In 2004, PTC examined a week of MTV’s “Spring Break” programming. They found 3,056 depictions of sex or various forms of nudity, plus 2,881 verbal sexual references, which broke down to about 18 instances an hour. In comparison, prime-time “adult hour” network programming has fewer than six instances of sexual content an hour, the group said.
In a statement to The Washington Times, MTV said it “has always reflected and been a source for our audience on the issues that affect them most — our job is to air a balance of what is culturally relevant to our audience and produce shows that reflect issues and interests that are important to our viewers.”
For more than a decade, it added, MTV has worked with the Kaiser Family Foundation on a public-information partnership called “It’s Your (Sex) Life,” to “encourage young people to make responsible decisions about their sexual health. Both ‘16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’ are extensions of this campaign.”
In other statements to the press, MTV officials have been unabashedly upbeat about their programming, mixed messages and all.
MTV “is the dynamic, vibrant experiment at the intersection of music, creativity and youth culture,” its “16 and Pregnant” press materials said. “For over 28 years, MTV has evolved, challenged the norm, and detonated boundaries — giving each new generation a creative outlet and voice.”
MTV’s popular reality shows “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom” are “authentic realities” and “that is what’s resonating much more today,” Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks Music and Logo Group, recently told the Associated Press.
According to MTV publicist Melissa Barreto, in-house data suggests that “Teen Mom” has 4.1 million viewers in the coveted youth audience — between the ages of 12 and 34.
Mr. Albert at the National Campaign is well-versed in the sticky subject of whether the nation’s top youth-oriented cable channel is part of the solution or part of the problem in teen sexual health.
There are many things throughout all the entertainment media that parents and advocates don’t like, he said. But the bottom line is that, given the reach and influence of the entertainment media, “we are probably unlikely to make any progress without them.”
“A show like ‘16 and Pregnant’ reaches millions and millions of teens. We just simply can’t do that in sex-education classes,” he said.
So instead of ignoring or criticizing the media, the National Campaign has worked with media leaders, educating them, offering resources and support.
With “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” — both sole creative projects of MTV — “our two worlds have collided,” said Mr. Albert. The National Campaign, which has MTV officials on its boards though it has no role in MTV’s programming decisions, supplies discussion guides with every “16 and Pregnant” episode.
The National Campaign’s recent survey results are music to its ears.
Said Mr. Albert: “Our feeling all along has been that if you can get kids thinking about this issue, and if you can even make that next step — talking to friends and parents — then you are probably on the right road for behavior change.”