NEW YORK (22 June 2004) – Robert Peters, President of Morality in Media, had this to say in response to today’s Senate vote approving an amendment, sponsored by Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, which increases the maximum fine for a violation of the broadcast indecency law from $27,500 to $275,000.
“Yes, it is an election year; but if sex and vulgarity in broadcasting were as popular as the entertainment media tells us, there is simply no way that 99 U.S. Senators would have gone on record approving a ten-fold increase in the maximum fine for indecency.
“Some broadcasters apparently confuse profitability with acceptability. Take, for example, the Howard Stern Show. Nielsen recently reported that in the New York City metropolitan area, about 7% of the radio audience tuned into Stern’s filthy program. With ratings like that, it is no wonder Stern is a ‘cash cow.’ But Stern’s Nielsen ratings don’t add up to community acceptance. Even assuming that 7% of the (adult?) radio audience listened to Stern, 93% of the radio audience didn’t listen to his radio version of a mean-spirited burlesque show. And many New Yorkers don’t listen to radio in the morning.
“Some broadcasters apparently assume that if people watch TV they must not be offended by any program content. Opinion polls, however, have consistently found that large numbers of adults are offended by (and concerned about) sex and vulgarity on TV.
“In a recent national survey conducted by Nielsen (4/29/04), 78% of American families who had recently been part of the Nielsen ‘People Meter’ panel wanted more shows ‘without profanity or swear words.’
“In a national opinion poll conducted for TV Guide (8/2/03), 57% of TV viewers said they ‘noticed an increase in offensive material on television lately.’
“In a national opinion poll conducted for Common Sense (“New Attempt to Monitor Media Content,” NY Times, 5/21/03), 64% of parents with at lease one child between the ages of 2 and 17 believed media products in general were inappropriate for their families. Only one in five parents ‘fully trusted’ the industry-controlled rating systems.
“In a national survey by Public Agenda (“Parents feel they’re failing to teach values,” USA TODAY, 10/30/02), ‘about 90% [of parents] say TV programs are getting worse every year because of bad language and adult themes in show that air from 8 to 10 p.m.’
“Decades ago, broadcasters had an industry code and self-imposed internal standards that generally reflected community standards. No longer. Despite their protestations, however, the problem is not that broadcasters can no longer discern what the community standards are. The problem is that many broadcasters are no longer concerned about community standards. The question they now ask is not whether program content offends community standards—but rather whether they can get away with airing it anyway.”