MTV scrubs


It was bad enough when decency watchdogs managed to deprive MTV’s British import series “Skins” of big advertising accounts. It also failed to catch on with viewers, who turned to it in declining numbers after its debut. That killer one-two punch is a sure-fire prescription for an exit from the network program lineup.

MTV stated, “‘Skins’ is a global television phenomenon that, unfortunately, didn’t connect with a U.S. audience as much as we had hoped. We admire the work that the series’ creator Bryan Elsley did in adapting the show for MTV, and appreciate the core audience that embraced it.”

The show got off to a flashy beginning, fueled in part by watchdog protests that kicked in before its debut. According to the Los Angeles Times, it kicked off with 3.3M viewers. But by the time it limped into its finale, it had lost almost two-thirds of that audience, clocking in with 1.2M viewers on the finale. The ratings numbers are from Nielsen.

Parents Television Council took the lead in opposing the program, and even suggested that child pornography laws may have been broken during its production. A spokesman for the group told media outlets that the program’s demise came as no surprise. And PTC applauded the move.

TV Guide noted that watchdog managed to chase advertisers such as Taco Bell, Wrigley, General Motors, Subway, Foot Locker, H&R Block, L’Oréal, Clearasil and Kraft away from the program, along with a few others.

A program which is bleeding viewers and advertisers is doomed, and such was the story for MTV’s version of “Skins.”

Click here for the PTC response to the cancellation.

RBR-TVBR observation: The reason parental controls are so important is that artists and documentarians alike need to be able to address the full range of human behavior when producing material for public consumption.

Did the creators of “Skins” attempt to address complicated topics in the arena of teens making the transition to adulthood and coming into contact with various temptations in a constructive way, or was it simply gratuitous exploitation of various sensationalist topics?

We honestly don’t know – we didn’t watch the program. Based on what we’ve read, we’d guess that the British version was the more responsible of the two, but that’s just a guess.

The bottom line is it doesn’t matter. Freedom of speech does not have any but the most minimal qualifiers attached to it, and that is absolutely as it should be.

The decency watchdogs are perfectly within their rights to warn parents about the content of programs, and if they are able to go a step farther and drive advertisers away, more power to them. That is a very effective check on those programmers who thrive on exploitation rather than thoughtful examination of controversial topics.

In short, we completely support the right of watchdogs to exert what influence they have over viewership and sponsorship of any program, just as we completely support the right to the full extent of the law of the programmer to exert full control over the content.