Group surveys parents on TV

September 24, 2004|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Parents want more government control of sex and violence on television - particularly during the early evening hours when children are most likely to be watching.

That is one of the key findings of a national survey of 1,001 parents released yesterday by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. After being read arguments on both sides of the issue, 63 percent said they would be in favor of government regulations limiting the amount of sex and violence in television shows during the early hours (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.). Thirty-five percent said they would be opposed.

"The purpose of our study was to find out what parents think about television, and what we found is that they are clearly concerned about their children being exposed to inappropriate messages," Vicky Rideout, director of the study, told The Sun. "The folks in the television industry ought to take note of the fact that parents are now supporting content standards for television."

The release of the study came one day after the Federal Communications Commission fined CBS a record $550,000 for showing Janet Jackson's bare breast during halftime of the Super Bowl Half-time Show on Feb. 1. A question included in the Kaiser survey about the incident found only 17 percent of parents saying they were "very concerned" about that controversial TV moment.

"What concerns parents most is not isolated incidents, but the sex and violence they believe their kids are exposed to every day in the shows they regularly watch," said Rideout.

According to the survey, 52 percent of parents would also like to see federal regulations on sex and violence applied to cable channels, like HBO and Showtime. The FCC does not have regulatory power over the cable industry, a situation that broadcasters feel gives cable an unfair advantage in creating realistic, adult dramas like The Sopranos. Forty-three percent of parents opposed the government getting involved in cable.

Titled Parents, Media and Public Policy, the study says that only 15 percent of parents have used the V-chip (required in new TV sets since 2000) to block unwanted programs out of their home. That technology is intended to be used with a ratings system introduced in 1997 in response to parental concerns about content.

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