4.1.3 Television

Part: 
Two
Chapter: 
4

Television has become technologically more diverse than in earlier years, and it is no longer possible even to think of television as one medium. Broadcast television, whether network or local, has a frequent explicit or implicit sexual orientation but, with only the rarest exceptions, sexual activity of any explicitness at all, or even frontal nudity, has been largely absent from broadcast television. In part this is explained by rules and regulatory practices of the Federal Communications Commission, and in part this is explained by the practices of stations, networks, and sponsors. But whatever the cause, the amount of nudity, sexual innuendo, and sex itself on broadcast television has traditionally been a far cry from even moderate levels of sexual explicitness, although it is plainly the case that the degree of sexual explicitness in depiction, in theme, and in language on broadcast television has been increasing substantially in recent years.

Cable television, however, by which we include satellite as well, is quite different. Under current law, cable is not subject to the same range of Federal Communications Commission content regulation, and as a result is often substantially more sexually explicit than anything that would be available on broadcast television. This increased explicitness may take the form of talk shows or call-in shows specializing in sexual advice, music videos featuring strong sexual and violent themes, cable channels that specialize in sexual fare, and more general purpose cable channels may offer mainstream motion pictures that would not in uncut form be shown on broadcast television. Although some motion pictures available on cable might be deemed legally obscene in some areas, and although much of this material is highly explicit and offensive to many, by and large the sexually explicit material available on cable would not be of the type likely to be determined to be legally obscene. More often, what is available, and it does vary from area to area and channel to channel, is a degree of sexuality somewhat closer to what is available in a mainstream motion picture theater, but would not be available on broadcast television.

In some sense the video tape cassette ought to be considered a form of television, since the television is the device by which such cassettes are viewed. But the cassettes themselves are so variable in content that generalization is difficult. Much of what people rent or, less frequently, buy to watch at home is standard motion picture theater fare, and therefore can encompass anything from the kinds of films that are rated "G" to the kinds of films that are rated "R," and occasionally the kinds of films that are officially rated "X" by the MPAA. In many video outlets, however, a range of even more sexually explicit material is available, not dissimilar to what might be shown in an "adults only" theater. Although much of this material would commonly be considered pornographic, and although much of it might in some areas be found to be legally obscene, it has in the past tended to be more on the conventional end of such material, obviously reflecting the desires of patrons of an establishment offering a full range of video material. More recently, however, some less conventional material has become available in some full range of video outlets. Finally, there is the material available either in "adults only" establishments offering many types of materials, or in "adults only" outlets offering video tapes. This material, although viewed at home, is for all practical purposes the same as that which would be shown in "adults only" theaters or peep shows, and the same range of sexual themes and practices is commonly available.