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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 19, 2012


 

PTC Study Finds TV Ratings System Inadequate

Calls for Greater Transparency and More Public Involvement

 

LOS ANGELES (September 19th, 2012) – Today, the Parents Television Council® released a new study, "What Kids Can See When It’s Rated TV-PG," which examined the type and amount of explicit content in TV-PG rated shows that aired during primetime within a two-week period in 2011. This is the sixth installment in PTC’s series of studies taking a look at current TV ratings system.

PTC found that in many instances the ratings were inadequate and failed to reflect the type or amount of adult-themed content within the show; programs were frequently underrated exposing children to explicit content without warning; and sexual content, language, and violence consistently appeared across all networks on TV-PG rated programs.

"For years the broadcast industry and their agents have touted the V-Chip and the content ratings system as the public’s remedy for harmful, offensive and explicit programming. The findings of today’s report suggest that the industry ‘remedy’ is a failure. Even the most diligent parent who only allows TV-PG rated content into their home would be exposing their children unwittingly to a torrent of sex, violence and profanity on a nightly basis," said PTC President Tim Winter.

"As we approach the fifteen year anniversary of the ratings system, it is apparent that the system itself is in need of dramatic reform. Broadcast networks produce and rate their own content, leaving parents with a deeply flawed and largely inaccurate ratings system. An accurate and accountable system would steer informed families and many advertisers away from harsh content, costing the networks a material loss in revenue. This is a clear conflict of interest, and it further emphasizes that the V-chip is not a reasonable alternative to broadcast decency rules that were recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

"The TV Ratings Monitoring Board, which ostensibly provides oversight for the ratings system, lacks any modicum of transparency or accountability. The public is afforded no reasonable means by which to contest a show’s content rating if they feel it’s inaccurate. Such a system protects the broadcasters, not parents, families or children.

"With the release of our findings today, we are calling on the Congress, the FCC and the television industry to address the failures of the content ratings system; and to replace it with a system that is accurate, consistent, transparent and accountable," concluded Winter.

Following the release of the study, PTC sent letters to all Members of Congress asking for total reform of the system. The following is an excerpt:

"After fifteen years of a poorly conceived, poorly executed, poorly overseen system, it is time to give American families more tools and more choices to contain the flow of objectionable entertainment content entering their homes. How many other fifteen-year-old pieces of technology do homes have that have not been improved upon since their implementation?

"Based on the findings of this report as well as numerous others, the television content rating system is in urgent need of substantial reform. In addition to concerns about accuracy, this report raises serious questions about cross-network consistency. We call upon the television industry, the FCC, and Congress to immediately begin review of the order that implemented the current TV Ratings System. And we call for the system to increase its transparency and accountability to the public.

To see the full study, click here.

To see the letter, click here.


Methodology:
PTC examined all primetime entertainment programming on the four major broadcast networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox) during the first two weeks of the November 2011 sweeps period. Broadcasts of news and sports programs were excluded from this analysis. The entire dataset was captured within three major categories of variables: 1) Sex; 2) Language; and 3) Violence. Specific variables were assigned within each major category to further describe the content

Major Findings:

  • In only a two-week period (59 hours) of analyzed TV-PG rated shows, there were a total of 637 instances of explicit language, sex, and violent content that aired during primetime. In other words, a child watching TV-PG programs would have been exposed to explicit adult content every five -and-a-half minutes.

  • The data show that a child watching TV-PG programming within a two-week period would have witnessed 181 instances of adult sexual content, 239 instances of offensive language, and 217 instances of violence.

  • Forty-four percent of the instances of explicit content did not include a "D," "L," "S," or "V" descriptor alerting parents the content was present; ninety-two percent of the adult sexual content aired on TV-PG shows did not include an "S" descriptor.

  • Sixty-seven percent of the explicit sexual content identified during the study period included: direct references to sexual body parts (e.g. vagina, penis, etc.), verbal statements that included the word "sex," descriptions and/or depictions of sexual activity, and/or some form of nudity (obscured/blurred, partial or implied).

  • Out of 217 instances of violence, 11.5% rose to the level of mutilation, dismemberment, decapitation, violent drugging, animal abuse, animal violence, blood-shedding, electrocution, graphic depictions, and graphic descriptions.

To speak with a representative from the Parents Television Council, please contact Liz Krieger at (703) 683-5004 ext. 120 or Katie Glenn at (703) 683-5004, ext. 144.


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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