Cause for Concern (Broadcast Decency)
Historically, broadcast indecency laws have rarely been enforced against TV programs or radio stations.
Research confirms rising levels of graphic sexuality, profanity and violence on television.
Historically, broadcast indecency laws have rarely been enforced against TV programs or radio stations. Lax enforcement by the FCC has left American homes vulnerable to inappropriate and harmful sexual material. Although the FCC attempted to rein in indecent TV programs, the major broadcast networks sued in federal court. These cases are still tied up in court, but will determine the future of broadcast decency laws when they are decided.
Rising Levels of Sexualized Content
The need to limit graphic sexuality has never been greater. In 2005, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that sexual content on TV had risen considerably since the Foundation's first report in 1998. After reviewing more than 1,100 daily TV shows, Kaiser found that:
- Seventy percent of all shows have sexual content, up from 56 percent in the first study in 1998 and 64 percent in 2002.
- The number of sexual scenes per hour in prime-time and top teen shows is even higher, at 5.9 and 6.7, respectively.
- Among the top 20 most-watched shows by teens, 70 percent include some kind of sexual content, and nearly half (45 percent) include sexual behavior.
- Only one percent of all shows with sex have a primary thematic emphasis on sexual risks or responsibilities throughout the episode. 1
The Harm of Sexualized Media
Exposure to sexualized media is taking its toll on youth. Although dozens of studies have shown that sexualized media can influence children's attitudes about sex (even into adulthood), a groundbreaking 2004 RAND Corporation study found that exposure to sexual content also significantly influences teen behavior.
According to the study, "Adolescents who watch large amounts of television containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the following year as their peers who watch little such TV."
"This is the strongest evidence yet that the sexual content of television programs encourages adolescents to initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual activities," said Rebecca Collins, a RAND psychologist who headed the study. "The impact of television viewing is so large that even a moderate shift in the sexual content of adolescent TV watching could have a substantial effect on their sexual behavior."
The RAND study also found that discussions of sex were just as likely as depictions of sexual activity to influence teen behavior. "Both affect adolescents' perceptions of what is normal sexual behavior and propels their own sexual behavior," Collins said.
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