In a new study published by the Parents Television Council, nudity on primetime television is on the rise, with many of the blurred-out or pixilated images appearing on TV-PG rated programming. The amount of nudity that has become acceptable on television, argues PTC, could lead to a slippery slope where boundaries of decency are constantly tested by the networks.
The PTC, "A non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment," study was conducted through the first four months of 2013, from Jan. 1 until April 23. The PTC focused on full nudity that was blurred out or pixilated during primetime programming on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. According to the PTC, “This study focuses on instances of blurred or pixilated nudity on all primetime broadcast TV shows. The study excludes animated shows, partial nudity, obscured nudity, as well as the use of a black box to hide sexual body parts.”
The PTC research discovered the number of instances where nudity was presented on primetime programming during the first four months of 2013 was almost on par with what was shown in the entire 2011-2012 television season. The researchers found 16 incidents of blurred-out nudity in 2013 compared to 22 such incidents in 2011-2012.
PTC President Tim Winter believes the study uncovers a problem with the ratings system and the Federal Trade Communications Commission’s proposal to increase the threshold for indecency complaints, focusing efforts on “egregious” cases. According to Winter, “Our new research shows that it would be almost impossible for them to protect their kids from blurred or pixilated nudity on TV since most broadcast TV networks are rating these shows as acceptable for young children.” Winter believes networks have not raised ratings on programs featuring nudity in order to not lose lucrative advertising dollars on TV-PG rated programming.
The PTC study points out nudity has increased, and Winter believes the rate will continue to increase if there are no efforts to curtail or punish the behavior. Winter claims, “Our findings are also alarming because if this kind of nudity continues to increase – as we believe it will – then it’s certain that the networks will continue to push the limits of decency even further. We have documented in the past that there is a phenomenon called ‘ratings creep,’ what’s not acceptable to show on TV in previous years eventually becomes acceptable. We cannot let that happen.”
Of the 16 incidents, 69 percent occurred on TV-PG rated programming, with ABC and NBC being the worst offenders, according to the PTC study. “Parks and Recreation” on NBC had four reported incidents of nudity while NBC’s “Go On,” ABC’s “Happy Endings,” ABC’s “Suburgatory” and NBC’s “Whitney” had two incidents of nudity. NBC had four programs with blurred-out nudity, ABC had three programs, while CBS, “Survivor,” and Fox, “Cops,” had one program each.
In regards to the FCC’s policy, Winter said, “The FCC needs to enforce the indecency law – period. And if it doesn’t, then Congress needs to ensure that this happens and that children are protected.”