Sex under fire

Argentine watchdogs nip at risque b'casts

BUENOS AIRES — For weeks, obscenity in primetime and earlier has been a heated topic in Argentina. Now the government is considering a crackdown.

TV broadcasters and producers have come under attack by arts, education and religious groups to clean up programs they accuse of being rife with foul language, racism, sex and violence.

The concern is over trailers and reruns of latenight programs aired between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.

“Broadcasters are testing their limits,” Juan Jose Ross, a senior content evaluation director at broadcasting regulator Comfer.

Comfer’s measures may lead to a greater cutback in edgier material. It is considering extending until 11 p.m. the period for protecting minors and stiffening fines for airing offensive material.

This could force broadcasters to shift 10 p.m. programming — usually the hottest — an hour later, possibly sacrificing viewers and ad coin.

Broadcasters have been using the 10 p.m.-midnightslots for material with deeper themes, quicker tempos and harder language.

Topless women make regular appearances on “ShowMatch,” a hugely popular variety program that’s helped Daniel Hadad’s Canal 9 move up to second in the ratings for the first time in 15 years, displacing Grupo Clarin’s Artear-Canal 13. It airs 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weeknights.

And sex scenes regularly open at least two shows, Endemol series “Doble vida” (Double Life) on fourth-ranked America TV and “Historias de sexo de gente comun” (Sex Stories of Common People) on ratings leader Telefe, a unit of Spain’s Telefonica.

Proponents defend the harder content for its realism. “People are watching these more erotic shows,” says Miguel de Godoy, spokesman for Canal 9.

Extending the protection hours “doesn’t mean there will be better programming,” he adds. .”

Comfer has been careful to hedge its criticism, saying that it won’t censor content.

But it is being pressured. An influential culture group, the National Arts Fund, has called on citizens to press broadcasters to stop what it calls the “deterioration of national culture.”

Its attack is not just aimed at latenight programming. It has raised red flags about transvestites as stars, hidden cameras airing bathroom chatter at celebrity events, sensationalistic news reporting and banal language.

A recent study by Austral U. found that 81% of fiction programs contain vulgarity and transmit negative social values, and 60% of newscasts regularly fictionalize events to capture the attention of viewers.

Yet this is a congressional election year, meaning decisions could be tempered to avert a voter backlash.

Only weeks ago, President Nesto Kirchner extended broadcasting licenses for an additional 10 years.

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