Talking points for giving seminars on indecency on TV

On a recent episode of Fox Television's Keen Eddie, a prostitute was paid to perform a sex act with a horse so her "customer" could sell the semen on the "black market." On a recent episode of Nip/Tuck a teenager performed a circumcision on himself at home because his girlfriend did not like the appearance of his penis with its foreskin. And on a recent episode of Coupling, two young men discussed their sexual exploits and one said to the other "One swallow doesn't make her my girlfriend."

If you're as disgusted with this as I am, then we really should talk. Today from the so-called "family hours" of television to radio, motion pictures and video games, sex, violence, disrespectful behavior and profanity are rampant in our entertainment media.

At home, parents no longer have control of what their children are exposed to; what they see and what they learn about acceptable social behavior. If you've ever said to yourself, "Something must be done," then I'd like to tell you about the [insert your city name] chapter of the Parents Television Council.

The Parents Television Council works from the premise that what our children are exposed to today, determine the kind of adult they will be. Thousands upon thousands of clinical studies show a direct, causal relationship between the messages children see in the media and their behavior and development. It therefore goes without saying that what kind of adults we produce, will determine the kind of society we'll have. The PTC strives to ensure quality, socially-responsible programming in our films and in our television programming. We are armed with a powerful coalition of more than 800,000 people; parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, even children, who have finally said "enough!" Founded in 1995, the PTC believes that in numbers, there is power to effect change.

The work of the PTC is really three-pronged
At the grassroots level, we bring PTC's national initiatives to our hometown. When the Keen Eddie episode portrayed the prostitute being paid to stimulate the horse, thousands of enraged viewers took action. We wrote letters to our local station manager telling him [or her] that we did not want this kind of filth coming into our living rooms, especially through the public airwaves – the airwaves that you and I own.

We told him [her] that we were holding him [her] accountable for the messages he [she] broadcast. Armed with the information supplied by PTC, we also wrote letters of outrage to the local companies whose corporations supported this show through their advertising dollars. We let the local advertisers know that their financial support was making possible the kind of negative messages we, as families and members of this community, were fighting so hard to prevent from reaching our children. We also wrote to our elected leaders and to the FCC to complain about this program. Many of us wrote letters to the editor of our newspaper in outrage over this invasion of filth – programming I should say that goes entirely against the decency standards of our community.

And the result?
Major sponsors abandoned Keen Eddie in droves, and the Fox Network removed it from their schedule, citing "disappointing ratings" as the cause. Our efforts are making an impact on Hollywood where it counts the most: in their checking account. It's this kind of grassroots advocacy that makes the Parents Television Council so strong, so successful and so committed to changing the face of films and television content.

The PTC's website, www.parentstv.org lists the worst offenders of sex, violence and foul language. But it also guides families in learning which shows also promote socially responsible behavior. The PTC web site is not only a source for tonight's viewing selection; it's a compendium of comprehensive academic research on the state of television and films.

A recently produced PTC study, "The Blue Tube: Foul Language on Prime Time Network TV" showed that there was an increase in foul language last year in virtually every network and in virtually every time slot, including the so-called "Family Hour" of 8-9 p.m. The study confirms what we've all known for some time: Profanity is pervasive in our society and it's being fanned by television and films.

According to the PTC study, there was an overall increase in the use of foul language in every time slot between 1998 and 2002. Foul language during the family hour increased by 94.8% between 1998 and 2002. And by 109.1% during the 9 p.m. time slot. Ironically the smallest increase (only 38.7%) occurred during the last hour of what is considered prime time, the hour when young children are least likely to be viewing.

But let's get specific

  • The teen-targeted WB network had a 188% increase in foul language during the family hour between 1998 and 2002.
  • Profanity increased by 308% during the second hour of prime time.
  • On UPN, offensive language increased by 104% during the so-called family hour and by a staggering 538% during the second hour of prime time.
  • At NBC foul language went up across the board in every study period and every time slot.
  • And unfortunately for family audiences, profanity increased by 61.7% during ABC's (a Disney-owned network) family hour.

And how did the Parents Television Council come up with these disturbing statistics? Well, they have staff that watch every television show and monitor every instance of profanity, violence, sexual content and disrespectful behavior. PTC analysts can identify a specific obscenity or lewd act, a specific show, even a specific advertiser that supports an offensive show. Their research is the most thorough available about the quality of television today. It's no wonder why advertisers, network executives and the FCC realize the power of the Parents Television Council and its grassroots membership.

The so-called "Family Hour" has been abused to the point where foul language, sex and violence is prevalent even during the time when families are most in need of quality, socially-responsible programming. And the FCC is on the PTC radar screen for another reason: because of its recent actions in allowing media giants, like Viacom, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, NBC and Walt Disney to gobble up more and more television stations, radio stations and newspapers in our cities. ies.

"Why should I care about that?" you ask.
Well you should care because your local media outlet should reflect your own community standards, not mega conglomerates located in New York, Los Angeles or even Australia. We, you and me, should have the airways and the newspapers that reflect our standards….and our community.

The more conglomerates expand their ownership into our local media outlets, the less influence we have in local broadcasting decisions. We see this in news all the time. Where our community once had four or five independent, competitive news outlets, now there are two or three. The ability of the media giants to exert greater control over our community and the news we hear is another disadvantage of consolidated media ownership.

The Federal Communications Commission is also charged by the United States Congress to enforce broadcast decency laws across the public airwaves. It is a federal offense to air indecent material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The government defined indecency to reflect community standards. So unless the FCC hears from you about what your/our community standards are, how can they ever fine a broadcast that contains indecent material? That's another objective of the Parents Television Council to help to ensure that the FCC to hear the collective voice of communities across America.

By now you're probably saying, well that's all well and good, but what can I do to change the entertainment industry? Well you can do a great deal. The Parents Television Council has a growing list of chapters across the country. In Massachusetts and in Florida, and in Kansas City, San Antonio and San Diego, meetings are being held just like this one. People are signing up to be a part of the solution, and work to change the face of our entertainment medium.

Time and time again, we see our children being disrespectful. We hear them using language that to us would never have been used in our growing up years….ever. We see a sexual awareness that at the very least is disturbing. What will these youngsters be like when they are adults? Won't they exhibit the same anti-social behavior that is a part of their world today? I'm afraid that is so. And that is why the work of the Parents Television Council is so very important. It's not only going to save our children now, but it's going to make for a far better society when our children are adults.

PTC chapters work to spread the word and the message: We must return to quality entertainment. It's that simple.

There are opponents of the PTC who say that TV is just fine. That it reflects the way society really is today. I am outraged by this assertion. While I have no desire to impose my own personal beliefs on members of this community, this community, as a whole, must not allow our public airwaves to be used in this constant downward-spiral of filth and negative messages that are undermining the values we have worked so hard to instill in our children at the earliest possible age.

Yes, I know as a parent that I am ultimately responsible for what is viewed by my children in my living room. But no parent can filter the negative messages bombarding our children as soon as they step inside the front door. Reducing the profane, sexual and violent content has a positive effect on the entire community.

So join with me and others in our chapter to unite for better entertainment. Help us write letters to station managers, advertisers and elected officials. Support the Parents Television Council. Work with us to let others know that we all can make a difference.

When we do this, I'm convinced we'll make an impact on the quality of our entertainment media and on our children's lives. It's that simple…and that powerful.