Friday November 12, 2010

Study: Intentionally Scripted TV Profanity Up 69%

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

LOS ANGELES, November 12, 2010 ( – In the wake of warnings that TV profanity would increase following the July 2010 court decision that struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s broadcast standards, a study by the Parents Television Council (PTC) has found that television profanity increased 69 percent in the past five years.

In July, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC’s policy regarding offensive language as being “unconstitutionally vague” and effectively abolished the Commission’s enforcement powers.

In the case, Fox v. FCC, the networks claimed that the law should allow them increased leeway in the use of “fleeting” profanities, such as accidental slips of the tongue during live awards ceremonies and other events.

However, the Parents Television Council found that the 69% increase in scripted profanity on pre-planned, filmed entertainment was “not equivalent to a couple slips of the tongue during live events.”

“The statistics and examples in this study demonstrate that, freed of regulation in the wake of the Second Circuit Court’s castration of the FCC’s powers of enforcement, Hollywood’s ‘creative’ personnel and their TV network distribution outlets have deliberately unleashed literally unparalleled levels of profanity and graphic language upon the public – the most egregious of it in a timeslot in which children are most likely to be in the audience,” the study said.

The study compared the content of the first two weeks of the broadcast networks’ fall prime-time television season of 2010 with that of 2005, and found “a significant increase in both the number of instances of use of profanity, and the harshness of the profanity used.”

The report noted that the “greatest increase in the use of the harshest profanities” took place during the 8 p.m. Eastern Time period – known as the “family hour” – and at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

Other significant results of the study were that use of the bleeped or muted f-word increased from 11 instances total in 2005 to 276 instances in 2010 – an increase of 2,409%, and that the “Fox broadcast network showed the greatest per-hour increase in use of profanity from 2005 to 2010, with an increase in all profanity across all prime-time hours of 269%.”

“The statistics above demonstrate that use of such language by the networks is both deliberate and pervasive,” the report states.

The Parents Television Council report lists several recommendations, including a “vigorously” pursued appeal of the ruling in the lawsuit, that the FCC should “call on the networks to consider the public’s interest before that of their so- called “creative” employees,” and that advertisers “should use their unique influence with the broadcast networks to encourage greater responsibility in programming, especially when children are likely to be in the viewing audience.”

Furthermore, the PTC demands that the broadcast networks “step forward and tell the American people what their broadcast standards actually are.”

“Are Americans to expect a 69% increase in profanity every five years?” the group asks, “Or, if the Supreme Court ultimately should eliminate the FCC’s power to regulate program content, will profanity, depictions of explicit sex, and scenes of graphic violence, increase without limit?”

“What guarantees do the networks offer the American people that, once freed of all governmental oversight and regulation, they will use the airwaves responsibly? The broadcast networks can – and should – freely choose to maintain standards of common decency, rather than seeking every opportunity to push graphic and gratuitous content onto unsuspecting viewers,” the report concludes.

The full text of the Parents Television Council study, titled “Habitat for Profanity: Broadcast TV’s Sharp Increase in Foul Language” is available here.

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