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Control Your Media!


Philadelphia Inquirer
By George Curry

An increasing number of people are fed up with the airing of sexually explicit, violent, degrading, stereotypical music videos on TV, especially during hours when teenagers haven’t turned in for bed.
Citizens are fighting back by filing complaints with the Federal Communications Commission, demonstrating in front of the homes of network executives and, more recently, targeting television sponsors.

Having edited Emerge magazine, a former publication owned by Black Entertainment Television (BET), I am no stranger to music videos. Not all rappers use dirty language or foster negative images. However, even I have been surprised by some of the filthy words that are not bleeped on BET and MTV.

I’m not talking about mild versions of vulgarity, if there is such a thing. I am referring to hard-core cursing, such as a synonym for a female dog, a four-letter word for sexual intercourse, male and female sex organs, the N-word, and a word Barack Obama’s former pastor used when he said something to the effect of goddarn America.

My friend Lisa Fager, who runs the Web site, a music-monitoring group, pointed me to a recent study by the Parents Television Council titled “The Rap on Rap.” The study looking into the degree that adult-themed music videos are marketed to and viewed by children, videotaped and analyzed every episode of MTV’s Sucker Free and BET’s Rap City and 106 & Park programs from Dec. 10 to 21. To double-check its findings, analysts examined another week of programming in March.

Analysts found that 9 percent of expletives on the original music recordings were not muted when played on these TV shows. Even in the 91 percent of the cases when profanities were muted, it was easy to figure out what words were being bleeped. All three of these programs air on weekdays before 7:30 p.m. and are repeated on the weekends. How does that happen when the FCC forbids the broadcasting of sexually explicit content between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.?

The study found 1,342 instances of offensive adult content in the 14 hours of programming analyzed in March. That’s an average of 95.8 such instances per hour, or one instance of adult content every 38 seconds. In the December survey, sex represented the majority of adult content in music videos, 45 percent; followed by explicit language, 29 percent; violence, 13 percent; drug use/sales, 9 percent; and other illegal activity, 3 percent. To put these figures in perspective, the FCC’s most recent analysis of prime-time, family-hour programming showed an average of 12.5 instances of violence, profanity and sexual content per hour, or once every 4.8 minutes.

Fed up with offensive lyrics, has a form on that site for viewers to file indecency complaints with the FCC.

Also taking a stand is the Rev. Delman L. Coates, co-chair of the Citizens for Change organization in Clinton, Md., who has organized protests in front of the District of Columbia home of Debra Lee, CEO of Black Entertainment Television.

In a letter to Coates last September, Lee said: “We at BET Networks share your concerns about the portrayal of Black people in the media. . . . We have been significantly investing in smart, compelling, original programming in order to provide balance and diversity in the content we deliver to our audience.” Because of BET’s 18-to-34-year-old demographics, Lee added, “We might air programming that some people might consider to be edgy or provocative.”

Those answers didn’t satisfy Coates, who has gone beyond street demonstrations and is targeting BET advertisers on his Web site. After listing major companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, General Motors, McDonalds, Burger King, PepsiCo and Nationwide Insurance, the site notes: “The advertising dollars of these companies are sponsoring programming that glorifies violence, criminal activity, the objectification of women, and portrayal of black and Latino men as pimps, gangsters and thugs.”

The Parents Television Council study found that Procter & Gamble was the top advertiser on all three shows it surveyed, with a total of 78 ads within 27.5 hours of programming. It also found that 85 percent of the music promoted on the three shows was sponsored by two record labels – Universal Music (55 percent) and Warner Music (31 percent).

There are signs that advertisers are paying attention. For example, Procter & Gamble had set up a toll-free hotline for consumers to voice their opinion about the company’s advertising on the music-video programs of BET and MTV.

In addition to complaining to the FCC and sensitizing sponsors, consumers can take an even more effective step. Stop buying offensive music! The most commonly used muted expletive was the N-word, according to the study. Consider that, then consider that 80 percent of rap is consumed by whites, according to

Both blacks and whites should join the effort to remove this filth. No one can or should stop record companies from producing insulting music. But that doesn’t mean we should buy it.

George E. Curry, former Washington correspondent and New York bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune, was editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine. He can be reached at