V-chip ratings mislabel increasingly anti-marriage television shows, report says

A study of broadcast network television prime time shows reports that depictions of or references to marital sex are either non-existent or negative, while depictions of or references to non-marital sex and deviant sex acts are shown or alluded to with “alarming frequency.” The study also finds that the V-chip ratings parents use to block unacceptable programs are significantly inaccurate and inconsistently applied.

According to a Parents Television Council (PTC) study called “Happily Never After: How Hollywood Favors Adultery and Promiscuity Over Marital Intimacy on Prime Time Broadcast Television,” verbal references to non-marital sex outnumbered references to sex in the context of marriage by a ratio of nearly 3 to 1. Scenes depicting or implying sexual relations between non-married couples outnumbered such scenes between married couples by nearly 4 to 1, LifeSiteNews reports.

References to adultery outnumbered references to marital sex 2 to 1 while “Family Hour,” the time slot with the largest audience of young viewers, contained the highest ratio of non-marital to marital sex, at a rate of 3.9 to 1.

“These study results suggest that many in Hollywood are actively seeking to undermine marriage by consistently showing it in a negative manner,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “Even more troubling than the marginalization of marriage and glorification of non-marital sex on television is TV's recent obsession with outré (outrageous) sexual expression.”

Winter noted that children and teens are exposed to sexual behavior on television what would have been considered off-limits “less than a generation ago.”

"Behaviors that were once seen as fringe, immoral, or socially destructive have been given the stamp of approval by the television industry. And recent studies show that children are influenced by those messages,” Winter asserted.

“Throughout much of the history of broadcast television, the networks adhered to a voluntary code of conduct which stipulated that respect should be maintained for the sanctity of marriage and the value of the home. Our report finds that not only are the boundaries no longer respected - they have been obliterated."

For the study the PTC examined all scripted prime time entertainment programs on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and the CW during the four weeks beginning the 2007-2008 television season, September 23 through October 22, 2007. The programs had a total runtime of 207.5 hours.

The PTC study reports that some deviant sexual behaviors now depicted or referenced during prime time include incest, partner swapping, threesomes, necrophilia, bestiality, and sex with prostitutes.
Additionally, references to strippers, self-abuse, pornography, sex toys, and fetishistic behaviors are now more common.

Network Breakdown

The study claims that on NBC there were two references to adults having sexual relations with minors, a number equal to the count of NBC prime time scenes implying or depicting sex between spouses.

NBC, in 46 hours of programming, reportedly had only one reference to marital sex but 11 references to non-marital sexual activity and one reference to adultery.

ABC shows had the most references to marital sex, but many of the references were reportedly negative. According to LifeSiteNews, ABC shows’ references to non-marital sex were almost universally positive or neutral.

Content descriptors, which are intended to alert parents to inappropriate content and block it with the V-Chip, are often inadequate, the PTC study says.

On ABC, 38 percent of programs airing during the Family Hour contained sexual content but did not receive the “S” descriptor. During the 9 o’clock hour, 71 percent of programs containing sexual dialogue did not carry a “D” descriptor.

Michael Medved, nationally syndicated talk radio host and PTC Advisory Board Member, said the report suggests what he called the “de-glamorization of marriage” is a growing cause for concern.

“Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of Americans feel satisfied and fulfilled by their marriages. The notion that sex outside of marriage is inherently more exciting, more important, more worthy as the subject of story-telling, is a toxic message for parents and children alike,” he commented.

Winter argued that broadcasters “must exercise greater responsibility when handling sexual situations during primetime hours - opting for less graphic visual content, and favoring storylines that don't celebrate promiscuity, glamorize criminality, or denigrate monogamy.”

He also said Americans should hold networks and network affiliates accountable for “pushing questionable content into their homes.” He added that advertisers should reconsider their financial support for such material.

“While the Supreme Court awaits its next legal review of indecency on television, now is the time for families to raise their collective voice against the tide of graphic sexual content invading their homes,” Winter said.

The full report may be found at the Parents Television Council web site, located at http://www.parentstv.org