April 26, 2007

World News

Study: TV Ratings a 'Sham' 

BY MICHAEL FOUST                                                                                                        ©2007 Baptist Press  
capF 6amilies who use television ratings to guide their TV viewing habits are relying on a "sham" system that doesn't work, a new study asserts.

The Parents Television Council study of 546 hours of primetime broadcast programming found that 67 percent of the time, the show contained offensive programming without the proper content label. For instance, the program may have had sexual content but no "S" label to warn viewers.

The April 16 study is significant because ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox filed suit last year challenging fines imposed by the Federal Communications Commission due to various indecency violations. In fact, the networks issued a joint statement criticizing the "growing government control over what viewers should and shouldn't see" and arguing that parents already have control over their TV thanks to the V-Chip and other blocking technologies.

But the V-Chip relies on television ratings, which the Parents Television Council says are useless. Each program is given a rating, such as "TV-G," "TV-PG," "TV-14" and "TV-MA," along with letters warning viewers of offensive content. For example, an "S" refers to sexual content, a "V" to violence, an "L" to language and a "D" to suggestive dialogue. A show's rating can be seen at the beginning of the program and sometimes following commercial breaks. Newer television sets contain V-Chips that automatically detect the ratings.

"The ratings system is a sham meant to keep Congress at bay while Hollywood continues to pump more and more of its toxic content into America's homes," the study noted. "... The V-Chip cannot be relied upon to consistently block offensive programs because parents cannot rely on the ratings to correctly identify problematic content."

The study examined programming on all six broadcast networks (the four already mentioned plus CW and MyNetworkTV) during the November and February sweeps weeks. News and sports programming were not included. Among the findings:

      -- 63 percent of shows with sexual content did not have an "S" descriptor.
      -- 54 percent of shows with suggestive dialogue lacked a "D."
      -- 44 percent of shows with foul language had no "L."
      -- 42 percent of shows with violence did not have a "V."

The study's findings mean, for instance, that a mother who wanted to block all sexual content from her children would be unsuccessful the large majority of the time.    

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Southern Baptists Fall Far Short of Baptism Campaign Goal
BY ADELLE BANKS                                                                                         ©2007 Religion News Service
Southern Baptist churches fell significantly short of a campaign to baptize one million people and saw a slight drop in baptisms from 2005 to 2006, statistics show. Baptisms in 2006 totaled 364,826, down 1.89 percent from the 2005 total of 371,850, according to the denomination's Annual Church Profile.
Former Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch led an "Everyone Can!" campaign seeking 1 million baptisms between October 2005 and October 2006. Specific figures for baptisms from all Southern Baptist churches during those dates are not available, since the denomination tallies baptisms on a calendar-year basis.
In a commentary in Baptist Press, the denomination's news service, Welch said the 1 million goal was a "target that would challenge everyone to do their very best." He said there have been "life-changing" results from some congregations that broke "recent history records in baptisms," but the overall results show the need for a more unified effort.
"The 2006 decline in baptisms in SBC churches likely will disclose that while many did their very best, many others did about the same or less than before," said Welch, who traveled across the country by bus to encourage Southern Baptists to work toward the campaign goal.
Overall, the denomination reported a 2006 total membership of 16,306,246, an increase of .22 percent from the previous year. The number of churches totaled 44,223, a 1.2 percent increase from 2005.
Report Finds Global Anti-Semitism on the Rise
BY RACHAEL POMERANCE                                                                              ©2007 Religion News Service
Israel and Jewish communities observed Holocaust Memorial Day on April 16 in the wake of worrisome findings by Tel Aviv University that anti-Semitic activity skyrocketed in the past year. 
The spike in verbal and physical attacks on Jews around the world is due to "the efforts invested by Iran to delegitimize Israel by denying the Holocaust, and the second Lebanon war," according to the report released at the Stephen Roth Institute in Tel Aviv, which is funded by the World Jewish Congress.
Some 590 cases of violence and vandalism were reported in 2006, up from 406 the previous year. Physical attacks nearly doubled to 270. Perpetrators included primarily Muslims and right-wing groups.
Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and France saw the steepest rise in anti-Semitism.
Western Europe in general was a hotbed of activity. Germany experienced acts of anti-Semitism almost daily and the highest incidence of desecration of Holocaust memorials. In Rome, 20 Jewish shops were vandalized, their locks glued. Anti-Semitic activity in Norway, including the beating of a 14-year-old girl, prompted the Jewish community to suggest its members stop wearing skullcaps and speaking Hebrew in public. And in soccer stadiums throughout Europe, anti-Semitic chants were heard like "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas."
The United States saw a 12 percent decrease in anti-Semitic activity, but increased incidents of violence.
Anti-Semitic cartoons permeated the Arab press. "Israeli soldiers were depicted as bloodthirsty, Nazi-like figures; Jews were drawn with hooked noses, long beards and black hats; Israeli leaders were portrayed as greedy and manipulative and drank the blood of Lebanese victims; and the swastika was superimposed over the Star of David," the report said.
The trend appears to continue and "even escalate," said Dina Porat, who heads the Stephen Roth Institute. This month, text messages throughout Saudi Arabia carried allegedly government-sponsored warnings against Israeli-imported melons infected with AIDS, according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
College for Christian Homeschoolers Gains Accreditation
BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                    ©2007 Religion News Service
Patrick Henry College, the Virginia institution known for preparing Christian home-schooled students for careers in public service, has received full accreditation. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools granted the accreditation on April 17, the Purcellville, Virginia-based college announced.

"We are thrilled that we were able to get accreditation from TRACS on our first vote upon our application for full accreditation," said Chancellor Michael Farris, who founded the college in 2000.

The accrediting agency, which has also recognized Bob Jones University and the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, is approved as a national accrediting body for Christian colleges, universities and seminaries by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Graham Walker, the college's president, said the school did not seek accreditation so it could qualify for federal funding. The school wanted instead "to submit itself to peer review and professional accountability," he said in a statement.

The accreditation status lasts five years and the college must provide progress reports periodically.

Last spring, five faculty members left the school after charging that their academic freedom was violated. Farris said two professors have announced plans to resign at the end of this school year for similar reasons.