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Parents Television Council targets MTV’s ‘Skins’

CREDIT: MTV publicity photo

CREDIT: MTV publicity photo

This is my weekly print column that’s set to run on Monday:

The Parents Television Council, a non-profit watchdog group, sometimes comes off as a humorless schoolmarm wagging its finger in the face of racy TV programming. But when it latches onto a topic that resonates with the public, it can be quite effective.

Its members flooded the Federal Communications Commission with complaints over the Janet Jackson Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004. The FCC fined CBS $550,000.  Though the case remains on appeal, the effect was palpable as radio and TV placed delay buttons on live events and scaled back crude content.

Since then, as the economy cratered, the PTC’s influence waned. TV has been pushing the boundaries of taste again. PTC efforts last year to get CBS to change the title of “[Bleep] My Dad Says” failed. Last fall, the New York Times highlighted the group’s dwindling finances and internal strife.

But last month, the PTC found its latest target: MTV’s “Skins,” dubbing it “the most dangerous show for teens.”

An American adaptation of a hit British series, “Skins” features teens partaking in explicit drug use and casual sex. And use of actors under the age of 18 has the PTC demanding government investigations into child pornography.

“The characters are completely nihilistic,” said Dan Isett, a PTC spokesman in Atlanta earlier this week to meet with local donors and press. “They don’t care about anything.”

The pressure from the PTC in no small part convinced a raft of advertisers (e.g. Taco Bell, Foot Locker, Proactiv) to not air ads during “Skins.”

Even TV Guide ran a cover headline: “Attention MTV: Cancel ‘Skins’ Now!”

The show’s co-creator Bryan Elsley, defending the show on MTV.com, said, ” ‘Skins’ is actually a very serious attempt to get to the roots of young people’s lives. It deals with relationships, parents, death, illness, mental health issues, the consequences of drug use and sexual activity. It is just that these are characterized from the point of view of the many young people who write the show.”

“Skins” has a more mundane problem: viewers are losing interest, some calling it dull and depressing. It opened at 3.3 million viewers last month, 1.2 million under the age of 18. By the fourth episode Feb. 7, its entire audience had shrunken to just 1.2 million viewers, a 64 percent drop.

In comparison, MTV’s hit show “Jersey Shore” opened at 1.4 million in 2009 and now regularly tops 8 million viewers.

PTC “is a pretty powerful group,” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research for consulting agency Horizon Media. “But ‘Skins’ is dying on the vine because it’s not bringing in the numbers. The controversy will probably just go away” when the show gets axed.

PTC could take some credit, but Isett said his group isn’t Chicken Little.

“Are we as a society marching on this inexorable path to coarseness?” Isett said. “Frankly, I don’t see it that way. I think there are occasionally things like ‘Skins’ that are so clearly over the line as to be repugnant and need to be combated vigorously.”

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By Rodney Ho, rho@ajc.com, AJCRadioTV blog

5 comments Add your comment

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dan Isett, Atlanta News Feed. Atlanta News Feed said: AJC: Parents Television Council targets MTV’s ‘Skins’ http://brkg.at/fRwLdy [...]

Nutmeg

February 13th, 2011
4:00 pm

I find this controversy interesting because the PTC/censorship side hasn’t addressed the rebuttal of the pro-Skins side.

PTC: This is disgusting and perverse.
Skins: Yes, but it’s *real*. It’s a reflection of reality. Youth write the show; it’s from their perspective.
PTC: This is disgusting and perverse.

I’d like to hear the Parents Television Council (and those who agree with them) address the point about reflecting reality, but I haven’t heard them do that.

Now, I could come up with some good points for either side. One might argue, for instance, that media not only reflect but also constitute/create reality–an excellent argument for keeping this mess off the air. Nonetheless, I haven’t heard any attempt at debate from the censorship side.

Because of that, I’m inclined to “vote” to keep it on the air.

matt

February 14th, 2011
12:09 am

PTC actually made me watch skins but I found the show boring and stupid and unrealistic…i watched the first episode – wasnt impressed…tried watching the second episode and after half way through, I deleted it and havent gone back….its just not a good show

CR Porter

February 14th, 2011
3:27 pm

I work for a school district, specifically regarding Safe Schools/Healthy Students. I wonder if they have any idea how much State and Federal funding is spent every year to educate students on making good choices, avoiding drugs, and living safe, healthy lives!!! This article was so distrubing in many ways. It is a slap in the face to our society to even consider promoting this kind of behavior in minors!! Additionally, the mentality of the supposedly “adults” involved in this whole production is definitely questionable. This is so degrading and appalling. I agree with Paul Peterson — prosecute them! Maybe prison would really give them a reality check on sex, passion and “skin”!!! Shame ono you.

[...]      The majority of MTV’s programming is reality shows.  Now I do not have a problem with reality shows, but what I take issue with is the “people” on these shows or the subject of the show.  I am not one to believe that television is the cause of violence, teen pregnancies, or whatever.  I believe firmly that it’s first and foremost the way a child is raised but even I admit that we should not have shows like Teen Mom glorifying teen pregnancies.  Here recently MTV has come under fire from the Parents Television Council over its newest show, Skins. [...]