- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

The family television hour has become even less family-friendly, a watchdog group said yesterday in its fifth review of prime-time TV content.

Overall, there were 8.41 instances of objectionable material per hour during this season's 8 to 9 p.m. "family hour," said L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Parents Television Council.

This is twice as high as in 1998 and reflects huge increases in vulgar language and violence, he said.

Of the six networks reviewed, United Paramount Network (UPN) had the worst track record, with 18.1 offensive incidents per hour. CBS had the least amount of objectionable content at 3.2 incidents per hour.

Mr. Bozell said the nonpolitical Parents Television Council plans to begin a campaign to win national and industry support to set aside one hour a night for family-friendly programming.

"We are not seeking censorship; we're seeking good citizenship" from the entertainment industry, said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, who signed a letter to the heads of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, UPN and WB to "bring back the family hour."

"Surely an hourlong respite from a steady stream of violence and vulgarity is not too much to ask," said Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, who is seeking to ease antitrust rules so the entertainment industry can re-establish its own code of conduct.

UPN issued a statement yesterday saying, "We strongly believe in the viewers' rights to make an informed choice about what they watch, which is why we voluntarily and clearly label every UPN program with a content rating."

There has not been a formal family hour for more than 30 years, said Gil Schwartz, executive vice president for communications at CBS.

"But we're aware of the audience composition at 8 p.m., and we do our best to program with that consideration in mind," he said, adding, "Obviously, we are pleased that the council finds us to be the best performers in this regard."

The Parents Television Council said that sexual material during the 2000-2001 season stood at 3.08 incidents per hour, a 17 percent decline from the 1999-2000 season.

However, even though there was less sexual content, there were more references to sexual activities that once were taboo during the family hour — references to homosexuality, oral sex, pornography, masturbation, genitalia and practices such as group sex, the Parents Television Council said. NBC led the networks in sexual content, with 5.73 incidents an hour.

There were 2.57 incidents of foul language per hour, up 78 percent from the previous year, when there were 1.44 incidents per hour. UPN led in this category, with 5.59 incidents per hour.

Violence also escalated, from 1.62 incidents per hour in the 1999-2000 season to 2.75 incidents in 2000-2001. Again, UPN was the leader, with 8.97 incidents. Fifteen percent of all violent incidents involved a gun, the Parents Television Council said.

Shows singled out for offensive material included WB's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," UPN's "WWF Smackdown!" and Fox's "Boston Public."

Last week, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation released a survey on the V-chip, which has been installed in new TV sets since 2000. Fifty-three percent of parents with a new TV didn't realize they had a V-chip, the survey said. Of parents who knew they had a V-chip, 36 percent were using it to block certain shows.

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