- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

America’s prime-time television broadcasters favor adultery and nonmarital sex over traditional family values, according to a parents group that marshals federal indecency complaints.

Mentions of nonmarital sex outnumbered references to marital sex by nearly 3 to 1, while scenes depicting or implying nonmarital sex overwhelmed those of marital sex by nearly 4 to 1, the Parents Television Council concluded in a survey released Tuesday.

The Los Angeles group pored over nearly 208 hours of scripted, prime-time programming that aired on broadcast networks last fall.

“In the 1950s and ‘60s it used to be that you would never see married couples in bed together. … You may have noticed that when you turn the television on now you still never see married couples in bed together, but for entirely different reasons,” said Tim Winter, PTC president. “You´ll see teenagers in bed with prostitutes, men in bed with their mistresses and teachers in bed with their students.”

The nonprofit group, which has 53 chapters and 1.3 million members, lobbies against violence, sex and profanity on TV over the public airwaves. Indecency - as opposed to obscenity - is not illegal on broadcast TV but can be restricted by the Federal Communications Commission between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Across all of the major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, CW, Fox and NBC — references to adultery outnumbered references to marital sex by 2 to 1, the report found. The ratio of marital sex references to sex between unmarried partners was at its highest, at nearly 4 to 1, during the “family hour” between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

In instances where sex between married couples is discussed or depicted, it is almost always in a negative light, according to the study.

The PTC study, lamenting “stalled” FCC enforcement while the agency appeals a challenge to its policy on fleeting expletives, encouraged broadcasters to be more careful during prime time and called on advertisers to be aware of the content they sponsor.

Not everyone agrees there is a problem, at least one warranting nonparental intervention. TV Watch, a group whose members include networks, conservative groups and free-market organizations, said most parents monitor their children’s media use.

“Over the years, the Parents Television Council has released numerous studies aimed at influencing lawmakers and regulators to believe that parents aren’t competent enough to make television viewing decisions for their own families,” said TV Watch Executive Director Jim Dyke.

But the PTC study also criticized what it described as an inconsistent application of V-Chip descriptors “S” and “D,” intended to warn of sexual situations and suggestive dialogue.

The FCC’s definition of what is indecent, like obscenity, is not exact. In its determination, the commission considers “whether the description or depiction is explicit or graphic, whether the material dwells on or repeats at length descriptions or depictions of sexual or excretory organs, and whether the material appears to pander or is used to titillate or shock.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is revisiting indecency this fall for the first time in 30 years when it considers the agency’s policy on “fleeting expletives” or accidental utterances of curse words.

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