“There’s too much sex and violence on TV.” Yeah, sure. But who says so? There’s an old adage in broadcasting: “The smaller the minority group, the louder their voice Ã¢Â€Â“ especially when it comes to complaints.” Quite true.
Viewers cannot complain about sex. We have very clear guidelines as to what constitutes PG, R and all that. We also have clear guidelines as to the time of broadcast of certain rated material. There’s the court ruling in favour of e.tv that defines what is meant by “adult” and “pornography” and possible times of broadcast.
Since DStv has never had an extra subscription porn channel, you can bet one of the competitors will latch onto it. Sex sells. Remember the old one, “There are two kinds of sex: that which is free and that which is paid for. The difference is that which is free, is more expensive.” This applies to TV as well. If you have to pay for it, the better it is.
So why is there so much sex on SABC3 in prime time? There isn’t. What is on the schedule is within guidelines. SABC3 is supposed to be the “cash cow” channel, and it’s entitled, within guidelines, to give the audience what they want. Sure, it’s way in excess of that you see on American TV, but you have to remember that America comes from a long history of banning sex from the screens, and relegating it to the back row of the cinema. Starting from the Hays Code of 1930, which postulated: “If motion pictures present stories that will affect lives for the better, they can become the most powerful force for the improvement of mankind”, it has evolved into the TV Standards of today, which controls sex and violence on American TV. There are a number of very important aspects of sex on TV that make judgements and decisions impossible:
Ã¢Â€Â¢ Sex sells. The majority wants it desperately, but will never say so. Just like kids, they lie like hell about sex.
Ã¢Â€Â¢ As I wrote some months ago, the motives for watching many programmes have a sexual basis, notably all in wrestling. So, show some interminable bed caresses, with lots of slow-motion, multidissolve stroking and a glimpse of breast. It sells. If you want to see the ratings jump, put on an age restriction. The kids are supposed to be in bed at 9pm. The broadcasters maintain that this is family responsibility as they cannot put the kids to bed. What a spin cop-out! But they’re right. If society is happy that sex should only be after 9pm, and that hardcore porn (that the broadcasters insist on calling “adult”) should only be after 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays, then why shouldn’t the broadcasters strictly follow the rules and rake in as much cash as possible?
Ã¢Â€Â¢ Oh, you marketing people complain: “Our clients would never be associated with such content.” Really? Your clients will happily associate themselves with high ratings that come marginally cheaper. What an ideal space to advertise a vacuum cleaner?
Sex on movies up to 20 years ago had passionate kisses where lips did not move against each other. Today they involve chewing, munching and slurping that sounds like the kids blowing bubbles through their milk shakes. Fashions change. It’s up to the youth to set the fashions for tomorrow, and for them to complain when the next generation comes along and changes them. That’s culture.
It’s dynamic. The people who complain about too much sex tend to be over 50, non-metro, and belong to very conservative minority groups. The youth say there is too little sex on TV.
You cannot really take a stance on it; you have to leave it to the audience. And if you want to see majority rule, just look at a TV audience.
Howard Thomas is a media business consultant, trainer and specialist in audience psychology.
Ã¢Â–Â This column first appeared in !_LT_EMThe Media!_LT_/EM magazine.