Kids’ television shows aren’t what they used to be, an entertainment watchdog group says in a new report that notes a dramatic rise in violence and profanity in programs rated TV-PG.
In TV programs sharing a comparable rating to Disney films, words such as “suck/blow,” “hell/damn” and “bitch” and voyeur-style violence are appearing increasingly, the Parents Television Council says in a study released Tuesday.
The study compared 2017-2018 sweeps episodes rated TV-PG (appropriate for children with parental guidance) with similar programming from a decade earlier. It found that violence and foul language have crept into family programming without any resistance from advertisers or regulators.
“TV is more dangerous for families today than when the system was devised,” said Peggy Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, who spoke Tuesday to reporters about the results.
Parents Television Council President Tim Winter said the “content creep” falls squarely on the shoulders of a failed governmental experiment to allow the television networks to regulate themselves for age-appropriate content via the industry-supported TV Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board.
Mr. Winter pointed to a study in May by the Federal Communications Commission that found numerous flaws with the monitoring board and noted that the rating system has not changed in more than 20 years.
“Indeed, it has not but content has,” Mr. Winter said.
In its report, the watchdog group reserved its strongest criticism for The CW network’s TV-PG sitcom “Jane the Virgin,” noting its frequent references to sex.
An episode that first aired on Feb. 9, 2018, features a character saying: “I let go in bed. I like to submit. To be dominated. That’s why Rafael and I got along so well.”
The report also flagged a Nov. 19, 2017, TV-PG episode of “The Simpsons” on Fox.
“I can’t tolerate having to hear Esteban have sex with my unborn child,” a character says.
“He’s having sex with your unborn child’s mother,” a second character replies.
According to the Parents Television Council, depictions of violence increased 28% between 2007-2008 and 2017-2018, with shows reporting 1.89 to 2.42 instances of violence per TV-PG episode.
But profanity notched the biggest gains, from an average of 3.81 instances of foul language on TV-PG episodes in 2007-2008 to 5.46 instances per episode in 2017-2018 — a 43% increase.
The report noted a Nov. 14, 2017, episode of the now-canceled ABC series “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” that included “penis” and “little bitch” in an exchange between two characters discussing vandalizing a lawn by burning anatomical shapes into it.
The study calls for reforming the monitoring board system “to serve the needs of parents and families.”
“The issue here is not censorship. What we’re trying to avoid is bad surprises,” said Nell Minnow, who blogs as the Movie Mom and agrees with the study’s recommendation to break the industry’s control over its ratings system. “You cannot be the pitcher and the umpire.”
In May, the FCC reported to Congress a litany of inadequacies with the TV Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board, including the absence of a working phone number and lack of transparency about its oversight.
The industry created monitoring board as a response to threats from Congress to create stricter regulatory control over Hollywood.