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Press Release

April 16, 2007

New PTC Report Gives TV Networks an "F" for Failing to Accurately Rate Their Programs


A new Parents Television Council study released at the National Association of Broadcasters convention revealed that the television ratings system is still not accurate, and thus grossly unreliable, due to the fact that content descriptors are being arbitrarily and inconsistently applied by the broadcast networks during prime time viewing hours. Two-thirds of the shows reviewed containing potentially offensive content lacked one or more of the appropriate content descriptors, which render the ratings system and V-chip virtually useless.

"The TV Networks are perpetrating a fraud on the American public, on the Congress, on the courts and even their on own advertisers when they say that the TV ratings and V-chip are sufficient to protect children and families from inappropriate content," said PTC President Tim Winter.

"Last month, the PTC released Zogby polling data that exposed the Industry's $550 million so-called 'education campaign' as a sham. And here today we release the results of this study, documenting yet again that the TV ratings system, and by extension, the V-chip, are an utter failure. Together these findings point to only one possible conclusion: the Industry's 'concern' for families is nonexistent. If its concern was sincere, the ratings would be accurate and the Networks would not be in court right now suing for the right to air unedited profanity at any time of day.

"The motivation of the Networks is clear: by hiding behind ratings and technology to pacify lawmakers, they can continue to air violent, profane and sexually-charged programming over the public airwaves when millions of children are in the viewing audience. They also know that by under-rating their programs, they won't scare away top-tier advertisers."

The PTC examined all prime time entertainment programming on the six broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW and MyNetworkTV) during the November 2006 and February 2007 sweeps periods, for a total of 541 hours of programming on 608 individual programs. Sports and news programs were not included in this analysis. Since 99% of the programs were rated either TV-PG (48%) or TV-14 (51%), the analysis focused primarily on quantifying sexual content, violence and foul language and the presence (or absence) of corresponding content descriptors.

Major Findings:

Content Descriptors Not Being Used

  • 54% of shows containing suggestive dialogue lacked the "D" descriptor
  • 63% of shows containing sexual content lacked the "S" descriptor
  • 42% of shows containing violence lacked the "V" descriptor
  • 44 % of shows containing foul language lacked the "L" descriptor

Network Analysis

  • On ABC, 100% of the TV-14 rated programs lacked one or more descriptors.
  • On NBC, 92% of the TV-14 rated programs lacked one or more descriptors.
  • On CBS, 73% of the TV-14 rated programs containing sexual content lacked the "S" descriptor.
  • None of the programs included in this analysis received a TV-MA rating, meaning all programs were deemed appropriate by the networks to be viewed by a child as young as 14, including (for example) an episode of C.S.I. Miami in which a woman died of asphyxiation during an oral rape.

Descriptors Lack in Every Ratings Category

  • 40% of all TV-G shows examined were lacking one or more descriptor
  • 59% of all TV-PG shows examined were lacking one or more descriptor
  • 79% of all TV-14 shows lacked one or more descriptor

The V-chip allows parents to block channels based either on the age-based ratings, or on content descriptors. Since 99% of all programs during prime time are rated PG or TV-14, blocking programs based on the age ratings would immediately disqualify 50-99% of all prime time broadcast programming. Content descriptors are inaccurate two-thirds of the time.

"While parents continue to be the first and best line of defense against inappropriate or indecent programming, the industry must be forced to step up to the plate and accept responsibility for the products it delivers to every home in the nation," Winter concluded.

To read the full study, The Ratings Sham II, Click Here.


To schedule an interview with a PTC representative, please contact Kelly Oliver (ext. 140) or Megan Franko (ext. 148) at (703) 683-5004.

The Parents Television Council™ (www.parentstv.org®) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. This national grassroots organization has more than 1.3 million members across the United States, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. The PTC also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.




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