I know you know that lewd lyrics and bad booties are the staple of video music programming on cable, right? I also know that you know that you have to watch what your children watch on television, right? And that TV ratings don’t always tell the truth, right? Or that the V-chip is able to block shows rated TV-14 and above, right?
Why worry so much about the foul mouth of Don Imus or Janet Jackson’s wardrobe “malfunction” during primetime when children 2 to 18 are able to channel surf in the middle of the afternoon for a heavy dose of “offensive and indecent content.”
I’m willing to bet that you have no idea just how often your children are bombarded by trashy television, especially on BET and MTV, or just how much more you need to tighten their television-watching habits.
The Rev. Delman Coates, founder of the Enough is Enough Campaign and pastor of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, knows “the extent to which adult themes are being marketed to children” on at least two cable channels, and he has the documentation from the Parents Television Council (PTC) to prove it.
“Once every 38 seconds,” he said, shows such as BET’s “Rap City” and “106 & Park” and “Sucker Free on MTV” show children “adult content — sexual, violent, profane or obscene.” The figures were collected as recently as March.
“The Rap on Rap: A Content Analysis of BET and MTV’s Daytime Music Video Programming” is a chilling and insightful study about the dreadful daytime offerings on these cable channels that Mr. Coates’ campaign commissioned from PTC and released yesterday at the National Press Club.
The shocking and graphic lyrics noted in the findings from some of these music videos are unprintable here and make even a grown woman blush. The researchers were so surprised by the high volume of such material during a two-week period in December that they conducted the second study in March just to make sure they got it right.
One of the major findings indicates that there were “1,647 instances of offensive/adult content in 27.5 hours of programming analyzed during the December 2007 period, for an average if 59.9 instances an hour or nearly one instance every minute.” The data were worse during the March period.
“To put this in perspective, in the PTC’s most recent analysis of primetime broadcast TV Family Hour programming, the data revealed an average of 12.5 instances of offensive/adult content per hour, or “one instance every 4.8 minutes,” the study concludes.
Indeed, enough is enough, and not just on cable.
Led by Mr. Coates, members of Enough is Enough do more than collect statistics. They lobby corporate sponsors to insist on responsible programming aimed at children and the group holds a protest every weekend outside the home of BET’s chief Debra Lee.
The organization rightfully asks about the impact of such shows on children. MTV received only a slightly better rating.
A BET statement to Mr. Coates maintains that the channel “does not air programming that endorses or condones illegal drugs or gratuitous violence,” and “BET has a list of words that are forbidden on our channel.” Also, they “do not air music videos that contain graphic or excessive sexual activity or violence. We work with the music labels and artists to edit music videos where appropriate.”
Perhaps Ms. Lee needs to read this study — or turn on her television.
Mr. Coates also appeared on a panel at Howard University earlier this month, “Lyrics With a Purpose: the Degradation of a Race Through Music.”
“I believe we have to challenge the corporate infrastructure. We have to fight for one standard in the public square,” he was reported as saying in the Washington Informer.
The PTC and Enough is Enough recommend better parental monitoring, “establishing strict household rules about media use,” and discussing media content with their children. It calls on advertisers to be held accountable for content where their dollars are spent. It calls for cable networks to provide options whereby you can pick and choose, and pay for, only the programs parents want coming in their homes.
Finally, the watchdogs demand that networks design a more accurate, transparent and consistent ratings system that “gives parents the tools to protect their children from inappropriate content.”
That’s not much to ask since clearly these performers and cable channels will not police themselves.
Referring to the firing of Mr. Imus for his crude depiction of black women last spring, Mr. Coates said the black community should be evenhanded in its outrage.
“If it’s not all right for a white man to degrade black women, it should be equally as problematic for black men to do the same,” he said.
This is not to condemn with a broad brush all music videos and the channels that show them. But we need to clean our own house before we complain about people throwing dirt from outside.