Indecency on U.S. Television (part 2): when minors are involved.

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As soon as it aired on MTV, the new show “Skins” immediately ignited controversy among viewers and watchdog associations alike. The show features teenagers:  dealing with sex, masturbation, drugs and alcohol; uttering  explicit and indecent language ; talking about having sex under the effects of drugs or alcohol; and sex scenes.  The age of the actors range between 15 and 19 years. The show, which airs at 9 PM Central Time (10 PM ET), intends to portray real-life teenagers entering into their adult lives.

More than three million Americans watched the show, with 12 being the average age of the viewer. Some began protesting the show, Taco Bell (a well known fast-food chain) for example withdrew its support from the show.

The Parent Television Council described the show as  “the most dangerous show for children that we have ever seen,” and sent a letter to the Federal authoritities asking to start an investigation because, according to the Council, if actors are under the age of 18, the broadcasters are dealing with child pornography. MTV and Viacom responded by arguing that they are simply portraying the reality of everyday life.

In the meanwhile, the marketing caimpaign is extremely effective because the popularity of the show is skyrocketing, and more children will  soon be attracted to watch it.

Title 18, Part I, Chapter 110, Section 2256 of the U.S. Code defines child pornography as: “ […] Any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where: (A) the production of such visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;  (B) such visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or (C) such visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”

A few questions are worth raising: how many American children will imitate these young actors? If this is really a portrayal of reality  is this the real life of the majority of our teenagers? Are our standards of decency different from those of our teenagers? Is the decency-indecency divide a struggle to absorb a minority (our teenagers)? Which are the most appropriate legal and social instruments to improve the lives of future generations?

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