Media Content Matters

There are hundreds of stories appearing daily in newspapers across the country that demonstrate tragic, heartbreaking accounts of young lives and innocence lost to a popular culture that often devalues human life while routinely glorifying dangerous and irresponsible behavior.

These Example Stories Show It…

An eighteen-year-old boy found sleeping in a stolen car steals a police officer’s gun and shoots two officers and a dispatcher in the head. After his arrest, he tells police,

Life is like a video game. Everybody’s got to die sometime.”

“Lisa,” a teenager from Long Island, became a fan of TV’s Sex and the City when she was 14. She quickly lost her virginity and soon “graduated” to ordering cosmopolitans at bars she snuck into, while cheating on her boyfriend with up to seven other guys — in one week. She said, “When you’re that age, you try to emulate people on TV. Carrie smoked, so I smoked, Samantha thought hooking up with random people is no big deal, so I did, too. I love the show, but it made it a little easier to justify my behavior.”

Six boys, aged 14 to 18, are arraigned in Mineola, New York, after a crime spree that included mugging one man and menacing motorists with a baseball bat, a crowbar and a broomstick.
They say they were inspired by a popular video game.

These stories are, sadly, not unusual today. Where did we go wrong?

It may seem overly simplistic to say that our media culture is to blame, but it is virtually impossible to ignore the mounting evidence implicating television as a leading factor in our cultural decay.

The prevailing voice in the entertainment industry claims that “it’s just harmless entertainment,” but common sense says that if you watch something over and over and over again, the cumulative impact will influence how you view the world.

Broadcasters know this is true. During the last Super Bowl, the television network charged sponsors $3 million for a 30-second commercial. That’s $100,000 DOLLARS A SECOND!

Would an advertiser pay that much to air its commercial if viewers did not alter their behavior?

Science Proves It!

There is an ever-expanding body of knowledge about the long-term harm to families and children caused by irresponsible media content. Over a thousand studies conducted over the last 50 years have shown the negative influence that TV has on our children and our culture:

  • A study conducted by the RAND Corporation found that children with higher exposure to sex on TV were almost twice as likely than children with lower exposure to initiate sexual intercourse. A subsequent study by RAND found that teens with higher exposure to sex on TV were also twice as likely to experience or cause a pregnancy.
  • A new meta-analysis performed by researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, and California Pacific Medical Center about the impact of media on children’s health found that of eight studies examining media and drug use, 75% reported a statistically significant relationship between media exposure and drug use.
  • A study by Rutgers University, done in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control, found that even when other factors are considered, such as academic skills, encounters with community violence, or emotional problems, “childhood and adolescent violent media preferences contributed significantly to the prediction of violence and general aggression” in children.

These are just a few of the literally hundreds of studies that have proven that what children see in the media does influence their development, their behavior — and their lives.

According to the American Psychological Association, “The debate is over! ”

We can no longer ignore the entertainment industry’s unremitting march into the gutter. We can not simply shrug and silently assent when Hollywood’s defenders say, “If you don’t like it, change the channel!”

We cannot cede more ground to those who irresponsibly build fortunes while compromising our children’s lives and futures. The stakes are too high.

The fallout touches every family — even those who are vigilant about what their kids watch. It is every caring adult’s responsibility and obligation to take a stand.

Leading The Way...

Below are actual statements made by entertainment industry insiders. These statements illustrate exactly why the PTC is needed.

  • “We will vigorously defend our right to produce such content as some may deem too controversial … We still encourage our producers to walk the edge and tell edgy stories.”
  • “It’s tough to get that sexual point of view across on television. Hopefully I have made it possible for somebody on broadcast television to do a rear-entry scene in three years. Maybe that will be my legacy.”
  • “There’s nothing you can do to a human being onscreen that is taboo anymore. Over and over again, people are breaking the boundaries of the body, hurting people, chopping people up, ravaging people. ... For things to be truly scary, we’re going to have to find new boundaries to tread on.”
  • “When I go to see an R-rated horror movie, I want lots of violence. I want nudity. I want sex and violence mixed together. What’s wrong with that?”
  • “We’re going to push the limits on this show — violence, sex, bad language. We’re going to see how big Spike’s balls are on this one.”

Movie and television executives, producers, directors, and stars gleefully wallow in their envelope-pushing, taboo-breaking, “edgy stories,” while turning a blind eye to the heart-wrenching real-life tragedies and overwhelming scientific proof of the social harm they are inflicting with their media products.

For more than a decade now, the PTC has been combating these dangerous attitudes while working to restore responsibility in the entertainment industry.

And although network publicity offices have been publicly dismissive of the PTC’s impact, privately, they are carefully watching our every move.

Why? Because the PTC is making a huge difference in the war against Hollywood’s harmful programming, and they know it.

Here’s proof you matter!

After the release of the PTC study, The Rap on Rap, the BET network cancelled a show named in the report due to pressure from sponsors. The show’s replacement was scheduled at 2:00 a.m. BET President Reginald Hudlin ultimately resigned.

The CBS series Swingtown featured group sex, adultery, a high school student having sex with her teacher, and adults using drugs. After being contacted by the PTC, Swingtown’s top-tier sponsors announced that they wanted nothing to do with the show. By the last episode, Swingtown had lost an incredible 69% of its audience, and the show had only one major sponsor. In January 2009, CBS announced that Swingtown would not be returning. The PTC got word through anonymous industry sources that some inside CBS privately blamed the PTC for Swingtown’s crushing defeat.

PTC research demonstrated the inaccurate and inconsistent application of television content ratings, leading to congressional action in 2008. The Child Safe Viewing Act was introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and passed by an overwhelming bipartisan margin in both houses of Congress. The President signed the bill into law on December 2nd.

In a massive “secret shopper” campaign, PTC chapter members visited over 100 local video game retailers and found that stores sold Mature-rated video games to minors 36% of the time. After these findings were publicized, Wal-Mart immediately implemented tighter sales policies in every store to address children’s access to mature-rated entertainment products; and the company’s CEO personally thanked the PTC for making them a better and more trustworthy retailer for parents.

The PTC was ceaseless in its efforts to warn advertisers about the content of Dirt, a tawdry cable drama that routinely depicted characters masturbating, engaging in sex and indulging in sexual fetishes. Ultimately, more than 50 major advertisers stopped supporting the show, leading the FX cable network to cancel the program.

The PTC boldly confronted airlines about the availability of graphic, in-flight video entertainment displayed on overhead monitors. At shareholder’s meetings, PTC officers and members demanded the airlines address this issue. Since then, United, American and Delta Airlines have all agreed to block adult content from their overhead screens.

The PTC opposed the extreme violence and anti-social attitudes of the CBS serial killer drama Dexter. Thanks to the PTC, advertisers like Mercedes-Benz, Allstate Insurance, Dannon yogurt, Paul Mitchell hair products and Intuit (parent company of TurboTax), refused to sponsor the program. Many other advertisers withdrew their sponsorship after reviewing the content, costing CBS millions of dollars — and making it clear that there is a price to be paid for promoting violence on the public airwaves.

Whether you are a parent, a grandparent or a concerned citizen, the Parents Television Council is fighting for your interests, and the interests of your children and grandchildren. They are our future – and television is shaping them and the future in which they will live.