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PTC: Less Religion on TV This Year

The Parents Television Council says that there were only about half as many treatments of religious topics in broadcast primetime TV in 2005-2006 as there was depicted the year before.

But of the ones that were on TV, more (35%) treated religion negatively than positively (34%),  according to the PTC staff of  reviewers.  Reality shows actually had more positive portrayals (60%) than negative, which PTC President Brent Bozell attributed to real people speaking their real minds.

In scripted shows, by contrast, 96% of the treatments were negative, PTC said. Bozell said that was the key finding, demonstrating that "when Hollywood [TV writers] write scripts, they attack that which 84% of Americans support."

That was a reference to the 84% of adults--according to a Zogby poll--who said they were not offended by refernences to God or the Bible.

Positive portrayals included piety, prayer and praising God. One example given was of Danni leading a group prayer on CBS' Survivor: Guatemala. One negative example was a Grey's Anatomy episode in which a young patient needing a new heart feels guilty that someone has to die to supply it. A priest tells him: “God wants you to live. That’s why He sent you the heart. Justin replies: “I’m not stupid, okay? God didn’t send me the heart. There’s no such thing as God.”

Following Fox's with 50 percent negative portrayals (Family Guy was the big offender, with House also cited), there were 40 percent on NBC; 33 percent on UPN, about 33%; 30 percent on ABC and 29 percent on CBS.  The WB had the lowest with 21 percent, but the low negetives were helped by the high positives found in  Seventh Heaven.

CBS had the most pro-religious incidents at 47% (there is also a neutral category, which is why the negative and postive scores don't total 100%); WB followed with 41.3%; then ABC at 37.7%. NBC at 27.8%; Fox at 27.2%; and UPN 19.3%.

According to PTC, there were 1,425 depictions of religion, which averages out to 1.6 hours of television.

Likely contributing to the decrease in religoius portrayals were the absence from regular production of Joan of Arcadia, Doc, and Sue Thomas: FBI, all of which were in the previous survey.

Click here to read the full study.

PTC wasn't the only group with religious TV portrayals on its mind Thursday. The American Family Association has asked its members to e-mail CBS with complaints over the December 11 episode (of Two-and-a-Half Men in which Charlie Sheen modifies a Christmas carol to fit his joy over an upcoming date.