- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 16, 2002

The presence of fathers on prime-time television is becoming far more prominent as programs feature dads more involved in their children's lives than in the past, according to a new study released in time for Father's Day.
Television programs, however, are not promoting traditional families in which children live with both married parents, the study found.
"For too long, Hollywood marginalized the vital role fathers play in rearing their children," said L. Brent Bozell III, founder and president of the Parents Television Council, a grass-roots organization that conducted the study. "On Father's Day, it's heartening to see the networks place a renewed focus on the importance of father figures."
Sixty-four percent of children on all 119 sitcoms and dramas live with their biological fathers, and 83 percent have father figures, but the study found that less than 50 percent live in traditional families.
"This is a glorification of the broken family," Mr. Bozell said. "But as a result, what we're seeing is fathers are getting more involved in their children's lives because of these broken families. So this is both good and bad news."
The study concluded that 8 percent of children on programs live in a joint-custody situation where both parents share time with the children. Of that number, 92 percent of those children live with their mothers, and the rest live with their fathers.
Other media analysts who study entertainment television said the role of fathers on sitcoms has evolved in recent years.
Fathers are more supportive of their children and wives, and are more willing to stick around compared with the old days, when they were more preachy, said Daniel Amundson, research director at the Center for Media & Public Affairs.
"Fathers are definitely becoming multidimensional characters who don't stay at work all the time like they did on the old shows," Mr. Amundson said.
"They're much more likely to show a valiant struggle over adversity, rather than before, when they were ready to throw in the towel and let the mothers handle everything."
Fathers today make "genuine efforts" to reach out to their children, instead of giving "homilies" to try to teach their children how to behave, Mr. Amundson said.
"Dads now have more flashes of real brilliance and a real connection with their kids, more often saying things that have real meaning," he said. "Instead of looking at how the dads will screw things up, the programs have become more about how the dads will get through certain situations."
The council conducted the study during the 2001-2002 television season by reviewing each of the 119 television programs on the seven broadcast networks. The study was the council's first analysis of the presence of father figures on prime-time television.
The results pleased organizations such as the Maryland-based National Fatherhood Initiative, which has also conducted studies on the role of fathers on television.
"This is definitely good news," said Roland Warren, the organization's president. "We're hopeful that this trend will continue."


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