PTC Looks at Nonmarital Sex on TV

In a new study, Happily Never After, the Parents Television Council opined that TV programmers prefer adultery and promiscuity over "marital intimacy."

"Across the broadcast networks, verbal references to nonmarital sex outnumbered references to sex in the context of marriage by nearly 3-1," the PTC said in a highlighter paragraph in its executive summary, "and scenes depicting or implying sex between nonmarried partners outnumbered scenes depicting or implying sex between married partners by a ratio of nearly 4-1."

The group also took aim at what it said was a predilection for once-taboo subjects including bondage, threesomes and partner-swapping (the PTC does not like CBS’ Swingtown), pedophilia, necrophilia, depictions of strippers and lots more.

It said the so-called family hour -- 8 p.m.-9 p.m. -- actually had the greatest differential between references to sex outside of marriage and that within it.

And even when sex within marriage is mentioned, the PTC added, it is generally not positive.

"Today’s primetime television programming is not merely indifferent to the institution of marriage and the stabilizing role it plays in our society," the PTC said in the introduction to its report. "It seems to be actively seeking to undermine marriage by consistently painting it in a negative light."

The PTC has long pushed networks to cut back on racy fare. Its complaints to the Federal Communications Commission helped to drive the agency’s crackdown on nudity and language.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.