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A little less sex, a lot more violence

Jun 25, 2001  •  Post A Comment

For the six broadcast networks overall, sexual content during prime time is down slightly, but violence is way up.
When it comes to “bad” language and violence, UPN is the leader of the broadcast pack, followed by Fox.
But when it comes to language, UPN’s trash-talking wrestlers are thrown out of the ring by the scatologically minded grade-school kids on Comedy Central’s “South Park.” (For more about Eric Cartman’s foul mouth, please see related story on Page 26.)
On the sexual-content scale, it’s the Peacock Network on top. And when it comes to both violent “action” and sex talk, the Fox Broadcasting Co., traditionally a major purveyor of both, has toned it down.
Those are the preliminary results of the Parents Television Council’s still-unreleased 2000-01 survey of broadcast-network prime-time programming in the so-called “Family Hour” (the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. hour on the two coasts; 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Central and Mountain zones).
The PTC is a Los Angeles-based conservative watchdog group that counts Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., as a member of its advisory board. Among other actions, the group has called for an advertiser boycott of “Boston Public” on Fox, claiming its content is too racy for the 8 p.m. time period.
In the “foul language” category-with such so-called “minor” curse words as “hell,” “damn” and “crap” exempted-the PTC found on average 2.71 instances of “major” curse words per hour. That is about 89 percent higher than the PTC’s last study of language in prime time, during May 1999, when the comparable average figure was 1.4 instances per hour. In 1998, the comparable number for language was 0.91 instances per hour; in 1997, it was 0.88; in 1996, it was 0.62.
“Major” curse words for the purposes of the 2000-01 study included “son of a bitch,” “bastard, “asshole” and “bleeped-out `fuck,”’ according to PTC President L. Brent Bozell.
UPN was “far and away” the raunchiest and the most violent network, with an average of just under 5.7 instances of “harsh” language and “obscenities” per hour and 9.2 instances of violence per prime-time hour, according to Mr. Bozell, who attributed the language and violence levels almost entirely to UPN’s popular “WWF “Smackdown!” show. The PTC and Mr. Bozell are currently defendants in a lawsuit brought by World Wrestling Federation Entertainment.
Fox had the second-highest tally in the language category, with 3.8 instances per hour. NBC, at 2.5, was third, followed by The WB at 1.7 and CBS and ABC both at 1.2.
Violence almost doubled, according to the PTC, since its last sweeps survey in 1999, to 3.1 instances per hour from 1.6. Following UPN’s 9.2 in the violence category was The WB, a distant second with 2.7 instances per measured hour. Fox was at 1.7, NBC was at 1.0, and ABC, with 0.5, had the least violence of any of the six broadcast networks, according to the PTC data.
So-called “objectionable” sexual content-which includes both depictions of sexual acts and verbal material-was down slightly overall at 3.4 instances per hour, compared with 3.6 in 1999. In the PTC’s 1997 survey of sexual content, the combined average stood at just 2.0 incidents per hour.
NBC was first in the sexual category with 6.4 incidences per hour. ABC was second with 6.3, and UPN was third with 3.5, followed by The WB with 3.2 and Fox with 3.1. CBS, with just 0.39, had the fewest sexual incidents in the measured period. In the 1999 survey, Fox was the worst, according to the PTC, with 6.8 instances of sexual content per hour, and NBC was second.
One measure of how times have changed since the PTC’s last survey of sexual content in prime time is the new sexual “sub-categories” that are in the latest survey-new because, for the most part, they were absent from prime time in 1999, according to Mr. Bozell.
The new sexual categories and their overall average rates for the six networks are homosexuality, 0.5 instances per hour on average among the networks; oral sex, 0.1; pornography, 0.1; references to genitalia, 0.2; references to group sex, bondage and other so-called “kinky” sexual practices, 0.1; and references to masturbation, 0.04.
The PTC survey measured the first two weeks of programming in each of the past three sweeps periods: Nov. 2-15, 2000; Feb. 1-14, 2001; and April 26-May 9, 2001. Overall, 159 programming hours were examined.