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Old 01-20-2011, 03:58 PM   #1
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New MTV Show 'Skins'-Child Pornography?

Parents Group Petitions Congress, Attorney General to Investigate MTV for Child Pornography in 'Skins' Series - FoxNews.com

Is MTV a purveyor of kiddie porn?

The Parents Television Council wants to find out, so Thursday they called on lawmakers and law enforcement officials to open an investigation regarding possible child pornography and exploitation on the cable network's new series “Skins.”

“On January 17, the Viacom-owned cable network MTV aired a teenager-based drama, ‘Skins.’ The episode included all manner of foul language, illegal drug use, illegal activity as well as thoroughly pervasive sexual content,” PTC President Tim Winter said in a letter sent to the chairmen of the U.S. Senate and House Judiciary Committees and the Department of Justice. “Many of the actors appearing in the show are below the age of 18. It is clear that Viacom has knowingly produced material that may well be in violation of [several] federal statutes."

“Since it is not necessary for Viacom or MTV to distribute the material in order to be in violation of the law, we call upon your committees to immediately investigate Viacom and MTV for the production of this material," Winter said in the statement. "Furthermore, we urge you in the strongest possible terms to compel the Attorney General to mount an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether the production of ‘Skins’ has violated federal law meant to protect minors from exploitation.”

The controversial British import series “Skins” made its debut on the cable network last Monday, causing uproar for its frank depiction of teenage sex and drug use. But unlike MTV’s envelope-pushing shows of the past, “Skins” features underage actors engaged in sexual situations. The youngest star of the show is 15.

“Putting aside whether it is socially acceptable, I certainly believe that MTV is unnecessarily tempting fate,” Ian Freidman, an attorney specializing in computer-based sex offenses, told FOX411.

“It is not clear as to whether MTV is in violation of Federal or State child pornography laws, but that does not mean that they won’t end up defending themselves somewhere in the United States," Freidman said, noting that attitudes towards nudity and sexuality are far more lax in the show's native England.

According to the New York Times, a series of panicked meetings took place at MTV headquarters in New York on Tuesday, where one executive allegedly even discussed the possibility of criminal charges and jail time. Reportedly, nervous execs forced producers to edit out some of the more explicit content from future episodes.

But even if potentially damaging footage is edited out, that may not be enough to protect MTV from legal repercussions, says Freidman.

“While the images that are portrayed on television may be considered legal, that may not be the case for the edited footage,” Freidman said, echoing the view of the PTC in their statement. “If that actor is underage and under the age of consent, possessing that raw footage may be problematic.”

With “Skins,” MTV execs knew that they had a controversial show on their hands—but one that they hoped would be a hit.

“When (MTV programming president) Tony DiSanto and (senior VP of series development) Liz Gateley landed ‘Skins,’ everyone at MTV couldn’t stop congratulating each other,” an MTV insider told FOX411. “They acquired a show that became a cult favorite in the UK, and they knew that casting actual teens doing what teens actually do was going to be controversial, ground-breaking—and a huge hit for them.”

But at what cost? “This situation presents a minefield of legal issues that may not have been considered prior to filming,” Freidman said. “In the event that some of the footage does constitute child pornography or obscene material, MTV will face the dilemma of what to do with the material. To discard it now may raise another host of legal issues pertaining to the destruction of evidence.”

“Skins” is rated TV-MA. According to tvguidelines.org, a TV-MA rating signifies that the program “is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17.”

Nielsen ratings for the premiere, which was heavily promoted during MTV’s TV-14 hit “Jersey Shore,” show that it drew 1.2 million people younger than 18, or more than a third of its total audience.

“If MTV were my client, I would advise them to scale it back some,” Freidman said. “I do not see any benefit here except maybe an initial boost in ratings. The question may become whether it was worth it in the end.”
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Old 01-20-2011, 03:58 PM   #2
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NY Times article

January 19, 2011
A Racy Show With Teenagers Steps Back From a Boundary
By BRIAN STELTER

MTV executives have a new hit drama on their hands, featuring the sexual and drug-fueled exploits of misfit teenagers. They also have something else — a fear that coming episodes of the show may break the law.

In recent days, executives at the cable channel became concerned that some scenes from the provocative new show “Skins” may violate federal child pornography statutes.

The executives ordered the producers to make changes to tone down some of the most explicit content.

They are particularly concerned about the third episode of the series, which is to be broadcast Jan. 31. In an early version, a naked 17-year-old actor is shown from behind as he runs down a street. The actor, Jesse Carere, plays Chris, a high school student whose erection — assisted by erectile dysfunction pills — is a punch line throughout the episode.

The planned changes indicate that MTV, which has been pushing the envelope for decades, may be concerned that it pushed too far this time.

“Skins” is a calculated risk by MTV which is eager to get into the scripted programming business. The channel, a unit of Viacom, has long tested American standards for sexuality and obscenity on television with shows like “The Real World” and “Jersey Shore.”

Those reality shows have generally involved adults, but for “Skins,” the producers purposefully cast actors ages 15 to 19, most of whom had never acted before.

MTV’s president and other executives declined interview requests on Wednesday. An MTV spokeswoman, Jeannie Kedas, insisted that the future episodes of “Skins” were still works in progress. She would not confirm that MTV executives were fearful of running afoul of child pornography laws.

“ ‘Skins’ is a show that addresses real-world issues confronting teens in a frank way,” she said in a statement. “We review all of our shows and work with all of our producers on an ongoing basis to ensure our shows comply with laws and community standards. We are confident that the episodes of ‘Skins’ will not only comply with all applicable legal requirements, but also with our responsibilities to our viewers.”

Child pornography is defined by the United States as any visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. In some cases, “a picture of a naked child may constitute illegal child pornography if it is sufficiently sexually suggestive,” according to the Justice Department’s legal guidance. Anyone younger than 18 is considered to be a minor.

The youngest cast member on “Skins” is 15.

“Skins” is an import from Britain, a country that has historically displayed a higher tolerance for TV eroticism than the United States. The episodes for MTV, including the third one, which was shared with TV critics, are virtually identical to the source material.

The remade episodes, like the ones in Britain, included simulated masturbation, implied sexual assault, and teenagers disrobing and getting into bed together.

With ads that feature groups of barely clothed teenagers, “Skins” is surely one of the most sexually charged programs that MTV has featured. Before it even had its premiere, the Parents Television Council, a TV watchdog group, labeled “Skins” the “most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on your children.” The group objected to the gratuitous scenes of drug and alcohol use, violence and sexual acts.

Of course, those scenes may be what attract young viewers in the first place. Jessica Bennett, a senior writer for Newsweek, wrote last week, “ ‘Skins’ may be the most realistic show on television.”

The show is off to a running start. It attracted 3.3 million to its premiere on Monday night and set a new first-episode record for the channel among viewers ages 12 to 34.

Episodes of “Skins” are rated TV-MA, indicating that the content may be unsuitable for viewers younger than 17. MTV states in news releases that it is “specifically designed to be viewed by adults.” However, many of MTV’s viewers are in middle and high school. According to the Nielsen Company, the first episode drew 1.2 million people younger than 18.

MTV noted that the episodes were being shown only at or after 10 p.m. Eastern, and said in the statement, “We also have taken numerous steps to alert viewers to the strong subject matter so that they can choose for themselves whether it is appropriate.”

It is unclear when MTV first realized that the show may be vulnerable to child pornography charges. On Tuesday, a flurry of meetings took place at the network’s headquarters in New York, according to an executive who attended some of the meetings and spoke only on the condition of anonymity. In one of the meetings, the executives wondered aloud who could possibly face criminal prosecution and jail time if the episodes were broadcast without changes.

Days earlier, MTV held a premiere party for the series in Manhattan. Ensconced there in the V.I.P. perch, the actors huddled around one another and stared in awe at the youthful party that was under way — while unable to partake in the free alcohol that was flowing in the 21-and-older area. By midnight, several of the actors appeared to have headed home with their parents.

Referring to the largely unknown actors, Bryan Elsley, an executive producer of “Skins,” said in a letter to critics last month, “They’re making the characters their own and demanding that their voices be heard.”

Mr. Elsley and his producing partners did not respond to interview requests on Wednesday, but MTV executives were known to be worried about how the producers would react to the planned changes. The channel intends for the editing to obscure some of the sexual content in the third episode and others.

There are, of course, innumerable examples of youthful sexuality being packaged by the media. Amy M. Adler, a professor of law at New York University who specializes in free speech, art and pornography, pointed to the teenage singer Miley Cyrus’s revealing photo shoots and the CW network’s use of condemnations by the Parents Television Council of the risqué drama “Gossip Girl” to promote the show.

“There are times when I look at mainstream culture and think it is skirting up against the edge of child pornography law,” she said.
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:15 PM   #3
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It's only a matter of time...

YouTube - MTV Presents "Dipes" - Crazy Babies Party On The Conan O'brien Show !
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:23 PM   #4
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Wow, I'm really not sure what to think on this one. That's definitely toeing the line at any rate.
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:48 PM   #5
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Quote:
“On January 17, the Viacom-owned cable network MTV aired a teenager-based drama, ‘Skins.’ The episode included all manner of foul language, illegal drug use, illegal activity as well as thoroughly pervasive sexual content,” PTC President Tim Winter said in a letter sent to the chairmen of the U.S. Senate and House Judiciary Committees and the Department of Justice.
...in other words, things many teenagers throughout the ages have been involved in. Some of whom are, unfortunately, under the age of 18 when they do all this stuff, too.

That being said, ergh, yeah, there's a definite fine line they're walking here with the actors' ages. I can understand the concern over that aspect of it all.

Angela
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:54 PM   #6
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It's the fact that they filmed it that's the problem, no?
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:57 PM   #7
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Are there any parents or social workers on the sets? Doesn't that happen in the case of minors on TV or movie sets?
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Old 01-20-2011, 08:48 PM   #8
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To me, it seems unclear from the articles whether or not the fact of the show having been produced in the UK (and then, I gather, further edited here) might consitute a C.Y.A. for MTV or not. I don't know enough about US laws concerning 'child pornography' to speculate.

Maybe Irvine or melon know something about this stuff...?
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Old 01-20-2011, 10:15 PM   #9
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Man, North America is full of such a bunch of prudes
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Old 01-20-2011, 10:32 PM   #10
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This reminds me that I want to get around to watching the original version via Netflix soon. I have no interest in yet another US remake of a British TV show.

Also, congratulations to the PTC for now ensuring more people will watch. Everyone will be sitting in front of their TVs or computers with a notepad and pen, making various marks in the "Porn" and "Not Porn" columns for every scene during the show.

That was their goal, right?

No?

Whoops!
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Old 01-21-2011, 01:13 AM   #11
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I'm more offended by the fact that the show most likely sucks.
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Old 01-21-2011, 01:26 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Canadiens1131
Man, North America is full of such a bunch of prudes
.
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Old 01-21-2011, 09:31 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by corianderstem View Post
This reminds me that I want to get around to watching the original version via Netflix soon. I have no interest in yet another US remake of a British TV show.

Also, congratulations to the PTC for now ensuring more people will watch. Everyone will be sitting in front of their TVs or computers with a notepad and pen, making various marks in the "Porn" and "Not Porn" columns for every scene during the show.

That was their goal, right?

No?

Whoops!
EXACTLY.

Yeah, for a group that speaks out against things so strongly, they sure seem awfully fascinated about this stuff. Either they check it out or get others to do it (do your own dirty (heh...no pun intended) work, people).

I'm not gonna watch it regardless, 'cause I never watch MTV anyway.

Angela
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Old 01-21-2011, 09:44 AM   #14
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Literally all I know about this show is that they used Animal Collective's "My Girls" in the opening credits or something. I doubt the show's any good, but at least someone on the staff has good taste in music.
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Old 01-21-2011, 10:20 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by corianderstem View Post
This reminds me that I want to get around to watching the original version via Netflix soon. I have no interest in yet another US remake of a British TV show.

Also, congratulations to the PTC for now ensuring more people will watch. Everyone will be sitting in front of their TVs or computers with a notepad and pen, making various marks in the "Porn" and "Not Porn" columns for every scene during the show.

That was their goal, right?

No?

Whoops!
Don't even bother with the US version. UK all the way!

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilsFan View Post
I'm more offended by the fact that the show most likely sucks.
This. Yet another fantastic British show ruined by Americans.
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