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PTC Targets MTV in New Study

The Parents Television Council is planning to release a study Tuesday that blasts MTV: Music Television for peddling “sex, drugs and alcohol” at kids and calls for the a la carte sale of cable networks to allow parents greater control over content entering their homes.

The PTC has been pushing for cable a la carte as part of a broad attack on racy content provided by local TV stations and cable operators. The group repeatedly files indecency complaints at the Federal Communications Commission against local TV stations. Cable is not covered by FCC indecency rules.

The PTC said the MTV study would present an “eye-opening” look at the cable network, released to coincide roughly with the anniversary of Janet Jackson’s breast exposure during the halftime show at last year’s Super Bowl.

“The findings of the study present the most compelling case yet for consumer cable choice,” the PTC said in a prepared statement Monday.

The title of the study is “MTV Smut Peddlers: Targeting Kids with Sex, Drugs and Alcohol.” The group is set to unveil it at a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday at 11 a.m. (EST).

Jeannie Kedas, MTV’s senior vice president of public affairs, said she couldn’t comment because she had not seen the PTC study. MTV produced the Jackson program. The FCC fined Viacom Inc., parent of CBS, which aired last year’s Super Bowl, a record $550,000 for violating indecency rules.

On Sunday night, President Bush fed ammunition to both sides in the indecency debate without mentioning specific shows. Parents, he said, have an obligation to turn off the TV if they find programming objectionable and the government can, at times, hold content providers accountable for edgy programming.

“As a free-speech advocate, I often told parents who were complaining about content, ‘You're the first line of responsibility. They put an off button [on] the TV for a reason. Turn it off.’ I do think, though, that … government can, at times, not censor, but call to account programming that gets over the line. The problem, of course, is the definition of ‘over the line,’” Bush said in an C-SPAN interview.

Last November, the FCC -- after studying a la carte issue at the request of members of Congress -- concluded that the individual purchase of nine networks would about equal the price consumers currently pay for dozens of channels in expanded-basic tiers.

Selling cable channels on an individual basis would likely lead to higher bills because the average cable home watches 17 channels, including local TV stations, the FCC said. Consumers would end up paying much more just to maintain access to their favorite channels, the agency said.

“If the average household purchased each of these channels under an a la carte regime, it would likely face an increase in their monthly bill under a la carte sales of between 14% and 30%,” the FCC said.

The PTC and other consumer groups claim that a la carte is worth a try to give parents more control over television and not have to pay for programming they consider inappropriate for children.

In a prepared statement, the group said the Janet Jackson episode wasn’t that big a surprise to parents because “in that moment, millions of parents finally saw, and understood, what their children are seeing every afternoon on MTV.”