- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

Television is testing the patience of American viewers.

A Gallup poll released yesterday found that the nation is offended in no uncertain terms by violence, profanity, sexual content and homosexuality on television.

Overall, the survey found that 61 percent of us are offended by violent television while 58 percent take issue with swearing on the screen; 58 percent also are dismayed by blatant sexual content.

Fifty-two percent said they found homosexuality on television offensive.

The survey of 1,008 adults was conducted Feb. 6-8, in the wake of the notorious Super Bowl halftime show on CBS, which brought indecency on television into critical focus among lawmakers and the public alike.

Yesterday, a House panel approved legislation that increases by tenfold the fines the Federal Communications Commission can impose on radio and TV broadcasters who air indecent material — from $27,500 to $275,000 per violation. The maximum penalty would be $3 million.

However, the legislation will not affect programming on MTV and other cable channels, which do not fall under FCC guidelines.

Some viewers took offense at other issues this week.

The San Francisco-based Native American Cultural Center faulted CBS’ Grammy Awards broadcast Sunday night for including a musical number that featured dancers in scanty Indian-themed costumes, a smoking tepee and a college marching band done up in war paint.

“I was stupefied. I had never seen such blatant racist material on live television,” said the group’s president, Andrew Brother Elk, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Meanwhile, the Gallup survey found that 53 percent of the respondents did not even see the now-infamous Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction,” in which Justin Timberlake pulled down part of her costume, exposing her breast; among those who did, 45 percent found it offensive. Overall, 33 percent thought that CBS, which broadcast the game, should be fined for its role.

Three-quarters of the respondents think the entertainment industry needs to make a “serious effort to significantly reduce sex and violence in movies, TV shows and music.”

Gallup also found that the younger the audience, the more tolerance they had for questionable antics.

“Age strongly predicts whether a person finds such content offensive,” Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones said.

Among those ages 18 to 29, 42 percent were offended by violence, 35 percent by sexual content, 33 percent by profanity and 25 percent by homosexuality.

In contrast, among those older than 65, 79 percent took issue with violence, 80 percent were offended by sex, 80 percent by profanity and 72 percent by homosexuality.

Some citizens are taking the situation into their own hands, however.

Utah-based writer and media analyst Steven DeVore has established a Web site (www.cleantv.com) to help viewers complain to TV, networks and advertisers about offensive TV content through automatic e-mails.

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