Research on sex, violence, and profanity on Television
Sex Loses its Appeal
A State of the Industry Report on Sex on TV
the increased visibility of raunchy reality series, envelope-pushing dramas, and
smutty sitcoms across the broadcast networks, it is a common perception that
television is getting filthier with each passing year. On the surface, it is
difficult to deny that there is some accuracy in those claims.
But on closer inspection, there does seem to be very real improvement here and
there. Is the groundswell of opposition to raunchy TV really starting to have an
impact on program content? The PTC set out to determine if there has been a
quantifiable decrease in sexual content on television. The study examined the
first two weeks of the 1998, 2000, and 2002 November sweeps.
The results were astounding. Every broadcast network but the WB has
experienced a decrease in sexual content during the Family Hour (8-9:00 p.m.
ET/PT), and every network but the WB and UPN has shown improvement during the
second hour of prime time (9-10:00 p.m. ET/PT). Overall, sexual content is
down during the first two hours of prime time. These are the major findings of
the Parents Television Council's first State of the Industry report on Sex on
TV: Sex Loses its Appeal.
Other Findings Include:
Sexual content during the Family Hour on ABC is down 67% from 1998, with a 60%
decrease since 2000 alone. ABC has also shown a 75% decrease in sexual content
during the second hour of prime time since 2000.
was also the only network to show a decrease in sexual content during the last
hour of prime time (10-11:00 p.m. ET). Such material is 41% less frequent now on
ABC than it was in 1998.
Sexual content during the Family Hour on Fox is down 48% since 1998. Fox has
shown a 79% decrease in sexual content during the second hour of prime time
since 1998, and a 75% decrease in the past two years alone.
CBS there has been a 6% decrease in sexual content during the Family Hour since
1998, and a 39% decrease in sexual content in the second hour of prime time
Family Hour has improved over the past two years by 34%. NBC has shown a 37%
decrease in sexual content during the second hour of prime time in the past two
Sexual content during Family Hour on UPN is down 13% from 1998.
Although the WB showed some improvement during the Family Hour between 1998 and
2000 (sexual content was down by 36%), such content was 88% more frequent in
2002 than in 1998.
WB and UPN were the only networks to show no improvement during the second hour
of prime time (9:00 p.m. ET/PT). Sexual content increased by 50% during that
time slot on UPN and by 13% on the WB since 2000.
Sexual content is down by 9% across all the broadcast networks during the Family
Hour since 1998. The quantitative improvements that have been made are offset by
some coarsening of content. During the Family Hour in 1998, 84% of all sexual
content fell into the category of "innuendo." In 2002, 62% of all sexual content
was sexual innuendo, and other types of sexual content became more common,
including anatomical/genital references (13%), homosexual references (5%), and
references to prostitution (4%).
Sexual content is down by 12% across all the broadcast networks during the
second hour of prime time (9-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), but again, those improvements
were offset by more explicit sexual content. Innuendo accounted for 85% of all
sexual content during that time slot in 1998. By 2002 innuendo accounted for
only 47% of sexual content. In 1998, non-marital sex, references to
prostitution, transvestitism, adultery, nudity and pornography accounted for
less than 3% of all sexual content. In 2002, such material accounted for 26% of
all sexual content. In addition, references to masturbation, strippers and oral
sex accounted for an additional 8%.
three of the broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC schedule programming for the
10:00 hour (ET/PT). Of those three, sexual content was down only on ABC.
Although sexual content was up on CBS and NBC, the networks can be credited for
saving their worst content for the latest hour of prime time, the hour when the
least number of children are watching television.
The fact that this study shows measurably less sex on television -- particularly
during the first two hours of prime time -- is not only encouraging, it shatters
conventional wisdom about the entertainment industry. Sex doesn't necessarily
sell after all.
In recent years, countless surveys have shown that not only are parents
increasingly concerned about how exposure to sexual content is affecting their
children, but even adults are turned-off by the rampant sex on TV.
A 2001 Family Circle survey showed that 93% of respondents had turned off
the TV or changed channels during a program because of sexual content. A Kaiser
Family Foundation survey released the same year indicated that 80% of parents
were concerned about their children's overexposure to sex and violence, while
63% said they were concerned "a great deal" about sexual content.
Hollywood is finally starting to listen to what the market wants.
Statistical Appendix |
Senator Brownback Press Release