring it into the 21st century.”
This is the tenth report from the Parents Television Council on the TV content ratings system. This study seeks to document changes in program content over the last decade and to determine whether the TV content ratings have accurately reflected the increase in explicit content. More specifically, what changes in adult-themed content have we seen over ten years on programs that were rated as appropriate for children to watch?
PTC entertainment analysts recorded and documented every instance of violence, sexual dialogue, sexual actions, and foul language, and the content ratings assigned to each episode, during the November, February, and May “sweeps” periods in 2007-08, and again a decade later, 2017-18 on prime-time broadcast network television.
This results in a grand total of 1,319 episodes and 1,231.5 hours of programming documented. Each episode was then evaluated in terms of relevance of its network-assigned content rating to the actual content present in the episode.
Summary of Findings:
- Programs rated TV-PG contained on average 28% more violence and 43.5% more profanity in 2017-18 than in 2007-08.
- Profanity on PG-rated shows included suck/blow, screw, hell/damn, ass/asshole, bitch, bastard, piss, bleeped s—t, bleeped f—k. The 2017-18 season added “dick” and “prick” to the PG-rated lexicon.
- Violence on PG-rated shows included use of guns and bladed weapons, depictions of fighting, blood and death and scenes of decapitation or dismemberment; The only form of violence unique to TV-14 rated programming was depictions of torture.
- Programs rated TV-14 contained on average 84% more violence in 2017-18 than in 2007-08.
- In 2007-2008, there were more programs rated TV-PG  than programs rated TV-14 . In 2017-2018, the opposite was true [224 PG vs. 383 TV-14].
- In February 2008, programs rated TV-PG outnumbered those rated TV-14 by more than 2-to-1; in February 2018, TV-14 content outnumbered PG content in almost the same ratio.
- There was over 150% more violence, and 62% more profanity, on programs rated TV-14 in 2017-2018 than in 2007-2008.
- There were no G-rated programs on Fox, CW, or ABC (even though ABC is owned by Disney) in any of the “sweeps” periods, in either 2007-2008 or 2017-2018.
- The overall number of G-rated shows in 2017-2018 was almost identical to that a decade earlier: five or fewer. Some “sweeps” periods contained no G-rated programming at all.
The full report can be found here: https://go.parentstv.org/decades-report/.