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MTV‘s Newest Teen Hit Faces Child Pornography Accusations

Do you know what your kids are watching?

I'm somewhat familiar with MTV's programming line-up, which includes "reality" shows about teen moms, teens living glamorous and carefree lives in Hollywood and hopelessly stereotypical New Jersey teens.  So when I read the news that the cable network was being investigated for possible child pornography, I wasn't incredibly surprised.

The show in question is called "Skins" and premiered Monday to more than 3 million viewers. To give you an idea of the show's content, the first episode opened with a young teen girl trying to sneak home after an all-night bender without tipping off her parents.

The series premiere alone included sex, drug-dealing, alcohol, prescription drug abuse, sex, prostitution, smoking, homosexuality, violence, car theft, voyeurism and more sex. In fact, the entire premise of the first episode was how the group would get their 16-year-old friend to lose his uncool virginity before his 17th birthday. And after the kids' friend wakes up from her drug overdose and their stolen car full of illegal drugs rolls and crashes into a lake, the kids laugh it off. The end.*

*If you think I'm exaggerating, feel free to click here and watch -- it's available for anyone to watch online, anytime.

I think many parents would likely be outraged, that is if they pay close attention to what it is their kids are watching on television each night.

(Warning: Video contains graphic images & language.  Viewer discretion is advised.)

All smut aside, MTV is a cable network and not held to the same standards as network television. But the Parents Television Council is calling on lawmakers and law enforcement officials to open an investigation regarding possible child pornography and exploitation on "Skins." The youngest cast member on the show is just 15 years old.

“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.”

Ian Friedman, an attorney specializing in computer-based sex offenses, told Fox News that he believes MTV is "unnecessarily tempting fate."

“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," Friedman said, noting that attitudes toward nudity and sexuality are far more lax in the show's native England.

Since public outcry started to stir, MTV executives have held meetings and discussed the possibility of editing out some of the more explicit footage from future episodes. But even this action may not be enough to protect the network from legal consequences, Friedman said.

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

In a statement released Thursday, MTV defended its new show.

"'Skins' is a show that addresses real-world issues confronting teens in a frank way. 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. 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.‬"

“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.”

Update:

Fox News discussed the show Thursday evening, with host Bill O'Reilly and his "culture warriors" weighing in:

Update II: "Skins" is apparently too racy for Taco Bell -- the fast food chain has pulled all its advertising support from the show.

One last thing…
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