While New York children were watching TV and munching on corn flakes as their parents slept in, New York's WPIX-TV (PIX Channel 11) aired a program called "Best Sex Ever"’ on a recent Sunday morning.
The Tribune Broadcasting-owned station describes itself as “the flagship station of The CW Television Network” …”seen in over 10 million homes through over-the-air and satellite distribution.” PIX11 won “nearly 200 Emmy Awards” and airs “quality children’s programming," according to its website.
So what was station management thinking when it likely exposed unsupervised young children to a half-hour infomercial at 10 a.m. about “having orgasmic sex”? Were parents aware their kids could be learning from Androzene, a company flogging “erection pills” because “sex and the experience of the orgasmic experience is the ultimate high we experience no matter what we do in life.”
Did WPIX Violate FCC Law With Sex Infomercial?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) states that it is a “violation of federal law to broadcast indecent or profane programming,” from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
So iMediaEthics contacted WPIX-TV about its Sunday, April 21, 10 a.m. airing of "Best Sex Ever." Specifically, we asked if the infomercial violated the mandated “safe harbor” hours meant to protect kids from such sexually graphic descriptions and what actions they would take.
Television stations, unlike cable companies, are licensed to broadcast over public airways. FCC is required by “Congress and the courts” not to censor but to balance “constitutionally-protected free speech rights of adults” allowed during the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., with “the need to protect children from harmful content” during the hours they most likely watch TV — 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Jessica Bellucci, Director of Communications and Conviviality for Tribune Broadcasting, initially responded to iMediaEthics by email, “We are reviewing this matter.”
After our follow-up phone calls and email, Bellucci wrote: “We continue to review this matter…Note that the program currently is not scheduled to air on WPIX after 6:00AM.”
iMediaEthics also contacted Time Warner Cable (TWC) to see what it thought about the "Best Sex Ever" infomercials being aired by them during safe harbor hours even though FCC rules do not apply to them.
"The infomercial is no longer being placed by TWC’s media sales," wrote Michael W. Quinn, Vice President and Assistant Chief Counsel, Litigation. He explained: “While the FCC indecency regulations do not apply to us as a cable operator, as a company we have decided not to accept these type of long form infomercials at this time, largely because we don’t want to offend customers…This infomercial was downloaded by satellite by an advertising service without our awareness. When you brought it to our attention, we promptly contacted the agency and had it removed.”
He’s having orgasmic sex, and then it was like, “Hey, honey. It’s
been like 15-20 minutes, let’s do it again.”
Parents Television Council: Was this Infomercial a 'Responsible Programming Decision?"
Dan Isett, director of public policy for the Parents Television Council, asked in a phone call with iMediaEthics, “How on earth did [WPIX-11] arrive at broadcasting this [Androzene informerical] in the first place?"
He continued, “Was it a responsible programming decision by this broadcaster? I think the answer to that is overwhelmingly no.”
iMediaEthics asked PTC’s Isett if the WPIX-11 infomercial airing was unusual as we had never seen anything so graphic being televised during the day on public airways before.
Isett stated, “This is the first I’ve heard of something like this that’s aired during the day particularly on a broadcast station. This is uncharted territory.”
“This may well be a violation of FCC decency law,” Isett said.
The Parents Television Council told iMediaEthics it would let us know if it decides to file a complaint against WPIX-11.
Is Viagra and Cialis advertising any better?
iMediaEthics found advertising of prescription-based pharmaceutical treatment for ED (erectile dysfunction), such as Viagra and Cialis, is studious in how to avoid graphic descriptions.
We contacted both Viagra-manufacturer Pfizer and Cialis-manufacturer Eli Lilly to ask about what policies they have and what measure they take to shield children from adult ad copy.
MacKay Jimeson, Pfizer’s director of media relations, explained to iMediaEthics that “Viagra ads air only during programs that have greater than 90 percent adult viewership.”
The same policy exists for Eli Lilly’s Cialis advertising. Teresa A. Shewman, communications manager for Eli Lilly, wrote to iMediaEthics that “90 percent of the viewing audience” for their ads are “18 years or older.”
Pfizer has even stopped advertising during the Super Bowl out of consideration to children for the “past several years," Jimeson said.
Shewman, told iMediaEthics that like Pfizer, Eli Lilly “partners”with the Parents Television Council by providing their weekly ad schedule so families can avoid programming with the broadcasts.
Who is Parents Television Council? Does it have an Agenda?
The Parents Television Council describes itself as “a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment.”
Kelly Oliver, a PR representative, told iMediaEthics by email that PTC is a 501 c3 not-for-profit and that they never received donations from Eli Lilly or Pfizer. (Eli Lilly confirmed this to iMediaEthics. Pfizer wasn’t “able” to confirm.)
The PTC group is listed on SourceWatch as having been founded by the conservative Brent Bozell. Pat Boone, another conservative, is listed on the board. Oliver counters that the co-founder was the politically liberal entertainer Steve Allen. She argues the group is bipartisan in its members and interest to protect children.
Oliver said, “The point is that people from all political stripes have found common ground in the mission of the PTC – to protect children from sex, violence and profanity on TV. You can look no further than the Advisory Board which includes people from both political parties (Sam Brownback and Blanche Lincoln, as great examples). As such, it is completely accurate to describe the PTC as non-partisan. Source: http://w2.parentstv.org/main/About/AdvisoryBoard.aspx."
SourceWatch’s page suggests there are too many FCC complaints generated from PTC members in the mid- 2000’s. However, the complaint list provided to iMediaEthics by Oliver shows two complaints for 2013 (American Dad, the Super Bowl) none filed in 2012 , and only one in 2011 (X Factor).
iMediaEthics called and wrote Androzene for this report and received no response