- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

Parents are regularly repulsed by sleazy television entertainment shows and would like the government to do more to restrict the amount of sex and violence during early evening hours, a new survey shows.

More than 60 percent of 1,001 parents questioned say they are “very” concerned about inappropriate content in entertainment programming, especially television, said Vicky Rideout, director of Kaiser Family Foundation’s entertainment media and health research program, which conducted the survey.

Television is the top offender, followed by the Internet, movies, music and video games, said Ms. Rideout, who discussed the survey yesterday with a panel of analysts at the foundation’s Washington office.

Sixty percent of parents don’t like all the sexual content on television, 53 percent don’t like the violence and 49 percent don’t like the adult language.

The solution, according to 63 percent of parents, are “new regulations” to limit the sex and violence in TV shows “in the early evening hours, when children are most likely to be watching,” the survey says.

“The folks in the television industry ought to take note of the fact that parents are now supporting content standards for television,” Ms. Rideout said.

Federal law bars radio and non-cable television stations from airing references to sexual and excretory functions from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) levied fines totaling $550,000 against 20 CBS-affiliated TV stations that aired this year’s Superbowl halftime show, in which singer Janet Jackson had a bosom-revealing “wardrobe malfunction.”

Members of Congress have proposed raising indecency fines. Had those fines been in place, CBS would have had to pay out millions of dollars, said Children Now media analyst Patti Miller.

Although isolated incidents such as the Jackson fiasco galvanize public opinion about programming content, parents are far more concerned about “the sex and violence they believe their kids are exposed to every day in the shows they regularly watch,” Ms. Rideout said.

A majority of parents say they use ratings systems for TV shows, movies, video games and music, the Kaiser survey says. However, only 38 percent of parents — compared with 48 percent in 2001 — say they find the ratings system “very useful.”

Moreover, too many parents still don’t know what all the TV ratings mean, the study says. For instance, 8 percent of parents thought the “FV” rating on a cartoon or children’s show stood for “family viewing,” when it actually is a warning for “fantasy violence.”

More than 95 percent of parents didn’t know that a “D” rating on a prime-time show means suggestive or sexual “dialogue.”

V-chips, which are found in all TVs made since 2000 and allow parents to block undesirable shows, are now used by more parents — 15 percent, up from 7 percent in 2001.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, said at the forum yesterday that he likes the idea of more “product labeling” in entertainment. Food labels spell out how much sugar, sodium and calories a product has, and technology exists to do the same with sex, language and violence in entertainment, he said. As parents, “you should know [what’s in a program,] and you should be able to choose.”

Others, including FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, stressed more parental involvement.

Roughly 65 percent of children age 8 or older have a television in their bedroom, added Jack Valenti, former head of the Motion Picture Association. If parents are casual about what their child watches, “no ratings system will salvage it,” he said.

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