LOS ANGELES Incidents of violence against women on mainstream U.S. television has increased by 120 percent in the past five years, with the depiction of teen girls as victims rising by some 400 percent, the Parents Television Council said in a report on Wednesday.
The media watchdog said it was particularly disturbed by the use of violence against women in comedies and said it hoped TV networks and advertisers would stand up against the trend.
"I hope the industry will look at our data and be as shocked as I was," PTC president Tim Winter told reporters.
The report suggested that violent acts against women and teen girls was increasing at rates that far exceed the two percent increase in overall violence that the study found existed on TV between 2004-2009.
The PTC compared prime-time programing on networks ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox in February and May 2004 and the same months in 2009. It said every network except ABC showed a dramatic increase in stories that included beatings, violent threats, shooting, rape, stabbing and torture.
The PTC findings reflect a sharp rise in the number of crime series on TV, such as the popular CBS franchise "CSI" which is one of America's most-watched drama series.
But the report singled out Fox, saying the network allowed violence against women to be trivialized through punch lines in its satirical animated comedies "Family Guy" and "American Dad." It cited one May 2009 episode of "Family Guy" in which a character gets divorced under a fictional 18th century procedure -- by shooting his wife dead.
The Parents Television Council, founded in 1995 to highlight children's exposure to sex, violence and profanity on television, said it was concerned that U.S. television was contributing to an atmosphere in which violence directed at women was viewed as normal.
"The fact is that children are influenced by what they see on TV and that certainly includes media violence," said Melissa Henson, the group's public education director.
A second TV pressure group, TV Watch, accused the PTC of seeking to expand government control over TV output and said parents should have the final say on what their children watch.
"This so-called 'study' is...an attempt to force all television contents to conform to their own beliefs. Parents have the tools to enforce the decisions about their children's viewing," Jim Dyke, executive director of TV Watch said in a statement.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)