Gail Evans says her newly created role of Phoenixarea president of the Parents Television Council isn’t about censorship.
It’s about responsibility — for parents, who should know what their children are watching, for the broadcasters that schedule Janet Jackson to get her top ripped off during halftime at Super Bowl, and for the companies that buy commercial time during "Nip/Tuck," "C.S.I." and other programs with decidedly family-unfriendly content.
"We hear a lot about freedom of speech, freedom of choice and tolerance, but a lot of times we forget that with it comes responsibility and accountability," said Evans, a Mesa woman who began her duties last month. "We want to sweep that under our mat.
"But if we’re going to create a society of children who are caring, contributing adult members of society, we’ve got to step up and stop feeding them a constant diet of filth — sex, violence and obscenity."
The Parents Television Council’s research department analyzes each program that’s aired during primetime and tallies the references to sexual content, violence and obscenity, then gives the program an overall rating of red (watch out), yellow or green (thumbs-up).
Context is not considered, so a corpse on a "C.S.I." coroner’s table counts the same as a gun-glorifying shootout on a program like last season’s "Fastlane" (which the council takes partial credit for wiping from the airwaves). "Will & Grace" made the council’s list of worst family-friendly shows on television as much because of "bed-hopping Grace" as its double entendres about homosexuality.
The council’s Web site, www.parentstv.org, includes a list of each program’s sponsors, as well as links to the companies if viewers would like to complain to — or compliment — the businesses for their programming choices.
The site "makes it very, very easy to become involved," said Evans, who’s more in charge of raising community awareness than actual policing. Her volunteer position accords her no authority over network affiliates.
"Only as far as members will support whatever campaigns are going on do we have any amount of power to wield," she said. "The FCC has given networks basically free rights with the stipulation that they ensure they follow community standards. One of my goals is to find out what community standards are. What do people want? I’ve never been asked what I want to see on TV."
Evans and her husband will celebrate their 25th anniversary in April; she has a son, 23, and two daughters, 21 and 14.
"What kids see on TV has become acceptable behavior," said Evans, who works part time as an instructional aide in the agriscience department at Mesa High School. "Coarseness in language and dress, disrespect for themselves and others, I see that every day. I think that’s a direct result of what we’re putting into our society."
Parents Television Council Founded in 1995, it is a nonpartisan group, but it’s probably not a surprise that its advisory board includes some heavy-hitting conservatives such as William Bennett and Michael Medved. (The group was founded by Brent Bozell, who’s involved with the American Conservative Union and the Conservative Victory Committee.) Also on the board: C. DeLores Tucker, who launched a campaign against gangsta rap music in 1994; comedy stars Tim Conway and Dean Jones; singers Pat Boone and Billy Ray Cyrus (whose program "Doc" is on the council’s list of best programs).
Although the group is not affiliated with any particular church, the Web site promotes an article that links moral decay to a lack of Judeo-Christian values, and other board members include Holly McClure, the film critic for Christian Broadcasting Network and the host of "Lifestyle Magazine" on TBN, and the Rev. Val J. Peter, director of Girls and Boys Town.
The Best and Worst of TV in 2002-03
The best: 1. "Touched by an Angel" (CBS) 2. "Doc" (Pax) 3. "Sue Thomas, F.B. Eye" (Pax) 4. "7th Heaven" (WB) 5. "Life With Bonnie" (ABC) 6. "Smallville" (WB) 7. "Reba" (WB) 8. "Star Search" (CBS) 9. "George Lopez" (ABC) 10. "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" (ABC)
The worst: 1. "C.S.I." (CBS) 2. "Kingpin" (NBC) 3. "Fastlane" (Fox) 4. "NYPD Blue" (NBC) 5. "Fear Factor" (NBC) 6. "Angel" (WB) 7. "Girlfriends" (UPN) 8. "Will & Grace" (NBC) 9. "Friends" (NBC) 10. "Big Brother 3" (CBS)
Source: Parents Television Council (based on "family-friendly" content)