Obama Fires Decency Shot Across TV Bow

Nov 14, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., warned last week that if the TV industry doesn’t take significant steps to make it easier for parents to control what their children view on television, Congress will step in and legislate.

“The amount of questionable content spilling across our screens is growing by the year,” Sen. Obama said during a press conference to release a new study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The study says that the amount of sexual content in TV programming has skyrocketed in recent years.

Bashing the industry with allegations that it panders to the public with an entertainment menu that skews toward salaciousness has long been perceived as a campaign platform mainly for conservative Republicans.

In his speech last week, Sen. Obama made clear that he shares concerns that the media industry is undermining family values-and he slammed “some on the left” for failing to pay adequate heed to the concern.

Indeed, Sen. Obama said that 40 years after former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minow called TV a “vast wasteland,” the nation’s mass media are more “vast and wasteful” than ever.

“And so once again we find ourselves asking those in charge to serve the needs of a nation that has a higher calling than simply peddling indecency and materialism for profit,” Sen. Obama said.

The key finding in the Kaiser study, based on what it called a representative example of broadcast and cable TV network shows, is that 70 percent of programs included some sexual content this year (with an average of 5.0 sex scenes per hour in those programs), while only 56 percent did so in 1998 (with 3.2 sex scenes per hour).

In addition, the study found that among shows with sexual content, 14 percent included a reference to sexual risks or responsibilities this year, up from 9 percent in 1998.

The Kaiser study’s release came on the heels of an announcement that the Senate Commerce Committee is planning a major public forum on decency issues Nov. 29 in Washington, with representatives of the broadcasting and cable TV industry expected to testify.