Traditionally known as the Family Hour, the first hour of
prime time was once a place for programming the whole family could
enjoy. Television broadcasters, exercising their corporate
responsibility to act in the public interest, reserved adult-themed
shows for later in the evening when the youngest viewers were likely to
In recent years, however, the broadcast networks have
pushed more and more adult-oriented programming to the early hours of
This Special Report constitutes the PTC’s sixth analysis
of Family Hour programming. The study sample included all entertainment
programs originally airing on the six major broadcast networks (ABC,
CBS, Fox, NBC, CW, and My Network TV) in the Family Hour during three
separate two-week periods of the 2006-2007 television season: November
2-15, 2006; February 1-14, 2007; and April 26-May 9, 2007.
The Family Hour time slot includes programs with a start
time between 8 and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and between 7 and 9
p.m. on Sundays, in the Eastern time zone (7 to 8 p.m. Monday through
Saturday, and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the Central time zone).
Reruns were analyzed separately. Many of the programs
that were rebroadcast during the family hour normally occupy a later
time slot on the broadcast schedule and are intended for adult
audiences. Thus, by airing them during the Family Hour, the networks are introducing young
audiences to high levels of mature content.
At a Glance:
There were 2246 instances of
violent, profane and sexual content in 180 hours of original Family Hour
programming, or 12.48 instances per television hour.
One instance of objectionable
content occurs every 3.5 minutes of non-commercial airtime, on average.
Only 10.6% of the 208 episodes were
free of any violent and sexual content and foul language.
Since 2000-2001, violent content
during the Family Hour has increased by 52.4%
Since 2000-2001, sexual content has
increased by 22.1%
The Fox network as the overall
worst offender, with 20.78 instances of objectionable content per hour.
hours of original programming, there were 2246 instances of
objectionable violent, profane and sexual content, for an average of
12.48 instances per television hour, or one instance every 4.8
average hour of prime-time broadcast television contains about 43
minutes of non- commercial programming, one instance of
objectionable content occurs every 3.5 minutes of non-commercial
airtime, on average.
of the 208 episodes were free of any violent and sexual content and
CW was the
cleanest network overall with 9.44 instances of objectionable
content per hour.
the worst network overall with 20.78 instances of objectionable
content per hour.
shows with no objectionable content were game shows/reality
competitions: Deal or No Deal
(NBC), Are You
Smarter than a 5th Grader (Fox),
Identity (NBC), and
Grease: You’re the One That I Want
(Fox), with 52 instances of objectionable content per
hour, was the worst series of the Family Hour.
815 uses of foul language, or 4.53 per hour.
¾ of all the programs airing in the Family Hour (76.4%) contained
MyNetworkTV had the highest frequency of foul language with 5.58
instances per hour.
program with the highest rate of foul language was
My Name is Earl (NBC)
with 16.33 instances per hour.
677 sexual scenes or spoken sexual references, an average of 3.76
half of all programs (54.8%) contained sexual content.
2000-2001, the amount of sexual content during the Family Hour has
increased by 22.1%.
experienced the largest increase in sexual content since 2000-2001,
from 0.34 to 2.31 instances per hour – a 579% increase.
the most sexual content with 5.97 instances per hour.
The War at Home
(Fox) had the highest frequency of sexual content of
any program with 33 instances per hour.
754 violent acts and images, or 4.19 per hour.
half of all programs (46.2%) contained violent content.
2000-2001, violent content has increased by 52.4%.
experienced the largest increase in violent content, going from 2.16
instances per hour in 2000-2001 to 11.37 per hour in 2006-2007 – a
also the worst network for violence, with 11.37 instances per hour.
(Fox) was the most violent non-animated series, with 28 instances of
violence per hour.
three two-week periods, the networks aired 37.5 hours of reruns
during the Family Hour containing an average of 19.76 instances of
objectionable content per hour – 58% more per hour than in original
Family Hour programming.
contained 80% higher rates of sexual content per hour than did
contained over twice as much violence per hour as original programs.
At the time of our last comprehensive study of early
evening programming in 2001, the PTC joined a bipartisan coalition in
the U.S. Congress to call on the broadcast television industry to
self-regulate in order to preserve at least one hour each night of
family-friendly television. The initial response was somewhat
encouraging, with advertisers and some of the networks announcing
efforts to clean up the Family Hour.
Unfortunately that initial encouragement was short-lived.
In the past six years, the Family Hour has become even more hostile to
children and families. There is no safe haven for children on nightly
We found that the Family Hour has become increasingly
laced with sex and violence. Along with scheduling adult-themed shows
like Bones and
Desire for the Family Hour,
we also found the networks taking graphic and explicit shows that had
originally run in later timeslots, like
Grey’s Anatomy and
C.S.I., and re-airing them
during the Family Hour.
The American public is overwhelmingly concerned. In a
March 2007 Zogby Poll, 79% of respondents agreed that there is too much
sex, violence and coarse language on television. Other surveys have
shown that parents are so fed up that they would welcome more government
regulation to rein-in television content. However, through responsible
self-regulation, the entertainment industry might eliminate the need for further legislative or
The broadcast networks, who are given access to a public
resource, i.e. the broadcast airwaves, need to fulfill their public
interest obligation by bringing back the Family Hour.
Advertisers need to do more to support positive,
family-friendly programming during the early evening, committing their
advertising dollars to clean shows, and exerting economic pressure on
the broadcast networks to provide more Family Friendly programming
during the first hour of prime time.
The industry must provide parents with a meaningful
ratings system, one that is accurate, consistent, and transparent and
will adequately warn parents about potentially offensive content. This
is especially important during the first hour of prime time when you
have the largest number of children in the television viewing audience.
Parents who are concerned about TV’s influence on
impressionable children cannot just passively accept the current state
of broadcast television. They must actively oppose the broadcast
networks’ efforts to obliterate decency standards by pressuring their
local broadcast affiliates to refuse to air programs containing high
levels of inappropriate sex, violence and profanity during the Family
Hour and by pressuring the advertisers to stop underwriting offensive
Family Hour content.