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Report rips adult content in rap videos


Cheryl Wetzstein

Washington Times
April 16, 2008


Three music-video shows that air during daytime or early evening hours are heavily laced with sexual imagery, explicit language, violence and drug use, a television watchdog organization says in a report released yesterday.

This kind of adult content should not be marketed to children, said the Rev. Delman L. Coates, founder of the Enough is Enough Campaign.

"It's these images of black men as gangsters and thugs, and criminals [and] black women as being hypersexualized which are actually long-standing stereotypes of black people that have endured since slavery that I felt really needed to be challenged," Mr. Coates said, in explaining why he started the campaign last summer and has been leading weekly protests at entertainment executives' homes.

The Enough is Enough Campaign and other groups, like Industry Ears and National Congress of Black Women (NCBW), are " equally disturbed about the marketing and distribution of often times what amounts to soft pornographic themes to children and youth," Mr. Coates said at a press conference yesterday.

"And that's really what it is, a kind of coarsening of American popular culture," he said.

The three shows, which aired on Black Entertainment Television (BET) or MTV in December and last month, offered viewers offensive or adult content about once every minute, said the report, "The Rap on Rap," from the Parents Television Council (PTC).

In comparison, prime time broadcast "family hour" programming has instances of violent, profane or sexual content about once every five minutes, PTC President Tim Winter said.

The three shows analyzed were "Sucker Free on MTV," "106 & Park" and "Rap City" on BET. The shows appeared during afternoon or early evening hours. "Sucker Free on MTV" music videos were rated TV-14, which advises that parental guidance is "strongly advised," while most of the BET shows carried the milder TV-PG rating.

The PTC study was requested by Mr. Coates' group to quantify their concerns about excessive sexuality, foul language, violence, drugs and other antisocial imagery.

Last September, BET aired a three-part series called "Hip Hop vs. America" that looked at hip hop's relationship with criminality, its treatment of black women and "the pride, embarrassment and confusion blacks often feel over hip hop's public airing of the community's 'dirty laundry.' "

"This music is supposed to be about what we open our doors and see when we go out into the streets," said hip hop artist T.I. "If you don't change what's going on in these neighborhoods, you can't change what's going on in this music."

"We can't change our words," Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Recordings, told the BET series. "We can't change our ideas. We can't hide all your dirt. We have to make mirrors of your dirt. So if we say things that offend you, you have to suck it up and listen closely. Why are we saying it? The truth is that these words and this language is going to be a critical way to paint a picture of our society."

Telephone calls yesterday to Viacom, MTV and BET were not returned by deadline.

However, Viacom President and Chief Executive Philippe Dauman as well as BET Chairman and Chief Executive Debra L. Lee both said in letters to Mr. Coates that they share his concerns about negative portrayals of blacks in the media.

In his letter, Mr. Dauman promised the company would continue to "engage our audiences in constructive dialogue" while Miss Lee said BET programming guidelines do not allow "programming that endorses or condones illegal drugs or gratuitous violence" and identifies "words that are forbidden on our channel."

E. Faye Williams, chair of the National Congress of Black Women, said yesterday her NCBW predecessor, the late C. Delores Tucker, had been protesti ng the music industry's negative stereotyping and degradation of women for more than a decade.

It's time to take the protest to the sponsors of these videos and programs, Miss Williams said. The NCBW and its allies represent 15 million members, she said, "and we know how to buy selectively."

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