Image Credit: Rtimages/Tetra Images/CorbisThe Parents Television Council has issued an awesomely titled report, “A Habitat for Profanity,” on the amount of foul language hitting the airwaves on the broadcast networks in primetime. Comparing the first two full weeks of fall TV programming in 2010 with the first two full weeks of the 2005-2006 season, PTC says its found a 69.3 percent increase. (Pause while you appreciate the humor in that number not being 68 percent or 70 percent.) The PTC blames the increase on the broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and The CW) failing to regulate themselves properly in light of the courts striking down the FCC’s attempt to limit the broadcast of “fleeting expletives” to the late-night “safe harbor” hours. Here’s the full report, which breaks down the percentage change on various words — there’s a 2,409 percent increase in the use of a bleeped or muted “f—,” from 11 instances to 276 — as well as by network. (Fox posted the greatest increase in the general use of profanity — up 269 percent.) The PTC is particularly upset because the greatest increase in the use of the “harshest profanities” across the board was found in the 8 p.m. “Family Hour” and 9 p.m. hour, as opposed to the later 10 p.m. hour. Across all networks, “f—” was used 111 times in the 8 p.m. hour (up from 10) and 156 times at 9 p.m. (up from only 1).
Now, there is a part of me that reads this report and chuckles that the use of the words “balls” and “boobs” are up (2oo percent and 90 percent, respectively), while “damn” and “bastard” are down and “douche” remained steady. Also funny: The report includes Chuck Lorre’s full Two and a Half Men vanity card presumably addressed to PTC president Tim Winter. But those are some interesting numbers. I wish the PTC would have broken it down show-by-show, so we’d know if it’s the same shows getting progressively more risqué or if the networks are leaning toward shows that lend themselves to that kind of dialogue. I’ll admit that I’m still surprised when I hear the word “ass” spoken on broadcast TV, but that’s not because I’m offended. I never use the word “butt” for “ass” unless I’m around my 23-month-old niece. (And then, technically, I use the word “booty,” which she prefers.) But that’s the PTC’s point, isn’t it? Parents can say they’ll block certain shows, but without knowing the guidelines each broadcast network is using, they could be missing something. The PTC wants the networks to disclose their standards to viewers.
What do you think? The urge of many will be to question why anyone’s so hung up on suggestive (and bleeped or muted) language when there’s gratuitous violence on TV that we could be worried about. Let’s not debate that here. Let’s just focus on the issue of language. Does it offend you personally? Have you noticed an increase on the shows you watch, or does it not even register because it’s how you speak? If it doesn’t offend you, can you see the PTC’s point?