This week, viewers who objected to the "Victoria's Secret" lingerie show on ABC during prime time last November learned that their protest to the Federal Communications Commission had been rejected.
The FCC ruled that the complaints had "not demonstrated that the sexual aspects of the material was, in context, so graphic or explicit as to be patently offensive."
But such protests may be having a cumulative effect on the television industry. A study released last week showed that between 1999 and 2001 the amount of sexual material on TV entertainment shows dropped 29 percent, and the amount of serious violence went down 17 percent.
"Popular culture is not necessarily on a permanent and steeply downward slide," concludes the report, issued by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a media think tank in Washington, D.C. It added that Hollywood is now providing viewers "with less extreme programming that appeals to wider audiences."
TV's Big Four over-the-air broadcasters (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) showed the greatest drop in sexual material, 27 percent.
But basic cable TV showed no decline. And the news wasn't good on movie screens either, which also showed no drop. The study found the 50 top-grossing films of 1998 and 2000 to average identical amounts of sex and violence.
In 2000, the most violent film was "The Patriot" (159 scenes of violence), nearly one per minute of screen time. "Gladiator," which won an Academy Award for Best Picture, was second (110 scenes) and "Mission Impossible II" third (108).
To obtain the survey, call (202) 223-2942 or visit www.cmpa.com.