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Broadcast TV Family Hour Filthier Than Ever; FOX Is Worst, Study Shows

September 5th, 2007 12:35pm EDT
American DadA new Parents Television Council study of Family Hour programming conclusively shows that children watching television during the first hour of prime time are assaulted by violence, profanity or sexual content once every 3.5 minutes of non-commercial airtime.

During the 2006-2007 study period, almost 90% of the 208 television shows reviewed contained objectionable content.

The PTC found that Fox is the worst broadcast network overall, noting its 20.78 instances of violent, profane and sexual content each hour -- nearly double the amount of similar content shown on any of the five other major broadcast networks.

Fox’s American Dad took the cake for worst series overall based on the alarming 52 instances of objectionable content that was packed into each hour of programming. By contrast, the CW Network featured the cleanest programming overall; and reality and game shows "Deal or No Deal" (NBC), "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?" (Fox), "Identity" (NBC), and "Grease: You’re the One That I Want" (ABC) were named the best overall due to the lack of foul language, violence and sexual content.

According to PTC President Tim Winter, "Our study clearly demonstrates that corporate interests have hijacked the Family Hour from families. This early prime time block was once reserved for programs the whole family could enjoy but it is now flooded with shows that contain adult programming. The Family Hour was once lauded by the entertainment industry and members of Congress as a solution for parents who do not want their children to be exposed to graphic content for at least one hour each night. Shockingly, this data shows that parents cannot trust what is on during the so-called Family Hour for even a minute."

During the Family Hour, viewers have been exposed to visual depictions and verbal references to sexual content including partial nudity and pixilated nudity, adultery, oral sex, masturbation, pornography, anal sex, incest, violence, and a plethora of curse words. Worst shows based on frequency of inappropriate content include My Name is Earl on NBC that contains more than 16 instances of foul language every single hour, The War at Home on Fox with 33 sexual depictions or references an hour and Fox’s 24 that features a whopping 28 occurrences of violence each hour.

By comparing this new 2006-2007 study period to a former PTC Family Hour report covering the 2001-2002 television season, the PTC found that incidences of sexual and violent content have increased by 22.1% and 52.4%, respectively. In spite of an overall decrease in foul language including words like "damn" and "crap" since 2001, broadcasters have greatly increased the prevalence of harsh language obscured by bleeps or partial editing such as "f-words" and "s-words."

"Also troubling is the adult themed programming that the networks chose to re-air during the Family Hour, for it contained 58% more objectionable content per hour than original programming. These scheduling choices exposed young viewers to content originally intended for mature audiences, an issue that could be avoided if networks would keep their most objectionable programming in later timeslots where it belongs," Winter continued.

"The Family Hour needs to be restored. We are calling on the broadcast industry to return to the time-honored principle of airing mature-themed content only at later times of the evening; and to provide parents with a consistent, objective and meaningful content ratings system. We are calling on the advertising industry to underwrite only time-appropriate content with their media dollars. And we are calling on parents across the country -- and their public servants -- to speak out in defense of the Family Hour," Winter concluded.

The PTC family hour study examined original entertainment programs that aired on the six major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW, and MyNetworkTV) for instances of foul language, violence, and sexual content during the Family Hour during three separate two-week "sweeps" periods throughout the 2006-2007 television season: November 2-15, 2006; February 1-14, 2007; and April 26-May 9, 2007.Tallied separately were 37.5 hours of reruns airing during the Family Hour. The Family Hour time slot includes programs with a start time between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Sundays, in the Eastern Time zone.

MAJOR FINDINGS:

* In 180 hours of original programming, there were 2,246 instances of objectionable violent, profane and sexual content, or 12.48 instances per television hour. Since the average hour of primetime broadcast television contains about 43 minutes of non-commercial programming, this indicates that content inappropriate for children occurs about once for every 3.5 minutes of non-commercial airtime.

* Scripted television was by far the most offensive overall with 16.68 incidents of overall foul content per hour, compared to 0.31 per hour for game shows and 5.82 per hour for unscripted programs.

Foul Language

* Foul language was found in 76.4% of episodes that aired during the study period. Whether scripted or uttered on a reality program, foul language is found on almost every series airing during the Family Hour.

* Worst network for foul language: MyNetworkTV; worst series for foul language: My Name is Earl (NBC).

Sexual Content

* Throughout the study period, 677 sexual scenes or spoken sexual references were recorded, or 3.76 per hour.

* Since PTC’s 2000-2001 Family Hour study, the incidences of sexual content have increased by 22.1%.

* Sexual content on CBS increased from 0.34 per hour to 2.31 per hour, a 579% increase.

* Worst network for sex: ABC; worst series for sex: "The War At Home" (Fox).

Violence

* PTC recorded 754 violent acts and images during the study period, or 4.19 per hour.

* Since 2000-2001, violent content has increased by 52.4%.

* Violent content on Fox increased from 2.16 per hour to 11.37 per hour, a 426% increase.

* Worst network for live-action violence: Fox; worst series for live-action violence: 24 (Fox).