According to Tim Winter, PTC president, in the 2010-2011 time period there was only one incident of full-frontal nudity in a prime time show. A year later, that number jumped to 64. Equally concerning is the fact that only five of these incidents contained an "S" rating to alert parents to the explicit content of the show.
Some examples include a show that aired on ABC's Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23 in which a nude female character sits on a counter with her privates pixilated. On Suburgatory, two male characters argue in a steam room and one of them opens his robe to reveal pixilated genitals. NBC’s The Office contained a scene in which Robert jumps naked into the pool during a party with his genitals blurred and a character appearing on America’s Got Talent appears at the door of his trailer totally naked, with his genitals blurred.
Pixilating or blurring body parts doesn't give a network a free pass, says Melissa Henson, director of communications for the PTC. “The impact is virtually the same as actually showing it. Just as ‘bleeping’ an ‘f-word’ or ‘s-word’ is virtually the same as airing the actual word, it just calls attention to the thing that has been edited out.”
She believes broadcast network executives are intent on following in the footsteps of premium cable networks like HBO, Cinemax and Showtime in pushing the envelope as far as what is seen on television during prime family viewing time.
“They have been aggressively increasing the amount and explicitness of sexual content, nudity, foul language and violence in their primetime offerings, while excusing it by saying that’s what they have to do to ‘stay competitive’ with premium channels that garner only 1/10th the audience, even on their highest-rated programs," she told Fox411's Pop Tarts. "Nevertheless, it’s shocking to see a more than 400 percent increase in just two years.”
The situation is so serious, Winters sent a letter to congressional members asking them to urge the Federal Communications Commission to move forward in clearing a backlog of 1.6 million unaddressed indecency complaints.
"In 2006, Congress passed the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act in response to growing outrage from the American people over the broadcast networks’ abuse of the publicly-owned broadcast airwaves," Winters writes in his letter. "Yet since that time, we have seen a concerted effort on the part of the networks to constantly push the outer limit of what may be considered appropriate for the broadcast medium.
"Contrary to what executives from NBC, ABC, and CBS told you in 2004 and 2005, and contrary to what attorneys for the networks recently argued before the Supreme Court, they are not acting in the public interest; they are aggressively pursuing a dangerous agenda to completely obliterate any remaining television taboos."
The networks have made it abundantly clear they have no intention of respecting either the broadcast licenses they’ve been granted or the public in whose interest they are licensed to serve, Winters says.
"Therefore the American people, whose values are being assaulted on a nightly basis, must insist that the Federal Communications Commission vigorously enforce broadcast decency laws, as mandated by the Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court."
He is calling upon Congressmen and women to give the FCC their full support for decency enforcement, asking them to "urge the FCC to move forward with all due haste in clearing the backlog of 1.6 million unadjudicated indecency complaints; and to give the FCC the tools it needs to ensure enforcement actions are meaningful and appropriate… Because Our Children Are Watching."
Without pressure from the public, Winters believes the networks will continue to push - or blur - the boundaries.
Click here to read the PTC report.
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