Study: TV shows too much sex without responsibility
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LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Today's television has plenty of sex but precious little on disease prevention or the possibility of pregnancy, according to a study released Tuesday by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Two out of three network prime time shows show some sort of sexual situation, the report says. The study looked at 1,341 programs -- a week's worth of TV -- and found that only 9 percent presented any consequences to sexual activity.
And that's what worries the researchers. One out of every 10 scenes with sexual content included a teen-ager, the report shows. Mostly, they were talking about sex.
"We're not really setting ourselves up here to be the sex police," said Vicky Rideout, who oversaw the project for Kaiser. "We're focusing on the positive role TV could play in helping to educate young people on ways to protect themselves and be safe."
'A missed opportunity'
Rideout stressed that there's no real direct evidence that watching television translates into risky behavior, but, she said, not including the information is "just a missed opportunity."
It's not a bad idea to include such information on television, said TV critic Joe Flint of Entertainment Weekly. But it may be a bad idea to hold television responsible for the education of America's teen-agers.
"You know, it's primarily the job of the families," he said. "It's not the job of the television industry to educate the youth of America."
More sex on networks than cable
Interestingly, the report showed that racy scenes were less common on cable television than on the networks. While 67 percent of network shows had sexual content, only 56 percent of cable shows did.
Network sitcoms were the most frequent offenders -- only 3 percent contained information related to risks and responsibilities. But nearly a quarter of network dramas did so.
Dr. Dale Kunkel of the University of California at Santa Barbara, conducted the survey for the Kaiser Family Foundation between October 1997 and March 1998. It covers the content of 10 broadcast and cable stations: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, independent Los Angeles station KTLA (a WB affiliate), Lifetime, TNT, USA Network and HBO.
The study defined sexual content as talk about sexuality or sexual activity, sexually suggestive behavior or depiction of sexual activity.
Correspondent Anne McDermott contributed to this report.
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