STUDY FINDS TV SEX CONTENT ON THE RISE

Sen. Barack Obama Criticizes Media Companies for 'Coarsening' the Culture

By Published on .

WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Kaiser Family Foundation today unveiled a report saying one of every 10 TV shows features or implies sexual intercourse and the number of sexual scenes on TV has soared since 1998.
Photo: AP
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama charged that the study indicates broadcasters are failing to meet their responsibilities.
Related Stories:
July 20, 2005
PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM MEDIA SEX AND VIOLENCE
New Industry Group Advertising Campaign Emphasizes Parental Responsibility
April 27, 2005
CABLE INDUSTRY MANEUVERS AGAINST DECENCY STANDARDS
Declines Content Changes; Promotes Parental Controls
April 19, 2005
MOST VIEWERS FAVOR TV DECENCY RULE ENFORCEMENT
Support Expanded Government Pressure; 60% Favor Broadcast Standards for Cable
April 15, 2005
BUSH FAVORS DECENCY STANDARDS FOR CABLE, SATELLITE
Presidential Comments to Editors' Conference Ratchets Up Issue
April 7, 2005
CONSUMERS CONCERNED ABOUT TV INDECENCY
New FCC Chief Tells Cable Industry Conference of Increasing Complaints
March 2, 2005
CONGRESS PROPOSES DECENCY RULES FOR CABLE, SATELLITE
Senate and House Committee Heads Endorse Measure
Nov. 24, 2004
VIACOM TO PAY $3.5 MILLION FCC INDECENCY PENALTY
Settlement Covers Radio Shows but Not Super Bowl
Nov. 3, 2004
MORALITY VOTE NUMBERS WORRY ADVERTISING EXECS
Some Fret About New Conservatism in Public Taste
Feb. 2, 2004
FCC TO PROBE SUPER BOWL HALFTIME BREAST INCIDENT
NFL Announces MTV Unlikely to Produce Shows Again
Jan. 26, 2004
THE PORNO-IZATION OF AMERICAN MEDIA AND MARKETING
How Hard-Core Sex Stars are Penetrating Mainstream Culture

Sharp rise
In its fourth biennial study of TV, the foundation reported that both the number of shows with sexual content and the number of sexual scenes has risen sharply. Some 70% of shows now have some sexual content, compared to 56% in 1998, and there are 5 sexual scenes per hour compared to 3.2 in 1998. The study excludes news, sports and children’s shows.

In 2002 Kaiser reported 64% of shows had sexual content, with 4.4 scenes reported in 2002. Kaiser, which bases its numbers on a sampling of 1,100 shows, defines sexual scenes broadly, from talking about sex and flirting to kissing and actual intercourse seen or implied, but breaks down the data by kind of content.

Still, by one measure the trend from the last survey was heading downward; the study reported 11% of shows in 2005 had sexual intercourse shown or implied as compared with 14% in 2002.

Senator warns media companies
Speaking at the Kaiser event, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama called growing sex and violence on TV a symptom of media companies “coarsening” the culture and warned that Congress would act if the companies didn’t step in. Mr. Obama charged that the study indicates broadcasters are failing to meet their responsibilities.

“We need to make it clear that the free use of the public airwaves continues to come with certain obligations ... to reflect not the basest elements of American culture but the profound and the proud,” he said.

Mr. Obama said broadcasters need to act or Congress will. “The concern shared by so many parents today is that raising your children has become increasingly difficult in a mass-media culture that saturates our airwaves with a steady stream of sex, violence and materialism,” he said.

Childrens' values
While making clear the issue isn’t adult content but specific content, he said TV is teaching children the wrong values. “We don’t teach our children that healthy relationships involve drunken, naked parties in a hot tub with strangers -- but that’s what they see on ‘The Real World.’ We don’t teach them to express their anger by seeing how much blood they can draw with a round of ammo, but that’s what they learn in the most popular video games. And we don’t teach our kids that the height of success is inheriting a family fortune to buy Gucci bags without ever working a day in your life, but that’s how Paris Hilton gets by on ‘The Simple Life.’”

“You can say that kids know this isn’t real,” Mr. Obama, said, “but when they’re fed a steady diet of these depictions over and over again from the time they’re very young, this behavior becomes acceptable -- even normal.”

In this article:
Most Popular