‘Gossip Girl’ Threesome Has PTC Peeved

Advocacy group threatens CW affiliates: Air this episode, and you could be fined!

The Parents Television Council is threatening to declare war on CW affiliates who broadcast next week’s Very Special Threesome episode of "Gossip Girl."

In a letter to affiliates obtained by TheWrap, PTC chief Tim Winter blasts the scheduled storyline as "reckless and irresponsible" and claims the show is "expressly targeted to impressionable teenagers."

The head of the right-wing political action group says CW affiliates that air the episode will be "complicit in establishing a precedent and expectation that teenagers should engage in behaviors heretofore associated primarily with adult films."

Winter then makes it clear that local affiliates have the right to preempt programming that doesn’t meet the interests of their community. And, most disturbingly, he warns the stations that they will "bear the financial burden of an FCC fine" should the government declare that next week’s episode violates decency laws.

Of course, Winter hasn’t seen the episode in question. He’s only read press reports about the hour, including an initial online posting by Entertainment Weekly that stated the episode would feature "three major characters having sex. At the same time. In the same bed. Together."

CW insiders confirm the Nov. 9 show will end with three characters in a tryst. Flashbacks from their menage-a-OMG will air in future episodes.

The network isn’t commenting on the upcoming storyline or the PTC missive.

But it’s worth noting that The CW, despite Winter’s claim, isn’t targeted toward teens. The network’s median age is 33, while "GG’s" average viewer is 27. And fully 84 percent of "GG’s" audience is over 18, which is why some affiliates have taken commercials for beer and liquor during the show.

Targeting teens wouldn’t make sense for The CW, since there’s far more money to be made attracting women 18-34 — the network’s declared demographic. Disney Channel and TeenNick are more likely targets for advertisers looking to reach teens and tweens.

What’s more, "GG" airs at 9 p.m., outside of the old family hour (8/7 central) and carries a TV14 rating.

And, oh yes, a threesome is hardly a big deal for kids who easily access online porn. Or listen to Britney Spears coo about the joys of "3" in her latest top-10 radio hit.

The PTC, however, wants affiliates to boycott something they haven’t seen, based on a brief item in a magazine.

Here’s the full letter from the PTC: 

 
By now you must be aware of reports in Entertainment Weekly and elsewhere that the November 9th episode of the teen-targeted drama Gossip Girl will feature major characters in a sexual threesome.

To include a story line like this on a program that is expressly targeted to impressionable teenagers is reckless and irresponsible. I appeal to your highest sense of decency, respect and common sense in urging you to preempt this episode.

Television is profoundly influential in the lives of children, especially when it comes to sexual decision making – it has even been described by one researcher as a "sexual super-peer" – signifying television’s power to amplify, many times over, the peer-pressure teens are already feeling to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors.

When television portrays attractive, popular teenage characters as sexually active, it sends a powerful message to young viewers that they, too, should be sexually active and in fact, there might be something wrong with them if they aren’t.

Teens are aware that television influences their behavior. According to one survey, a third of youths 12 and older say the media encourages them to have sex by making it seem like "everybody does it." At least half a dozen studies in the past few years have documented a strong correlation between exposure to adult media content in childhood and early onset of sexual activity among teens. Viewing of sexual media content has even been found to be predictive of teen pregnancy.

As one researcher who has seen these effects first-hand observed, "Children have neither the life experience nor the brain development to fully differentiate between a reality they are moving toward and a fiction meant solely to entertain. Children learn from media, and when they watch media with sexual references and innuendos, our research suggests they are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier in life."

Gossip Girl routinely depicts teenage characters engaging in promiscuous and consequence-free sexual behavior, and that’s bad enough. But will you now be complicit in establishing a precedent and expectation that teenagers should engage in behaviors heretofore associated primarily with adult films? Behaviors that not only increase health risks, but which are emotionally and psychologically damaging to participants, as well? I certainly hope not, and I’m sure members of your community and parents of children who watch your network expect more of you.

May I also remind you that it is the affiliate, not the CW network, that will bear the financial burden of an FCC fine should any of the content of the November 9th episode be found to violate broadcast decency laws.

Finally, you must ask yourself, how does airing this program serve your obligation to serve the public interest?
In a declaratory ruling last year, the FCC affirmed affiliates’ ability to preempt any network programming that is "unsatisfactory or unsuitable or contrary to the public interest." The record on this is clear: contracts between networks and their affiliates may not legally prevent preemption of programming that does not meet LOCAL COMMUNITY standards. As a station manager you not only have a right, but an obligation to preempt programs like Gossip Girl that fail to meet that standard.

Please be advised that the PTC will monitor this episode very closely. Our members will not hesitate to contact local and national advertisers; and if this program violates broadcast decency law, rest assured that our members will contact the Federal Communications Commission.

Sincerely,

Timothy F. Winter