The failings of the nation’s system to rate television shows for content – so that parents know some of what their children will see when they allow certain shows – erupted into the headlines again just days ago when one sentence in one show included the words “a–, b—-, butthead, douche, slut, slut shamer, slut bag and slut basket” as acceptable content.
And that was just one sentence in one show, and didn’t even raise the issue of the nude and violent images that now exist.
All in shows that are rated appropriate for youngsters.
Now a coalition of leaders has written to the Federal Communications Commission, specifically chief Tom Wheeler and each individual commissioner, asking them to “take immediate steps to evaluate whether the existing age-based television content ratings system is serving the needs of parents and families.”
The letter was signed by dozens of leaders who were led by officials at the Parents Television Council.”
“This broad coalition of organizations and individuals is urging the FCC to review the woefully-ineffective TV Content Ratings System, which is failing to protect children from harmful and explicit TV content on both broadcast and cable television. Signatories to this letter span the political spectrum, thereby demonstrating the severity of an issue in urgent need of attention by our public servants in Washington,” said PTC President Tim Winter in a statement announcing the effort.
“The TV Content Ratings System is an FCC-sanctioned regime that was ostensibly created to help parents protect their children from explicit television programming. Instead, parents are being deceived by a system that serves as a Trojan Horse for delivering age-inappropriate content into living rooms around the country on a daily basis. Not only do the TV networks face a financial conflict of interest in rating programs accurately, but the integrity of the system is handed to an ‘oversight body’ that is controlled by the very same TV network executives who rate the programs wrong to begin with.
“As a first step, we are urging the FCC to overhaul this self-serving Oversight Monitoring Board, and as our letter states, ‘to review and revise the statues under which the TVOMB is organized to better ensure consistency, transparency, accuracy and accountability; and to guarantee that the ratings are serving the families for whom they were intended, not merely providing cover for the entertainment industry.’ We are also asking concerned Americans to sign our petition so their voices calling for reform can be heard,” Winter added.
Joining the effort was Nell Minow, the daughter of former FCC chief Newton Minow. She said, “A review and overhaul of this arcane and opaque process is long overdue, and I hope a thorough review will provide an opportunity to use current technology for a more open and responsive ratings system.”
The letter to commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly said the undersigned “represent millions of Americans who are concerned about the media’s impact on children. In particular, we are troubled that the legislative and administrative measures put in place to protect children from harmful and explicit content are failing to achieve their intended purpose.”
Shows are becoming “increasingly toxic,” the letter explains, with “graphic violence, explicit sexual content, and unprecedented levels of foul language becoming ubiquitous across the channel lineup and at all times of the day.”
WND’s earlier report covered those concerns.
And the organization’s chief, Winter, said the study suggests, strongly, something has to be done.
The organization said there essentially are no more family shows that exist.
“The number of prime-time TV-G rated programs decreased from 27 hours in a two-week period in 1997 to 0 hours in a two-week period in 2014. In 2015 and 2016, there were no regularly scheduled prime time series rated TV-G,” the organization found.
Also, at the same time, there was a huge plunge in the prime-time broadcast of shows rated TV-PG.
And many times the ratings were meaningless, as the content of programs rated TV-PG and TV-14 became more and more indistinguishable.
“For most of the 20th century, the entertainment industry acted responsibly in keeping entertainment appropriate for all audiences, in the awareness that television was ‘a guest in the home.’ From 1934, when the Federal Communications Commission first set up statutes regulating the airwaves, to the 1970s, when the Supreme Court reaffirmed them, and up to the present day, it has been the law that the airwaves are public property belonging to all Americans,” the report said.
“Further, private corporations are permitted to use them to make a profit, free of charge, only so long as they do so ‘in the public interest.’ The court confirmed that the broadcast airwaves are ‘uniquely pervasive,’ and that the government and the American people have a ‘compelling national interest’ in keeping graphic violence, explicit sex, and other harmful content off the public airwaves in a ‘time, place and manner’ when children are likely to be in the audience.”
In a statement about the campaign, Winter said programs now frequently include “a sexual intercourse scene” with graphic details.
And the violence is bloody.
“In recent months, we’ve seen a woman commit suicide by shoving an ice pick into her eye; a man pull a razor blade across a woman’s throat as she choked to death on her own blood; and a man stab a woman to death as she was performing oral sex on him in the front seat of his car,” he said.
“Yes these shows – and every other program on broadcast TV – [are] rated as appropriate for children.”
The list of words cited above appeared in one sentence for the ABC program “The Real O’Neals.”
“The show was rated PG, which is the same rating Disney uses for ‘Cinderella,’ ‘Inside Out’ and ‘The Good Dinosaur,'” Winter said.
Signing onto the new letter were officials with Parents Television Council; American Family Association; American Family Association of Pennsylvania; American Decency Association; Awake America Ministries; BarbWire.com; The Brushfires Foundation; Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D., The Ohio State University; Citizens for Community Values; Citizens for Community Values of Indiana; Delman Coates, Ph.D., Mt. Ennon Baptist Church; Concerned Women for America; Enough is Enough; Family Research Council; Hawaii Christian Coalition; Industry Ears; Institute for Healthy Families; Institute for Youth Development; Jewish Institute for Global Awareness; Media Research Center; Meridian Magazine; Mission America; Morality in Media; Nell Minow, Movie MomTM; National Center on Sexual Exploitation; One Million Moms; Rap Rehab; Southern Evangelical Seminary.
The new letter to the FCC said the “V-Chip, the television content ratings system, and the Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board” actually have done more to protect “the television industry from public or regulatory scrutiny.”
Seven years ago, Congress adopted and President Bush signed into law the Child Safe Viewing Act that was to have the FCC decide whether children were being protected.
“Rather than undertaking a thorough evaluation of the issue, the FCC responded by publishing a report that was little more than a summary of public comments it had received on the issue; and it included a promise – thus far a hollow promise – to do more,” the letter said.
The essential problem rests with the fact that the ratings system gives the power to assign program content ratings to the same networks where the content originates, the letter said.
So “it is to a network’s advantage to mis-rate its programming for a younger audience so as to gain a larger viewing audience; and a majority of corporate advertisers choose not to advertise on television programming that is rated for Mature Audiences Only. Unlike motion pictures and video games, there is no independent evaluation of the age-based rating system for television.”