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Religion gets bad rap on TVcomment (0)

January 4, 2007



Depictions of religion on broadcast television plummeted during the latest season, according to a new study by the Parents Television Council (PTC). In addition, negative portrayals of religion surpassed positive ones slightly, the PTC reported Dec. 14, 2006.

The analysis of prime-time programming on the six commercial broadcast networks for the 2005–2006 season showed there were only 1,425 depictions of religion, a 39 percent drop from 2003–2004, when there were 2,344 portrayals.

During that time frame, the portrayals of religion were 35 percent negative, 34 percent positive and 27 percent neutral or mixed, according to PTC. The context of 4 percent of the treatments did not enable a judgment to be made, PTC reported.

The startling box-office returns for the 2004 movie "The Passion of the Christ" has not had the effect on television programming predicted after that phenomenon, PTC President Brent Bozell said in a conference call.

After that movie’s success, "we saw a slew of stories about how ‘Hollywood has gotten religion’ and how Hollywood was seeing the value of programs that had religious themes," Bozell said.

"If you look at the study that we’re releasing today ... you will see that not only did that message never reach the executive suites of the television networks but that, in fact, the television networks have gone in the completely opposite direction from the public mood,” Bozell said. He added that the “television entertainment industry is completely disconnected with American public opinion.”

The type of programming often indicated how religion was treated, PTC reported. Reality shows, such as “The Amazing Race” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” were much more positive in their treatment than dramas and comedies. Reality shows contained 58 percent of the positive portrayals. Scripted programs had 96 percent of the negative depictions.

Other findings in the study of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB and UPN included:
- Fox dominated in the negative portrayals of religion, with 50 percent of its depictions in that category. That was about 10 percent higher than the runner-up, NBC. WB, which featured the religion-friendly “7th Heaven,” had the lowest rate of negative portrayals at 21 percent.

- CBS led in positive depictions, with 47 percent favorable toward religion. UPN was last, with only 19 percent positive portrayals.

- ABC had by far the most overall depictions of religion at an average of slightly more than one per hour. UPN had the fewest at one for every five hours. The overall average was one for every 1.6 hours.

The study covered programming from Sept. 1, 2005, to Aug. 31, 2006.

The report, titled “Faith in a Box 2005–2006,” is available online at www.parentstv.org. (BP)

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