Taking a stand

Just when we thought we have seen it all, the broadcast networks are telling us they want us to see even more, according to the Parents Television Council. The PTC, a nonprofit organization that educates parents on media influence and TV content, just released a new study concerning the amount of frontal nudity on prime-time — yes, prime-time — television, a piece of the broadcast programming pie that usually draws younger viewers. 

The PTC found an alarming increase (and that’s putting it mildly) in the amount of full nudity airing in the 2011 to 2012 study period compared with the same period in the previous year. How does the 407 percent figure grab you?  

“In 2006, Congress passed the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act in response to growing outrage from the American people over the broadcast networks’ abuse of the publicly owned broadcast airwaves. Yet since that time, we have seen a concerted effort on the part of the networks to constantly push the outer limits of what may be considered appropriate for the broadcast medium,” the PTC stated in a letter to lawmakers. 

In a written statement, the PTC said its analysis also found trends toward “more full-frontal nudity at earlier hours of the evening and a clear failure on the part of the networks to use their content ratings system to warn parents.” This prompted them to send the letter asking representatives at the Federal Communications Commission to make a serious attempt at addressing the 1.6 million indecency complaints. 

“Contrary to what executives from NBC, ABC, and CBS told you in 2004 and 2005, and contrary to what attorneys for the networks recently argued before the Supreme Court, they are not acting in the public interest; they are aggressively pursuing a dangerous agenda to completely obliterate any remaining television taboos.” 

In its research, the PTC focused on Sept. 1 through May 31, comparing depictions of full nudity during the 2010-2011 prime time broadcast TV season to depictions during the 2011-2012 season. Some 70 percent of the full nudity scenes aired before 9 p.m. and as early 7 p.m. 

Recently in an interview on my radio program, PTC Communications Director Melissa Henson said network executives have been doing a pretty good job of throwing themselves a public pity party; trying to gain sympathy for the sleaze factor getting even sleazier by claiming they are under increasing pressure to keep up with the Joneses on cable TV.  

As Henson explained, that excuse doesn’t fly very far, especially since the companies that own the broadcast networks also own a number of the top cable operations. 

Henson also told Fox News in an Aug. 23 online report that as bad as the numbers are, none of us should really be surprised. 

“For years executives at the networks have been telegraphing their intent to follow in the footsteps of the premium cable networks like HBO, Cinemax and Showtime, and as this data shows, they are doing exactly that. They have been aggressively increasing the amount of explicitness of sexual content, nudity, foul language and violence in their prime-time offerings.” 

These latest numbers from the PTC, Henson explained, should remind parents that the days of just plopping your youngster in front of the TV while you’re busy getting dinner ready or doing the laundry are long gone. It also means, given the current trend and given the time and effort it takes to plow through stockpiles of complaints, the television climate could get even worse before it gets better. 

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.