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Press Release

June 26, 2007

PTC Denounces Ultra-Violent TV Content and Calls on Industry to Shape Up


WASHINGTON, DC (June 26, 2007) – Parents Television Council™ President Tim Winter testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on the issue of television violence and the “Impact of Media Violence on Children” hearing today.  He provided graphic examples of how brutal and gruesome television violence has become and took the industry to task for not dealing with the problem responsibly.  Excerpts from his testimony follow:


“Many in the Congress know of the PTC mostly as a vocal advocacy group, but the lion’s share of our effort goes into research and education.  And when it comes to violence on television, the trend of what we are seeing today is not only concerning, it is frightening.  In fact none of us would even be here today but for a level of media violence that approaches epidemic proportions.


“This past January, the PTC released Dying to Entertain – our latest research project analyzing the volume and degree of violence on primetime television.  The television season which concluded last year was the most violent that the PTC has ever recorded – averaging 4.41 instances of violence per hour, every hour, during prime time, or one instance every 13½ minutes – an increase of 75% since the 1998 television season.  Over the course of a year, that means many thousands of violent depictions are broadcast over the public airwaves at times when millions of children are in the audience.


“In addition to the marked increase in the quantity of violence, we are seeing several other disturbing trends.  First, the depictions of violence have become far more graphic and more realistic than ever before, thanks in part to enhanced computer graphics employed in television production today.  Second, there is an alarming trend for violent scenes to include a sexual element.  Rapists, sexual predators and fetishists appear with increasing frequency on prime time programs.  Third, we are now seeing the main character – the protagonist the audience is supposed to identify with – as the perpetrator of the most violent acts.  And lastly we are seeing more children being depicted as the victims of violence.


“As you know, we prepared a DVD with a sampling of scenes containing violence from recent television programs.  Let me describe a few of those scenes:


“During the May 22nd episode of NCIS that aired during the so-called ‘family hour’ of 8 p.m. Eastern time (7 p.m. CT/MT), a dead drug smuggler was shown having his midsection sliced open and his blood-soaked organs pulled out of his body.  The man’s digestive tract is sliced open and white powder spills over his bloodied torso.  When a fight ensues, one character stabs the drug dealer with a scalpel and another character shoots the drug dealer.  Then the junkie-sister is shown with her face buried in her brother's bloody intestines as she snorts heroin off his dead body.


“On an episode of C.S.I. – which normally airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time but is often repeated earlier – a woman had been having sex with her son for many years.  When her son became a psychotic serial rapist and was institutionalized, the mother took a job as a nurse at the institution so that she could continue to have sex with him.  When she learned that her son was having sex with one of the male inmates, she killed her rival by smothering him with a pillow, then had her son cover up her crime by bashing the dead man’s head into the ground until it became a bloody, unrecognizable mess.  Another inmate comes along, rubs his hands in the blood, and hungrily smears it all over his face as if he wants to devour it.


“A program called The Shield began on the expanded-basic cable network FX, and now the program also airs in syndication on broadcast stations nationwide.  The Shield regularly features some of the most graphic violence and – in particular – graphic sexual violence ever seen on television.  In one episode, the main character – a corrupt cop – drags a gang member into the kitchen and turns on an electric stove burner, then pushes the gang member’s face into the red-hot coils of the burner where the TV audience can see the melting and charred flesh. 


“In another episode of The Shield, a Police Captain is forced at gunpoint to perform oral sex on a gang member.  While holding the barrel of a gun to the policeman’s mouth, the gang member asks him, ‘You ever suck a dick like a cell bitch, cop man?’  He threatens to kill the officer if he doesn’t perform fellatio, and the officer is seen and heard gagging and whimpering in humiliation until the gang member reaches orgasm.


“Ryan Murphy, the creator of another series on FX called Nip/Tuck publicly stated that it might be his legacy to make possible a rear-entry sex scene on broadcast television.  And Senators, if you subscribe to a cable or satellite service, you are forced to pay almost $9.00 every year to the FX network so they can produce and air this kind of material.  And with tens of millions of Americans forced into the industry’s bundling scheme, FX reaps hundreds of millions of dollars each year to produce this material, and that is before they sell even one TV commercial.


“As troubling as those content examples are, Mr. Chairman, I am equally dismayed by the seeming contempt the industry has for anyone who would suggest reasonable self-restraint. Recently the CEO of Time-Warner decried this hearing, likening your concerns to Nazi Germany.


“Every time the public – and our public servants – call for more responsible behavior, the industry refuses to have a meaningful dialog or offer real solutions.  Rather than coming before you to address the negative impact their products have on children, they turn the conversation into a lecture on broadcast standards and the Constitution.  Rather than acknowledging the scientific evidence manifested in over a thousand medical and clinical studies, they underwrite their own research and point to its differing conclusion.  And rather than focusing on their statutory public interest requirements for using the public airwaves, they shift the conversation to entertainment in general and invoke the always-sobering term, ‘chilling effect.’  But I wonder how ‘chilling’ things really are if, as we’ve read in the press, the Fox broadcast network airs a program this fall where an amorous monkey joins a man and woman in a sexual encounter.


“After the Janet Jackson incident, television executives were quick to come before the Congress to pledge zero-tolerance for indecency.  Subsequently they filed a federal lawsuit which would allow them to use the F-word at any time of the day, even in front of millions of children.  Sadly they managed to find two judges in New York City who agreed with them.  And now the networks are in Court again, this time saying that the Janet Jackson incident was not indecent.


“Through efforts like the ‘TV Boss’ campaign, the industry promised you hundreds of millions of dollars to educate parents on content-blocking technologies, yet all objective data shows that parents still have no constructive grasp over the TV ratings system or the technologies that are reliant upon them.


“And speaking of technology, recall that when the V-Chip was introduced the television industry denounced it as censorial heresy.  That is, they denounced it until they found a way to manipulate what was supposed to be a simple solution for parents.  Instead the industry turned the V-Chip into a means for even more graphic content while using it as an excuse to violate the broadcast decency law.


“Mr. Chairman, please understand that this is an industry that I love with every fiber of my being. I spent most of my career – more than 20 years of it – working in the media industry, the majority of which was in broadcasting and cable television.  It is a wonderful business, capable of producing not only enlightening, educating and entertaining programming, but it is also a lucrative business with profit margins that most industries can only dream of.  But with the ability to deliver a product directly into every home in America comes a duty to serve the public interest.  As Commissioner Copps stated in this very room, the term ‘public interest’ appears no less than 112 times in the original Communications Act. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, when does hurting children serve the public interest?


“Representing more than a million concerned families, we stand ready to work with you to forge real solutions to these problems.  I hope the industry will step up and join us.”


To review the PTC’s latest research on violence during primetime broadcast television, visit: http://www.parentstv.org/PTC/publications/reports/violencestudy/exsummary.asp.


For details about the PTC’s research on the TV ratings system, visit: http://www.parentstv.org/ptc/publications/reports/ratingsstudy/exsummary.asp.


To read Tim Winter's full testimony and the view the clip tape provided to the Senators, Click Here. Warning: This testimony contains some graphic content.


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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