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Study Says Most Sex And Violence on MTV Is Implied

September 5, 1985

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) _ Cable TV’s rock channel, MTV, is as full of sex and violence as critics claim, but they’re implied rather than explicit in most cases, say researchers who expected the videos to be more blatant.

″Basically, they know they’ve got a young audience and they’re not going to get away with truly risque (videos),″ said Cynthia De Riemer, one of the authors of ″A Preliminary Content Analysis of MTV Music Videos.″

The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga study of 62 MTV videos found that almost 60 percent contained sex or violence. It is to be published in the fall issue of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media.

″When we started, we expected to see more blatant, more sexually explicit videos,″ she said. ″It was there, but geared for a more adolescent audience.″

Susan Binford, a spokeswoman for MTV in New York, said Wednesday she was unaware of the study. ″I wish they’d send us a copy of it,″ she said. ″We’re always interested in what the public’s perception of us is.″

Madonna and Billy Idol are among the artists whose videos were most suggestive sexually, said Mrs. De Riemer. ″The ones I remember most as being very suggestive and violent were the Billy Idol videos. Lots of bondage, women as objects, that kind of thing.″

The study was conducted during a two-week period in March and April 1984. UTC students were asked to study 62 videos taken from MTV and tallied 23 topics ranging from sex to religious symbols, listing the most common. They viewed the videos without sound to concentrate on the visual images.

The study found sex in 59.7 percent of the videos and violence in 53.2 percent. But the most common image was special effects - unusual camera angles, special lighting, fog - showing up in 90.3 percent of the videos. Dance was portrayed in 56.5 percent.

Provocative clothing and physical contact led the list of sexual images, in 31 percent. Sexually suggestive dancing was in 27 percent. Deviant themes such as sado-masochism and sexual bondage were in 5 percent or less.

Violence and crime were most often depicted in physical assaults against people - 26 percent - and objects, 16 percent.

The study said it agreed with a 1983 Rolling Stone report that said MTV ″stresses sex and violence and makes rock music impersonal.″

But, it added, ″Like other studies on the sexual content of television, music video sex is understated, relying on innuendo through clothing, suggestiveness and light physical contact rather than more overt behavior.″

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