Frequently Asked Questions
What is the PTC's mission?
The PTC's primary mission is to promote and restore responsibility and decency
to the entertainment industry in answer to America's demand for positive,
family-oriented television programming. The PTC does this by fostering
changes in TV programming to make the early hours of prime time
family-friendly and suitable for viewers of all ages.
Because of the pervasive and powerful
influence of television, the PTC seeks to discourage the increasingly graphic
sexual themes and dialogue, depictions of gratuitous violence, and profane/obscene language that have crowded out family viewing options. The PTC
concentrates on broadcast television, which uses the public airwaves to enter
every home with a television set, and expanded basic cable, which millions of households
rely on for their TV programming.
The PTC also assists parents in
exercising responsibility for their children's viewing habits with the
Guide to Prime Time Television. The Guide offers a traffic-light ratings system
with red-, yellow-, and green-light ratings indicating the amount of sex,
foul language and violence in each series. The ratings system is accompanied
by clear descriptions of every prime time show, enabling parents to make educated
decisions about the programs they and their families wish to view.
The PTC has customarily focused
on broadcast television programs -- particularly during prime time, and especially
during the "Family Hour" (the earliest hour of network television
each evening). However, because of the influences late-night programming and
cable can exert on the medium as a whole, the PTC does monitor shows airing
in other time slots, and on expanded basic cable channels.
Parents often complain that when
objectionable programming comes into the home via the widely accessible venues
of broadcast television and expanded basic cable, it is often virtually unavoidable
and puts a tremendous burden on them to monitor their children's viewing
24/7 especially now when family programming is scarce.
What can I do to help bring responsibility
back to the entertainment industry?
By organizing and communicating
effectively, you can help to change television. The PTC is a citizen organization,
an army of concerned Americans. We provide information about the content of
prime time programs and contact information about sponsors so members know what's
on television, and can communicate effectively with the corporations that sponsor
programs. The success of the PTC depends on members using the information and
making the effort to contact corporations that sponsor offensive programming.
Corporations care about their image and want their advertising to connect positively,
not negatively, with consumers. You can also make the FCC and the FTC uphold
laws by filing complaints on broadcast content that you find to be indecent
and thus against the law and by reporting it when companies market violence to
children. Go to our Take Action page to
find out how you can make a difference starting today.
Do my letters and phone calls to
corporations make a difference?
Yes! The PTC has seen corporations
stop advertising on offensive programming, and has effected changes in some
of the worst programming, primarily because of the phone calls, e-mails, and
letters from our members. Keep up the good work! Corporations do listen to you,
and the networks listen to the corporations they depend on for advertising dollars.
The networks produce programming primarily with a view to what will bring in
the most ad dollars. So, please contact those corporations we list as sponsors
of offensive programming and let them know of your dissatisfaction with their
Aren't you violating First Amendment freedoms
by censoring TV shows?
all forms of censorship are illegal. When private individuals agitate to
eliminate TV programs they dislike, or threaten to boycott the companies that
support those programs with advertising dollars, ....
their actions are perfectly legal; in fact, their protests are protected by the
First Amendment right to freedom of speech." - From the National Coalition
Against Censorship Website http://www.ncac.org/about/faq.html
The PTC does not censor. The First
Amendment was instituted to guarantee precisely the type of activities pursued
by the PTC: free speech and disseminating information.
Shows airing on broadcast television
use the public airwaves. Because broadcast channels are available free over
the air, it is presumed that children of any age can access their programming,
and during prime time, it is presumed that they are doing so. According to
the Federal Communications Act of 1934, which still sets the guidelines for
the use of this public property, programming must be in the "public interest,"
i.e., serve a common publicly recognized good. It has never been supposed
by the Supreme Court that broadcasters have an absolute right to air whatever
they wish with no responsibility to the public interest.
The First Amendment begins: Congress
shall make no law
and is supposed to limit the powers of the federal
government only. The Parents Television Council is not a federal entity or
a legislative body. It has neither the power to forbid programming nor the
desire for the government to ban legal programming. Instead, the PTC operates
by providing members and advertisers with information about the content of
programs. Where prime time programming contains significant amounts of material
unsuitable for children in a timeslot and venue where children presumably
have access to that material, the PTC asks advertisers to reconsider their
sponsorship of the program.
The activities of the PTC are
actually a classic case of the First Amendment at work. The PTC is an organization
of over a million private citizens who have organized to exercise our right
to speak out about what we view as a significant problem. We wish to raise
the issue of the potential abuse of broadcasting privileges, hold advertisers
accountable for the programming they sponsor, and point out the dramatic changes
in television content. We address issues through providing information and
educating viewers, sponsors, and networks, not through law or force, and have
the right to express the opinions shared by our members. By the same token,
advertisers also have the right to place their ads as they see fit, with the
knowledge that they may be offending a significant number of viewers.
The NAACP, the Anti-Defamation
League, and other groups often attempt to manipulate or alter television portrayals
of, or references to, members of their constituencies. Most people do not
consider these efforts censorship. Instead, such efforts are recognized as
a legitimate exercise of the right to free speech. The PTC is doing virtually
the same thing by raising our concerns about programming that we and our members
believe is harmful.
Shouldn't overseeing children's television
viewing choices be the responsibility of parents, not that of the Parents Television
The PTC agrees that the primary
responsibility for a child's viewing habits rests with his parents, which
is why we try to assist them by providing them with both information and a
vehicle to effectively communicate their concerns to advertisers.
The fact that parents are ultimately
responsible for their children's upbringing does not free the entertainment
industry from taking responsibility for their product. The assertion that
the sole responsibility lies with parents is a self-justifying claim usually
made by people who wish to evade accountability. It is much like pumping sewage
into a town's river, while maintaining that parents are responsible for protecting
the health of their own children. Parental responsibility is the beginning,
not the end, of the story. The next question is, to what extent do those who
use public resources like the airwaves have a responsibility as well?
The default setting for broadcast
television used to be family-oriented, while those desiring edgier, more explicit
fare were free to seek it out. Today's prime time television programming has
become almost uniformly unsuitable for families, and often directly hostile
to their values, making it very difficult for parents to shield their children
and seek out alternative entertainment.
If you don't like something on television,
why don't you just change the channel?
Television is the most public
and powerful means of mass communication. It drives changes in social customs,
speech, and attitudes, especially among youth. Because of its
pervasiveness and persuasiveness, opting out is an entirely inadequate response
to the dramatic rise in the amount of televised graphic sex, obscene and profane
language, and gratuitous violence found on television today. These depictions
affect everyone, including our children's classmates and friends. Vulgar television
means a more vulgar society; sex-saturated television means sexualized children
stripped of their innocence; violent television results in desensitization
In addition, when the networks,
which traditionally have been the primary source for family entertainment,
begin producing raunchy and violent shows, parents are left with few places
to turn for family viewing. By remaining silent, PTC members would be giving
their consent to these changes and ceding their television sets to lowest-common-
denominator programming. As the envelope continues to be pushed even further,
the chances of avoiding such material become increasingly limited.
Merely changing the channel is
essentially to accept what is on that channel, and admit powerlessness to
change what is on one's own television. To be forced to change the channel
is to accept the loss of additional stations to unhealthy content and to expect
similar material to one day appear on the next channel.
"You can put your TV in the
garage, avoid movies altogether, and use earplugs to spare your hearing from
the sounds of hip-hop or heavy metal, but these forms of entertainment will
still change your life through their influence on everyone else in society.
Though you may struggle to protect your own kids from music that encourages
violence or drugs or irresponsible sex, you can't possibly protect them from
all the other kids in your community who have received full exposure."
Michael Medved taken from The Rock & Roll Rebellion by Mark Joseph.
Why is the PTC worried about the make-believe
sex and violence on prime time, since it has no influence on real-life behavior
Advertisers pour billions of
dollars annually into commercials, because of the proven power of 30-second
ad spots to influence consumer attitudes and behavior. If the networks accept
the money on that premise, it is unreasonable and hypocritical for them to then
assert that the rest of the programming, which is what the public is actually
viewing by choice, has no influence.
To argue this point, defenders of offensive
entertainment often set up a straw man to knock down -- the image of an otherwise
perfectly normal and well-adjusted person watching a program and turning into
a killer. No one is suggesting that it works that way, nor does the PTC believe
that people are not responsible for their own actions. That again begs the
question of what responsibility the entertainment industry bears for its own
There are numerous instances where the media
clearly does influence behavior. Another way is through desensitization. A person who regularly views
positive portrayals of adultery and fornication or heroes using violence is
less apt to view those behaviors as undesirable or abnormal. Finally, television
can influence through its focus on extreme and dangerous behavior, both in
news and entertainment. The Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold,
for instance, were apparently motivated, at least in part, by the prospect
of being the subjects of a television movie.
Most of what appears on television is make-believe,
but nevertheless has profound effects, as hundreds of studies on the influence
of television have shown. The
American Academy of Pediatrics and the American
Psychological Association have both demonstrated television's undeniable
influence, especially on children. Some complaints the PTC receives from critics
amply illustrate this very point. Their letters are often laced with the jargon,
phrases, and attitudes of their professed television heroes, and viewers sometimes
credit television characters or programs as having a profound influence on their
Isn't the PTC acting as a self-appointed
moral guardian by trying to make viewing decisions for adults?
The PTC does not seek to prevent
those adults who wish to view "edgy" programming from doing so. Our
concern relates to the time and the venue in which such programming is broadcast.
A show permeated with continuous acts of savage assault with deadly weapons,
explicit sexual scenes and themes, or punctuated with obscene or profane language,
whether the characters are scripted or not, may be suitable for pay-per-view,
but it does not have a place on prime time broadcast television, particularly
during the family hour. Because broadcast television and expanded basic cable are so
widely available, they are supposed to maintain standards that make them suitable
for all ages.
How does the PTC conduct its research?
The PTC has more than 95,000 hours of entertainment programming in
Entertainment Tracking System (ETS). The ETS is
the only database of its kind in the world, and the PTC uses it to
produce unique research and publications focusing on a variety
topics relating to the content of prime time television -- including
in-depth analyses of the "family hour" and the television ratings
system. This same database provides the background information
necessary to produce our Family Guide to Prime Time
Time and again we hear from
people asking, "How do you do it? How can you monitor every prime time
network television show between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.?"
With an arsenal of VCRs, televisions, a full-time team of entertainment
analysts, and a massive online database we are able to build a database full
of this unique research.
Each evening, the PTC records
every prime-time program on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ITV, UPN, and the WB, as
well as original programming on expanded basic cable. The following day, the PTC's
team of entertainment analysts watch and transcribe every offensive word, sexual innuendo, and describe
sexual activity and violence in detail. The information from the analysts is
then fed into ETS. The staff uses the information to compile e-mail reports, monthly
newsletters, and in-depth studies. The researchers also use intelligence
from ETS to produce frequent press releases and alerts exposing TV's
gratuitous sex and graphic violence, and to educate sponsors about program
Our research and
information are truly one-of-a-kind. Many in the entertainment industry,
including advertising executives, use this info which is found online at the
PTC's website - www.parentstv.org.
The PTC also regularly provides tapes
of broadcasts to the Federal Communications Commission since most broadcasters
don't archive their broadcasts. A tape of the broadcast is needed by the FCC in
order to determine if the broadcast broke indecency or obscenity laws.
You gave my favorite show a red
traffic light and/or put it on your yearly best/worst list, does that mean you
don't like it?
No, we do not make judgments about a show's artistic quality when we
rate them. A red light rating means that the show
may include gratuitous sex, explicit dialogue, violent content, and/or obscene
language, and is, in our opinion, unsuitable for family viewing.
Is it necessary for PTC reports to be
so graphic? Can't you allude to what is on shows without describing in detail
the material you're criticizing?
The PTC regrets the necessity
of publishing graphic examples of content from the most offensive prime time
shows. Because it would be unfair to criticize programs without knowing the
specifics of objectionable dialogue and visuals, the PTC must provide members
who wish to contact sponsors, the FCC, etc to criticize shows with precise, detailed information.
It is not the intent of the PTC
to duplicate the practices we are criticizing. The PTC Insider and website
are aimed at adults, and particularly parents, so that they will have accurate
information about the offensive content of certain programs (information that
the current ratings system and plot summaries do not provide). Knowing that "sunshine is the best disinfectant," it is our intent
to provide the information you need to present companies with substantive
objections to the programs they sponsor. Also, the FCC
currently requires a transcript of the show in order to investigate a
broadcast indecency complaint. That means providing our members
with the unpleasant facts about today's worst TV shows.
The PTC regrets that part of our
mission necessitates presenting the unvarnished truth about television in
order to convince those who support it to curtail offensive material. We hope
you will take the information we provide in that spirit, and find it useful
for that purpose.
Does the PTC organize or advocate boycotts?
No. The PTC aims to work with
corporations and believes most of them have a sense of social responsibility.
They need to advertise to sell their products, and we understand that. The PTC
instead tries to appeal to that sense of social responsibility and corporations'
own standards by making a well-documented case that certain shows are unsuitable
at certain times and in venues where children are presumed to have unrestricted
access. Our members, however, are free to tell advertisers what their own response
to sponsorship of offensive programs will be.
Is the PTC involved with the Family
Friendly Programming Forum?
The Family Friendly Programming
Forum is not a PTC venture. It is an organization of corporations who belong
to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). Its members are corporations
who, according to their mission statement, are concerned about promoting family-friendly
programming. (You can read their roster and mission statement at the
website) As such, we've applauded them publicly, and work with them when
There is a natural tension between
these corporations' stated desire for more family-friendly shows and their
interest in getting their message out to the public via advertising on television,
the most popular form of entertainment, regardless of its program content.
This means that Forum members will sometimes advertise on offensive or non-family-friendly
shows, even during prime time. The PTC tries to minimize this by monitoring
shows that don't square with the FFPF mission, and presenting information
to forum members who advertise on those shows.
How can I contact the PTC for further information?
Parents Television Council
707 Wilshire Boulevard #2075
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: (213) 403-1300
To arrange a press interview with PTC Founder
Tim Winter, Senior Director Programs
Melissa Henson, or any of the
PTC's Advisory Board members, call
or email our public
Kelly Oliver at CRC Public Relations at 703.683.5004. To
schedule a speaking engagement with Brent Bozell, call
his assistant Danette Williams at 703.684.1699.
2005 Annual Report