Is There an Epidemic of Nudity on Prime-Time TV?

A study by the Parents Television Council says that blurred or pixilated nudity is increasingly being shown on prime-time TV

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Peter "Hopper" Stone / ABC

Even as the audience for broadcast network television is on an irreversible decline, the incidence of nudity in prime time is on the rise. If departing viewers knew about the latest findings of the Parents Television Council (PTC) — which released a study last week predicting that nudity on the networks will increase 61%, even in shows rated as kid-friendly — they’d surely return in droves.

Not that the conservative-leaning PTC thinks nudity (at any time on TV schedule) is a good thing. “Most parents instinctively know that they need to monitor what their kids watch on television,” said PTC President Tim Winter in a statement, “but our new research shows that it would be almost impossible for them to protect their kids from blurred or pixilated nudity on TV since most broadcast TV networks are rating these shows as acceptable for young children.”

Yes, that’s right, the PTC considers blurred or pixilated nudity just as harmful to kids as the unobscured kind. And it’s pixilated nudity that the PTC study says is on the rise. Alas, the PTC monitors have not documented any cases of actual nudity on the networks this year.

A closer look at the PTC’s findings shows that its eagle-eyed viewers spotted 16 instances of blurred nudity in the first four months of 2013. That’s about one instance per week, or a few seconds of naughty pixels for every 91 hours of prime-time programming. The offending shows were all comedies (including Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Suburgatory, and the now canceled Go On, Happy Endings and Whitney) or reality shows (Cops and Survivor). In other words, all the obscured nudity was a way to score some cheap laughs at some unfortunate person’s expense, not to provoke or titillate.

Indeed, some of these moments may not even have involved nudity at all, since some shows use pixilation to create the illusion of nudity even when performers are clothed. (In 2011, the PTC filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission over X Factor contestant Geo Godley’s pantsless performance, but he was actually wearing a thong behind the graphic obscuring his crotch.)

Still, the PTC isn’t about to give dirty old broad Betty White or any of the other pixilated offenders a pass. After all, some 70% of these shows are rated TV-PG, and 88% of them aired at 9 p.m. or earlier. Which means the networks have decided that fake nudity is pretty much O.K. for kids.

But the PTC isn’t about to let even one pixilated bit of nekkidness in the door. The reasoning: today, it’s faux flashing; tomorrow, it’s the real thing. As Winter noted in his statement, “If this kind of nudity continues to increase — as we believe it will — and the FCC’s proposal to essentially stop enforcing the broadcast indecency law goes into effect, then it’s certain that the networks will continue to push the limits of decency even further.”

That’s what’s really at issue here: the FCC’s current proposal to relax its enforcement of television indecency regulations. Since September, the FCC has pursued only the most blatant incidents cited in complaints filed by the PTC and its ilk while letting more than a million complaints slide because they were too old, outside of the FCC’s jurisdiction, lacking sufficient information, or covered under settled precedents. In April, the FCC solicited comment from citizens on whether it should continue to ignore fleeting expletives and instances of nudity or pursue those complaints as vigorously as those shows marked by deliberate and repeated use of offensive words and images. The public has until June 19 to submit comments on the possible policy change; nearly 100,000 have done so already.

Even if the FCC stopped prosecuting all but what it calls “egregious cases” of indecency, it doesn’t mean prime-time network TV is suddenly going the way of Game of Thrones or Girls. After all, there are forces stronger than the PTC, the FCC and the networks’ own censors. Namely: the sponsors. If advertisers feel a show is too offensive or controversial to provide a friendly environment for their commercials, they’ll stop footing the bills to produce and air that show. And if risqué content doesn’t draw enough pairs of eyeballs to a series to make its commercial time valuable, the networks won’t keep it on the air. Just ask the makers of the three out of the PTC’s nine offending shows that won’t be back to display any pixilated nudity next season.

Even with pixilation, the networks and their sponsors are arguably more skittish about nudity now than they were 20 years ago. So said Steven Bochco, who pushed the envelope for flesh exposure on prime-time network TV two decades ago with NYPD Blue. In hindsight, that show appears more of a special case than the beginning of a slippery slope. “I thought that would be a big game changer for adult content in prime-time TV, and it wasn’t,” Bochco said of NYPD Blue at a Writers Guild of America panel in Beverly Hills last Sunday. “I don’t know if I could get that on a broadcast network today.”

64 comments
BrianSmith2
BrianSmith2

So, in other words Gary Susman of Time magazine wants to flash young girls at his local elementary school. He likes little kids seeing nudity. He's the classic pervert in the trenchcoat flasher.

evil.aaronm
evil.aaronm

Ours wear different clothing, but America has its own version of the Taliban.  Yay for us.

calling_all_toasters
calling_all_toasters

Really, Susman?  You're issuing press releases for right-wing crackpot Brent Bozell now?    Please tell us how it helps the poor old American family when Bozell says Pres. Obama looks like "a skinny ghetto crackhead."  Because THAT is his idea of decency.

darkfrogstudios
darkfrogstudios

Oh, the horror! Ever watched European TV? Or South American? Our prudish notions about sexuality and the human body result in exactly this kind of obscuring, played for laughs or fetishism. And yet, no-one bemoans the countless tasteless verbal cruelties or the glorification of the insipid and just plain dumb. Janet Jackson exposed 1/3 of a breast several years ago and we still talk about it with indignation, yet version after version of "Real Housewives" airs daily and no-one cares. I'd be less concerned about what's shown on TV and instead campaign to turn the thing off entirely.

vatonaught
vatonaught

every time I see little children dressed like grown up hookers I know what media is up to...you can call it censorship but we really know what they want to do. Pedophiles love their version of free speech and profit.

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin

"Parents Television Council" is an evangelical "grass root" pressure group which organizes campaigns against TV and film they consider morally damaging. They've campaigned against Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and of course Family Guy.

For some reason Time keeps faithfully printing their faux "polls", "studies" and press releases. One can't help but wonder why.

FrankBlank
FrankBlank

These ginks in PTV should be sentenced to five years of inhaling rhinoceros farts.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

What I want to know is what kind of thrills do these folks get, scanning hours of TeeVee time LOOKING for nudity? You would think they could find more productive uses for their time if it weren't for the apparent jollies they get from the process.

rburns1683
rburns1683

How much objectifying of the human body can we stand?   I still find pictures of Marilyn Monroe (clothed) or some of the WW II era pin up women a lot more alluring than the photoshopped nonsense today.   But I am of a different generation.   Today is far more boring than then in so many ways.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

The more forbidden something is, the more kids want to know what it's all about.  But the up-side to it is that, assuming someone isn't home-schooled and monitored to ensure things like seeing anyone "naked" ever happens, no gal on her wedding night points at her naked husband and screams, "WHAT IS THAT THING?!?!?!"

I should also point out that the Shakers were a community that practiced extreme segregation of the sexes, including a prohibition against EVER seeing one's spouse naked, let alone someone ELSE.  And they died out because no one had sex often enough to replace their numbers.  They made great furniture, but their prudery killed off that sect.  Kind of a Darwin solution for religions.  

I imagine the male member terrifying a newly-wed bride into frigidity would have the exact same effect.  But with regard to the PTC's tendency to sit watching all sorts of things that no one really cares about, taking meticulous notes and being judgmental is far more disturbing than someone channel-surfing and stopping because they see a woman's nipple, then moving on when it's covered up.

After all, if it were a more commonplace thing to see, they wouldn't have stopped in the first place.

lordofthefly
lordofthefly

I have found that the majority of these shows - and many others - are aimed at immature, uneducated audiences, no matter their ages. Intelligent, well-written programs don't have to rely on gimmicks, which is primarily what TV is now.

JWalk
JWalk

How terrible that a child should see a human being without clothing.. :D  It is just silly that nudity is seen as so shameful, and saying words that are considered "naughty" is grounds for punishment.  Our poor kids will grow up to become evil fiends if they see a woman's boobs - even though they drank milk from them as infants.  Everyone has an ass - but we aren't supposed to see other people's asses - because that would be awful.

AmulyaBhattarai
AmulyaBhattarai

I feel that nudity shouldn't really be something censored, the parents should be able to control what their children are watching. Although thats not really working in my case where I'm a 15 year old watching Game of Thrones all the time lol.

lensjockey
lensjockey

 As someone who has documented the public reaction to someone being topless in New York City for two years, I can say that the number one issue people have is that they feel that breasts are harmful for children to see. When asked why this is so, they cannot answer with anything that relates to reality. Instead of people worrying about where topless women and nudity will lead us, maybe we should wonder why parents really want to control the public space. You don't have to look at nudity or toplessness in public, and you don;t have to watch shows that you feel disrespect you for an irrational reason. Often parents really want to control what their children see, even in public, which is completely irrational. We have to wonder what is so dangerous about nudity that so many parents see. I don;t get it, but I have documented it fully in every imaginable situation in NYC. My documentary is called TOPLESS SHOCK SYNDROME and the trailer is on Youtube. 

Me, myself I would be ashamed of my own mind if I had such deep problems iwth topless behavior or nudity. People imagine people are going to start masturbating in public, that teachers will show up to class topless, hoards of topless women... it's frankly, kindof bizarre.

Lamaba
Lamaba

If it's pixilated, than technically it isn't nudity.

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

Don't hand me this cr#p about "censorship". Nudity has no place on primetime tv. That's what cable is for. 

GaryRMcCray
GaryRMcCray

Thank You for the link to the FCC I have filed the below.

Profanity and nudity are irrational social taboos whose only legitimacy is lent to them by artificially making them forbidden.

It is not the hallmark of a technologically advanced and supposedly free society to repress or inhibit free expression for any non-legitimate reason.

Censorship is always abused and is always used by one group to repress or control another.

Absolutely, no to censorship, we don't need parents, rather a government that supports our freedoms.

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

I have been streaming a  French television program called "Engrenages" ("Spiral"). It is an R-rated version of, say, "Law & Order" which includes nudity and violence. American television makes such a big deal about nudity ("Look! Here's nudity!) that of course it will be noticeable and obtrusive. I also remember how long it took just to show a human armpit for a simple deodorant commercial( I don't put my antiperspirant on my forearm.Do you?) I have to laugh at the so called "steamy" love scenes on television, with the woman having a sheet wrapped tightly around her from neck to waist. Get over it! And by the way, they don't put sheets over dead people in the morgue. Why bother?

Buffy619
Buffy619

@calling_all_toasters Brent Bozell isn't president of the PTC anymore it's Tim Winter he is just a liar like his pal Brent was at the PTC. Winter is a liberal only reason is to give that there not conservative group even know they are a far right group without any facts or proof. 

BrianSmith2
BrianSmith2

@darkfrogstudios Too bad that you're too stupid to realize that sex is much more fun when nudity ISN'T seen everywhere and is preserved for actual sex. Unless, you're old and impotent or have defectively low hormones, you freak.

Buffy619
Buffy619

@vatonaught That is parents job to not let there kids dress up like adults not the media as you have claim which is a lie you support censorship which is wrong and you're a prude that is out of touch with reality you need to wise up. This has nothing to do with pedophiles or profit that is another lie without facts or proof.

Buffy619
Buffy619

@lordofthefly You're wrong about everything without fact or proof TV doesn't rely on gimmicks so that claim is out right lie. You're just a prude that is out of touch with reality TV is great I can fine almost anything on TV which is fact and is no worse than what it was 10 or 20 years ago which is fact.

bobsim142
bobsim142

@lordofthefly Typical american prude. Nudity is gimmickry  LOL I expect you have never seen European TV. Nipples everywhere, including the most erudite and intellectual shows and movies. The shows you say are for the low end of American society are no worse that the old Lucille Ball and Honeymooners of yore. They are just good fun. I can tell you that after being brought up by nuns that prohibiting something as basic as viewing the human body promotes deviance more than sex on TV. I have friends that spent their youth in nudist camps and are the most balanced individuals I know. 

BrianSmith2
BrianSmith2

@JWalk 
How terrible that you can't associate nudity with sex. NORMAL  women get hard nipples when they see a naked man and NORMAL men get erections when they see a naked woman. Only exceptions: low hormoned freaks, impotent old men and those addicted to public nudity.

Buffy619
Buffy619

@AmulyaBhattarai I believe if you know from right to wrong then it shouldn't matter what teens watch that is why my parents never worried about m since they knew I knew right from wrong.

Buffy619
Buffy619

@lensjockey Same here I don't get it either and I don't believe the media is at fault either I think it's parents wanting to be outrage and want to blame someone else like the media & Hollywood which is wrong be a parent teach you're kids right & wrong and then you will not have a problem. I don't believe those studies by those The PTC and other groups like them since it is all agenda based paying to get the results from said study which is bias anyways. 

lordofthefly
lordofthefly

@Lamaba 

It's actually a silly technique - like bleeping certain words - that appeals to people who don't realize they're being had. Or maybe they don't care ...

Buffy619
Buffy619

@mary.waterton You support censorship which is wrong on all levels so you need grow up Mary which you are a loser that needs to get a life. You're a prude that is out touch with reality TV is no worse than what it was 10 or 20 years ago which is fact.

j.la.fsm
j.la.fsm

@mary.watertonGrow up.  Seriously, remembering the first time you saw someone naked, if in fact you have ever seen anyone naked, did it cause you to lose your mind?  Become a sexual deviant?  For 99% of the world unless there is some underlying mental issues there has never been a case of any of these instances happening.  If you don't want to see it avert your eyes or turn off the TV.  The rest of us are sick to death of your prudish ridiculous demands.

Buffy619
Buffy619

@GaryRMcCray I believe Parents not government should be the ones to make the choice what is good on TV than the government telling me what I can you can not watch which is wrong for the government to do. This is a small government issue if you believe in it then you shouldn't support the government censorship of TV which is supporting the nanny state.

lordofthefly
lordofthefly

@GaryRMcCray 

I don't believe in censorship, per se. If The Market demands what it defines as decency, it can have it if it is willing to put in the time and work to appeal to the right people. The issue I have with some nudity, language and violence is that it is most often "commercial" and not artistic. It is thrown in to appease a college-boy mentality?

Still, male frontal nudity is seldom seen. If nudity is so acceptable, why is this?

lensjockey
lensjockey

@GaryRMcCray Parents in this case, and people who cannot deal with the sight of human bodies really want to control what the public can see... and they use children to make it sound like they are altruistic and not controlling irrational people. There really is no other way to put it. I am glad not everyone feels that way, but I have seen and documented more of this behavior in public than anyone to date.

BrianSmith2
BrianSmith2

@buffalo.barnes102 You're obviously an impotent old man with low hormones. Ig nudity isn't such a big deal you wouldn't care that it's not shown.

Padmore
Padmore

@buffalo.barnes102 It would be interesting to compare the USA to other countries and see if other countries are more relaxed about nudity.

Buffy619
Buffy619

@BrianSmith2 @darkfrogstudios You no get it and you are too stupid Brian that is a prude that is out of touch with reality. You're an idiot & moron is one of those that files baseless complains to the FCC that he doesn't like on TV which is no worse than what it was 10 or 20 years ago which is fact.

dragonforce1080p
dragonforce1080p

@BrianSmith2@darkfrogstudios hes a freak because he believes Americans make a big deal about nudity? How backwards. 

There tribes that halve lived naked for longer than the usa has been a nation. They dont make a big deal about stupid crap like Breasts or ass cheeks. To them seeing us freak out about those petty things is like us laughing at Middle eastern men making a big deal about seeing an ankle. 

Fear of nudity keeps people perverted. If people saw nudity on a regular basis we would get used to it and people would probably stop being pervs because it wouldn't be taboo.

In short, you are very conditioned by the American system. As the guy before you said, have you not seen South American tv? They show some nudity on tv like it's no big deal. 

BrianSmith2
BrianSmith2

@bobsim142 @lordofthefly Typical impotent european. Can;t get it up by seeing his naked wife. Too bad your sex life isn't as exciting, low hormoned freak

BrianSmith2
BrianSmith2

@j.la.fsm @mary.waterton Grow up. Seriously, NORMAL  women get hard nipples when they see a naked man and NORMAL men get erections when they see a naked woman. Only exceptions: low hormoned freaks, impotent old men and women those addicted to public nudity, and those whose partners are too ugly.



joesmith13
joesmith13

@j.la.fsm @mary.waterton When did you take the poll and get the result of 99%? Also Mary didn't say anything about someone going crazy after seeing nudity, you brought that up. And who is "us"? Are you so mentally offended that someone wants nudity to be a pay tv option? Do you need constant nudity to feel freedom of expression is getting enough representation? I'll bet you wouldn't support amendment 2 as much as you seem to be supporting amendment 1. I just wish there was something on broadcast tv that could be watched with the family without being forced to deal with cultural Marxism and or sexually immorality. I am pretty sure there are more people like us out there than you wish to deal with. People with morals don't need to grow up but people with a desire for the offensive need to get spiritual help.

joesmith13
joesmith13

@lensjockey @GaryRMcCray You seem to be too obsessed with this. You are too extreme and seem to have zero commonsense. There is morality, whether you like it or not.


joesmith13
joesmith13

@Padmore @buffalo.barnes102 The internet is your friend. If you don't know the answer to this then I suggest you read up on it. BTW, there are countries far more censoring than the USA in the world. Censorship isn't always about nudity.


But to answer your question, yes there are, and I am almost 100% certain there are people in those countries that are not happy about it too.

Buffy619
Buffy619

@BrianSmith2 @j.la.fsm@mary.waterton You're still wrong and clueless Brian prude you are a loser that needs to get a life. More people that agree with me than there are prudes which is fact get with the time Brian and wise up everything you have said is baseless without facts or proof.

Buffy619
Buffy619

@joesmith13 @j.la.fsm@mary.waterton You're just being judgmental Joe which is wrong and are a prude that is shoving morals & ethics down people's throat which is wrong as well throwing rocks through the glass house of yours.

JackieLaMerand
JackieLaMerand

@joesmith13 @j.la.fsm @mary.waterton"Cultural Marxism"?  "Sexually [sic] immorality"?  "People with morals"?  It's simple nudity.  You self-proclaimed morality police are so sexually repressed it's gotten to the point that even baby diaper commercials can't show a baby's bottom without all of you losing your minds and projecting your own sexually deviant thoughts.  Same with artistic works.  It's so bad, that even statues showing women's breasts have to be pixelated out.  People around the world laugh at us here in the U.S. because of how we have to cater to the sexually frustrated, puritanical religious zealots such as yourself and Ms. Waterton.  It's not that we are ignoring your requests as networks have done their best to provide warnings for those who cannot deal with adult matters before each and every show. There is this thing called freedom of choice:  If you don't want to watch it, change the channel.  Why do the rest of us have to be relegated to having to pay simply because you aren't mentally stable or mature enough to deal with certain issues? 

Around the world children (and adults!) are surrounded with nudity and come face to face with their sexuality when it naturally occurs yet they are fine and have no higher instances of rape or of wild orgies in the streets than us in the sexually repressed U.S.

And yet again, when the question is brought up as to what exactly is going to happen to you or your children if they see a bare breast no one responds.  I ask again, what would happen?  It is you who apparently believe that you will all lose your collective minds.  Have you so poorly raised your children that they would instantly or even over time become sexual deviants?  Was seeing a nude female for the first time the cause of your sexual instability? What are you so afraid of?

I don't need to be delusional and in need of a constant father figure to be a moral person. No one had to threaten me with eternal hellfire for me to know right from wrong (both my parents were atheists and never controlled what I saw on TV or in movies - except for extreme violence).  I have never murdered, stolen, rarely drink, never do drugs, nor had sexual relations with my neighbor's or any one else's husband.  I give to charities often, help others whenever possible especially those most in need such as the sick and elderly, and I've been a vegetarian for over 20+ years for "humanitarian" reasons.  And though it's none of your business my sexual tastes would be deemed quite modest.  Yet just because I don't believe in fairy tales and can look at the naked form and enjoy it rather than freak out over it does not make me a person without morals or a deviant.  

If you have issues do not project them on the rest of us.  It is your freedom not to watch or listen to it, it is NOT your freedom to deny or control any one else's ability to watch or create it.  What part of that do you not get?