While the Parents Television Council’s view is no surprise, the activist group made it forcefully this week in a letter to MPAA chief Chris Dodd calling for meaningful changes in the movie ratings system and its treatment of on-screen violence. The “Check The Box” initiative that Dodd unveiled at last month’s CinemaCon confab changes movie ratings labeling to help people see the specific rationale — for example whether a PG-13 or R-rated film received the designation due to its use of profanity, nudity, smoking, drug use, or violence. PTC says that just gives studios “the appearance of doing something about media violence without actually doing anything at all.” The MPAA can “keep rating violent movies PG-13″ which means studios can “market those violent films to kids … PG-13 films run the gamut from Les Miserables to Drag Me To Hell. And because it applies to everything, in practice, it means nothing.” READ MORE »
The Parents Television Council is lambasting ABC for a torture scene in last week’s episode of Scandal that the group says reveals how broken the content-rating system is. “The brutal nature of that scene, which was rated as appropriate for a 14-year-old child, refutes statements made by an industry claiming to be responsible and concerned about societal violence,” the PTC said in a statement Monday. The January 10 episode of the political drama from creator/executive producer Shonda Rhimes had a content advisory at the beginning of the broadcast. But calling the three-minute scene “intense, explicit and bloodied,” the heads-up wasn’t enough for the advocacy group. “It is sickening just how quickly the entertainment industry was able to move past the tragedy of Newtown and get back to business as usual,” said PTC president Tim Winter. The PTC particularly singles out the timing of the episode, coming on the same day entertainment industry representatives met with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House to discuss curbing gun violence in the wake of the Newtown school shooting. The episode marked a Season 2 ratings high for the Kerry Washington-starring drama.
The Parents Television Council has been quick to pounce on any number of series or personalities it considers unsafe for the public airwaves, but today’s letter to advertisers of NBC’s America’s Got Talent takes the step of condemning a show that hasn’t had a chance to offend anyone yet. In its missive, the PTC for a second time rips the network for bringing on Howard Stern as a judge on the show in the family-friendly 8 PM time slot. Of course, Talent doesn’t premiere until May 14, but no sense in waiting — let’s just assume Stern is going to provide “a sharp increase in explicit content”. From the letter: “There can be, and there must be, a presumption that Mr. Stern will only continue to conduct himself in precisely the same manner as he has done for decades. Unless and until his conduct consistently reflects and respects the time, place and manner of an 8:00 p.m. broadcast television program, we would urge you and your advertising agency to consider alternate network television programming for your media dollars.” The tactic is similar to the one used last year to attack NBC’s The Playboy Club — though it turned out that series didn’t need much help in being shown the door.
The Parents Television Council this morning criticized NBC and NFL over the Super Bowl halftime show incident involving British rapper M.I.A. briefly flashing a middle finger in front of the camera before the network was able to blur the image. The watchdog called for NBC and NFL to punish those responsible for the flap but stopped short of announcing the filing of a formal complaint with the FCC. At least for now. Here is the statement from PTC president Tim Winter:
“NBC fumbled and the NFL lied because a performer known as M.I.A. felt it necessary to flip off millions of families. It is unfortunate that a spectacular sporting event was overshadowed once again by broadcasting the selfish acts of a desperate performer.
The Parents Television Council fired another volley today at one of its favorite targets: adult-themed cartoons that also attract kids. The activist group called for “sweeping reform” of the TV content rating system as a study it released points to what it says are “shocking levels” of sex and drug references in primetime on animation channels that are popular with kids between 12 and 17. “Adult content isn’t just creeping into the cartoons that kids today are watching the most; it has overtaken much of that animated programming,” PTC president Tim Winter says. “Our data demonstrates that today’s norm is profanity-laden storylines involving everything from rape and cocaine to STDs and crystal meth.” PTC is especially upset with programming on Turner’s Cartoon Network and Adult Swim: The report, titled Cartoons Are No Laughing Matter, gave each an “F” grade for their handling of adult-themed animation. Disney Channel and Nick At Nite each received an “A”.
TV watchdog Parents Television Council already targeted NBC’s new drama The Playboy Club during the pilot stage, blasting parent Comcast over nudity clauses in the actors’ contracts. Now, following a Mormon Church-owned Utah NBC affiliate’s decision not to carry the show, the PTC is urging more stations to follow suit and preempt the drama set in the 1960s at the first Playboy Club in Chicago. The PTC mocks the official series description, “a sophisticated series about the transitional times of the early 1960s and the complex lives of a group of working-class women.” “Putting a veneer of sophistication on an industry that exploits women and destroys families is not laudable, it is disgraceful,” PTC president Tim Winter wrote in letters sent out to NBC stations around the country. “In what manner does such the airing of such material reconcile with your public interest obligations as a broadcast licensee?”
Company Pictures, the Brit production company which makes Skins for MTV, is “extremely surprised” by the show’s U.S. furor. Especially as the first three seasons of the raunchier Brit version aired on BBC America virtually without controversy — albeit with nudity pixillated and swearing dipped. The Brit version has just started its 5th season. The UK original has also been freely available on the Internet. Execs has been scratching their heads because the first U.S. episode of Skins was almost a shot-for-shot remake of the UK original – but with the bad language and drugs references toned down from the British version which was far stronger in its depiction of drugs, sex, abortion, and self-harm. The show has never been that controversial here. A psychiatric charity complained about the depiction of a counsellor beating one teenager to death with a baseball bat. But Channel 4 only received 11 complaints. Not the show itself but the promos for the show have caused a little consternation. The UK broadcaster showed a pub brawl in a promo that sparked criticism. And the advertising watchdog Advertising Standards Authority banned a poster promoting the show, showing teenagers taking part in an orgy. The ASA said the image “could cause serious or widespread offence” and shouldn’t be seen by children.
UPDATE, SATURDAY: Today, the Parents Television Council praised another advertiser, Wrigley, for suspending advertisements on MTV’s Skins. Another company, H&R Block, also has asked that its MTV ads don’t run on Skins. PTC is still going after other advertisers for endorsing a program with such “extreme” content. Just this morning, PTC activists began contacting Subway directly.
These are nowhere near as disturbing as the True Blood stars’ recent bloody nude Rolling Stone cover that still haunts me, but TV watchdog group the Parents Television Council is stirring things up this morning with its outrage over the racy photo shoot of the stars from Fox’s Glee in the upcoming issue of GQ, which it called a “near-pornographic display.” “It is disturbing that GQ, which is explicitly written for adult men, is sexualizing the actresses who play high school-aged characters on Glee in this way. It borders on pedophilia,” said PTC President Tim Winter.