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Sex on TV: More, Unsafe

There is more sex on TV than there was two years ago, and only one in 10 of
those scenes contains references to safe sex.

Two years ago, 56 percent of shows across all dayparts portrayed some type of
sexual activity, according to 'Sex on TV: Content and Context,' a report
released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Now, 68 percent of shows feature sex, defined by the report as ranging from
flirtation and passionate kissing through intercourse.

The report's findings are based on the review of 1,114 shows during the past
two years on all broadcast networks and cable fare on Home Box Office, Lifetime
Television, Turner Network Television and USA Network.

Foundation supporters noted that programmers could retain the sexual content
and be more proactive. They cited a related study that tracked consumer
knowledge of the nature of a sexually transmitted disease, HPV, before and after
it was the subject of a minor plot line last year on ER. Understanding of
the disease and its effects doubled among those polled after viewers watched the
NBC episode, the researchers said.

The greatest percentage of safe-sex messages was in teen-targeted fare, and
those mentions increased from the 1997-98 TV season. However, they only
increased 1 percent to total 9 percent now, the report said.

TV executives, during a discussion after the report was released, said they
weren't surprised by the results. They added that they have difficulty adding
safe-sex messages, as advertisers withdraw their support of shows that discuss
the danger of sexually transmitted diseases or condom use for disease
prevention.