By Diana Chandler
LOS ANGELES — Protecting children from obscenity on television has never been more difficult than in 2019, the Parents Television Council (PTC) said in listing the top five reforms the entertainment industry needs to make this year.
“Even with the most diligent parental oversight, the industry has exceptional power and leverage to influence our children,” the PTC said. “But while the industry continues to produce and distribute entertainment content, it continues to wave off any responsibility for harmful effects that content can have on children.
“That is the very height of corporate malfeasance and hypocrisy,” the PTC said in its list released at w2.parentstv.org/blog/.
The PTC implores the entertainment industry to:
1. Prevent inaccurate marketing to children by establishing “accurate, consistent and transparent” content ratings systems with public accountability.
“The current ratings systems are none of those things,” the PTC said. “Our own research, along with outside research, shows how these ratings systems allow kids to have access to some of the most violent and sexually explicit media content available.”
2. Stop marketing harmful content to children on streaming services such as Netflix.
Competition among streaming services is pushing such established outlets as Netflix to expand its lineup with little consideration of child safety, PTC warns.
The PTC described as “proven to be harmful to children” the Netflix suicide drama “13 Reasons Why”; the cartoon “Big Mouth” that “grotesquely sexualizes children,” and the film “Desire,” which the PTC said “borders on child pornography.”
Netflix callously markets such programs to children through its on demand streaming platform, the PTC asserts, with no regard for child safety.
3. Offer an “al a carte” Cable TV service instead of company-selected bundle plans.
Allowing families to choose which channels they subscribe to on Cable TV, instead of offering pre-packaged bundles, would allow families another tool in avoiding unsavory content, the PTC said.
“For years the PTC has advocated for the industry to embrace ‘a la carte’ Cable choice, where consumers choose and pay for only the networks they want to watch,” the PTC said. “Studies have also shown that families are seeking an ‘a la carte’ Cable choice solution not just because they are tired of paying for more than they watch, but also to keep harmful content from reaching their children.”
4. Stop opposing parental access to technology that filters television content.
Hollywood has effectively blocked parental access to technology that would allow consumers to filter explicit content from shows viewed on Netflix, Amazon and other bona fide streaming services, the PTC said.
Most recently, Hollywood studios lobbied against an amendment to the Family Movie Act in the last congressional session of 2018 by describing the technology as a tool of copyright piracy, the PTC said. Filtering can benefit the entertainment industry as well as parents, the PTC asserts, because parents would be willing to pay for filtering.
“Hollywood must stop its opposition to such a common-sense solution for families,” the nonpartisan watchdog group said. “If they won’t do it, then Congress must put families first by re-introducing this Family Movie Act amendment and passing it this year.”
5. Expand the #MeToo movement to protect children.
Television entertainment needs to prioritize children by discontinuing “sexually explicit, degrading, misogynistic and demeaning content” that “frequently includes children in the scene,” according to the PTC.
“We believe there is an urgent need for Hollywood to recognize #OurKidsToo,” the PTC said, and “improve how it portrays girls and young women.”
If these five reforms are adopted, as the PTC explains it, parents would not have to worry about accurate ratings, children would not be exposed to age-inappropriate content and issues, and families would not be forced to buy sexually explicit programming alongside family friending shows.