Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Parents Television Council critical of the way major networks portray marriage and "outside of marriage"

Conservative media sources are making a lot of a recent report from the Parents Television Council, with a survey released Aug. 5. The press release is titled “Happily Never After: New PTC Study Reveals TV Favors Non-Marital Sex.” The link is here. The Washington Times ran a summary story by Kara Rowland on p A11 this morning (Wednesday) summarizing the numerical findings of the study.

A particularly interesting statistic was that ratio of nonmarital sexual references to marital ones was the highest during the “family hour” of 8 PM to 9 PM.

However, the report could be deceiving. Time zones matter, for one thing. More important is the way content is interpreted. Producers of shows may not believe that referring to marriage with that “Song of Solomon” touch may fit into the story line of an episode, and may believe that audiences simply understand that it takes place. For example, the WB show “Seventh Heaven” was certainly very “pro-family” (and in the East it aired between 8 PM and 9 PM on Mondays for a long time) but it never referred much to intimacy in the sense that the study would have demanded.

It seems as if the PTC is “complaining” or even whining that network television does not promote the idea of marriage and family for its own sake enough. I’m not sure that’s true: the recent series “The Baby Borrowers” on NBC, however controversial, certainly, as a whole, promotes the idea of a teenager’s waiting until mature enough to have a career and marry before having children.

The wrap-up of "The Baby Borrowers" mentions the concerns over "The Juno Effect", after the popular movie last Christmas (Juno); the more "irresponsibility" teens see in entertainment, the more likely they are to behave "irresponsibly." Is Hollywood responsible for this when it has to honor Wall Street's bottom line and provide "entertainment"?

Another concept is “indecency” which is not illegal but which the Federal Communications Commission regulated between 6 AM and 10 PM on broadcast television. For example, some jokes on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” after 11:30 PM might not be acceptable at earlier hours, and the same may be true of some late night shows like Leno or Kimmel. A recent FCC fine against CBS for a Super Bowl 2004 half-time show incident (with Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson) was overturned. According to media sources, such as a story by Daisy Whitney “Supreme Court Agrees to Hear ‘Fleeting Expletive’ Case,” in TV Week News, May 17, 2008, link here.

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