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AMERICAN MEDICAL NEWS. 1990 Oct 19; 7-8.The mission of the Media Project of the Center for Population Options is to encourage the entertainment industry to provide adolescents with positive and realistic message about sexuality and family planning. The project has specifically targeted television as a way to reach teens because they not only watch TV but what they see influences their behavior. According to the project's director, "they emulate their favorite characters." A 1986 Louis Harris poll found that teen-agers ranked TV as the 4th most important source of information, out of 11 choices, on sex and birth control. A study of the 1986 prime-time television season discovered a tremendous amount of sexual references and innuendo in the programs. They found touching behaviors (24.5 times/hour); suggestions and innuendo (16.5 times/hour); sexual intercourse (implied 25 times/hour); and socially taboo behaviors such as sadomasochism and masturbation (intimated 6.2 times/hour). In contrast, education information was only given 1.6 times/hour. There are few references to birth control or responsible conversations about sexual intimacy. The Los Angeles-based media project has 3 program components. These components include a media advisory service that provides creative and technical assistance, an information series designed for consciousness raising, and an awards program. The advisory service sends out background sheets on health-related issues and provides story and script consultation. The information series has inspired industry professionals to integrate messages about teenage sexuality and responsible sex into the TV dramas. The project received 380 requests for information during 1990. The project has also sponsored an annual media awards program since 1983. The awards program is a forum where producers get positive attention for a job well done.
WASHINGTON POST. 1987 Feb 3; E1, E8.This newspaper feature story documents how the major U.S. television networks are breaking their self censorship of mentioning contraception and sexual responsibility in programs and advertisements. The first direct screening of word "condom" occurred on the series "Cagney and Lacey" in January 1988, followed by screening an image of a condom package on "Valerie" in February. At the same time, some stations are broadcasting tasteful 15-second ads for condoms. Phrases used in these ads included "for all the right reasons," and "I'll do a lot for love...but I'm not ready to die for it." It is likely that the threat of AIDS has prompted the revolutionary airing of the forbidden word during family viewing hours. The public response, particularly that of educators, has been largely favorable, although a Catholic spokesman complained that the ads encourage illicit sex purely to enlarge market share of condom markers. Five references to the value of sexual responsibility were cited on prime time shows in recent months. The vice president of CBS said that the network was trying to do anything that would help prevent AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. They have permitted no reference to practice of contraception in programming so far, even though characters are frequently shown in sexually explicit situations.