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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

Drug czar congratulates Teen Challenge (11/16/03)

Christian fiction no long back-shelf item (10/19/03)

DREAM3 benefits churches (10/19/03)

Youth rise to DC03 challenge (10/12/03)

Ministry uses drama, music to touch city for Christ (9/28/03)

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs (9/21/03)

Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography (8/31/03)

Economic slump doesn't always derail giving (8/24/03)

Ruling threatens family, Christian leaders say (8/17/03)

Anti-aging options require balanced approach to health, beauty (8/10/03)

Convoy of Hope reaches out to inner-city neighborhood (7/27/03)

Fight for the flag moves to nation’s schools (7/20/03)

Drama speaks volumes to alienated veterans (7/13/03)

Church's integrity well received following nightmarish ordeal (6/29/03)

Tornadoes cut wide swath across nation's midsection (6/22/03)

Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don't (6/15/03)

Checking out your horoscope? God advises you to skip it (6/8/03)

Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success (5/25/03)

Intervention is key to preventing suicide (5/18/03)

Adoption often right decision for young expectant mothers (5/11/03)

Dallas-based ministry keeps inmates out of jail (4/27/03)

Medical analysis of Jesus' death generates interest (4/20/03)

Small-town church reaches community (4/13/03)

Young married couples lulled by false sense of security (3/30/03)

Virtual gambling days may be numbered (3/23/03)

Contemporary Christian music copes with its continuing success (3/16/03)

A/G prayer event set for gathering in nation's capital (3/9/03)

Volunteers give church voice in community (2/23/02)

Federal law protects churches in zoning battles (2/16/03)

Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven (2/9/03)

Predators often plan strategies long in advance (1/19/03)

The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later (1/12/03)

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs

By John W. Kennedy (9/21/03)

Much like some activist judges, various television producers appear determined to grant homosexuals an elevated place in American society.

Although the premium cable service Showtime announced in July that it had postponed a spin-off channel designed to be the first all-homosexual network, there’s enough favorable same-sex content on other channels to fill the perceived niche.

Along with returning series such as Showtime’s Queer As Folk and NBC’s Will & Grace, several new programs advocate the homosexual lifestyle.

Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy features five homosexual men conducting makeovers for heterosexual slobs. “Each week their mission is to transform a style-deficient and culture-deprived straight man from drab to fab in each of their respective categories: fashion, food and wine, interior design, grooming and culture,” the network proclaims.

Another new Bravo show, Boy Meets Boy, is a homosexual version of the dating show The Bachelor, with a handsome leading man spending eight days in a luxurious location with 15 potential suitors. Showtime in January begins The L Word, exploring the lives of lesbians, including a pair looking for the perfect artificial insemination donor so they can start a family.

ABC’s new sitcom It’s All Relative features a young woman whose “parents just so happen to be a worldly pair of well-heeled gay men.” In June, CBS debuted Charlie Lawrence, a sitcom about an openly homosexual congressman.

There will be plenty of fornication and adultery, too. Fox this fall premieres the sitcom Skin, in which the father of one of the teen protagonists is a pornography industry kingpin. Fox also has the “reality” show Paradise Hotel, following 11 singles cavorting around a swanky resort.

Spike TV is running an “adult” cartoon called Stripperella in which the title character, voiced by Pamela Anderson, is both an exotic dancer and a crime-fighting superhero.

As the major broadcast networks push boundaries in an effort to keep audiences from defecting to more explicit cable channels, several reality series are showing couples who hardly know each other in bed together. The networks also have started to air more obscenities. Although bleeped, they are still discernable.

“The depravity and explicit nature continues to grow on television,” says Randall Murphree, editor of the American Family Association Journal, in Tupelo, Miss. Murphree, 58, says the contrived nature of reality shows manipulates contestants to depend on sexually suggestive or hedonistic ambition to satisfy their desires.

“In a desperate attempt to keep viewers, the networks look tawdry by putting on material that has no class,” says Stephen Winzenburg, communications professor at Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa.

Winzenburg, 48, is especially leery of Coupling, about six bed-hopping 30-somethings. NBC has given the new series, which is recreating dialogue practically verbatim from the original BBC version, a place in its highest-rated Thursday night lineup. “It will be the most provocative scripted show ever on American network television,” Winzenburg told PE Report.

Melissa Caldwell, director of research for the Parents Television Council in Los Angeles, agrees. “Coupling appears to be one of the sleaziest shows ever broadcast,” says Caldwell, 28.

Some of TV’s downward spiral can be traced to implementation of content ratings at the beginning of programs in 1997. Warnings about forthcoming sexual and violent content have become an incentive for some people to watch, according to Winzenburg.

“Ratings have emboldened the networks to broadcast more graphic material,” Murphree says. “Now if they label it they can say, ‘Well, we warned you.’ ”

The biggest problem with the ratings, watchdog groups say, is that — unlike the movie industry, which has an independent board — they are determined by the network airing the program. Plus, there is no consistency among the networks or even among series on the same network.

“With networks determining the ratings themselves, executives and producers have leeway to introduce more salacious material,” Caldwell says.

A study released earlier this year by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reported that one out of seven shows depicts or implies sexual intercourse. In 1999, it was one out of every 14 shows.

It’s not that the public is demanding such material. A Family Circle survey two years ago indicated that 93 percent of respondents had turned off their television set or switched channels because of sexual content. Yet relatively few bother to complain.

Murphree contends that viewers by and large have become desensitized by the gradual lowering of standards of television. “Most folks have grown to accept the more perverse and depraved content,” he says.

AFA has been reviewing television content for 27 years. Nowadays, Murphree says, it’s more difficult to motivate viewers to protest. Some callous viewers have given up, believing the medium is too far gone to redeem.

Still, AFA Journal every month publishes summaries of offensive episodes and lists sponsors. AFA recommends that disgruntled viewers respectfully but resolutely contact advertisers to express their disappointment over the company running a commercial on a show with graphic content. AFA also advises viewers to contact local affiliates or the cable company carrying the offensive show.

That’s what Joy Wootton did in July. While watching a TV Land rerun of the innocuous series Leave It to Beaver, a promo for Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy shocked and angered Wootton, 46.

“I was incredulous that such a show existed and that a commercial would be shown on TV Land,” says Wootton, whose husband, Mark, is pastor of Peace Chapel, an Assemblies of God church in Fair Grove, Mo. The normally mild-mannered Wootton took action to protest Queer Eye. She called to register a complaint with the manager of the satellite dish network that the family subscribes to, sent an e-mail to Bravo and mailed a letter to NBC, Bravo’s parent company. The satellite provider offered verbal thanks and Bravo issued an automated response saying the network can’t respond to all its mail. NBC didn’t respond. Because the debut episode broke the ratings record for Bravo, NBC repeated the show the following Thursday.

Viewers may have better success complaining to the Federal Communications Commission. Because the FCC licenses local affiliates, they should be, in theory, more responsive.

However, Caldwell notes that the FCC rarely fines a TV station for indecency.

The Parents Television Council recently has been pressuring the FCC to enforce existing laws.

Television programmers normally are unresponsive, according to Caldwell. “What the audience wants really doesn’t matter with the networks,” she told PE Report. “What’s more important to them is what they can get sponsors to pay for.”

Caldwell believes it is more effective for TV watchers to complain directly to advertisers, asking whether the vulgar content really reflects their corporate values. She recommends letters because reaching an executive with decision-making power by phone is unlikely.

However, when Gary Manion of Little Rock, Ark., ordered computer hardware over the phone in June he expressed his dismay that Gateway had sponsored the opening episode of the Fox detective series Keen Eddie. The episode featured an explicit sequence discussing bestiality. Based on a PTC “action alert” to its members, including Manion, more than 9,000 people filed an official complaint to the FCC about the Keen Eddie episode.

Manion, information technology manager for a welding supply company, had been in the process of obtaining bids to buy 35 personal computers for the firm. The Gateway sales representative forwarded Manion’s objection to corporate headquarters and Manion received a call of thanks from an executive. Subsequently, Gateway issued an apology for sponsoring the show, saying it wouldn’t happen again.

“It was God’s timing the way it worked out,” says Manion, who attends a Nazarene church. “I was able to get the right person’s ear at the right time.” Caldwell explains that frequently a corporation really doesn’t know where their commercials will air because a third-party media buyer places them on shows designed to fit the demographic the company is trying to reach.

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