How Does MTV Impact Your Kids?

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, August 27, 2003. Watch The O'Reilly Factor weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the Radio Factor!

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the Back of the Book segment tonight, perhaps the most salacious network on television today is MTV (search), which, of course, is marketed to kids and young adults. Every year, MTV gets a lot of publicity for its award program.

Let's take a look at some of the nominees.


50 CENT, SINGER: Go, shorty / It's your birthday / We gonna party like it's your birthday / We gonna sip Bacardi like it's your birthday / And you know we don't give a (EXPLETIVE) / Cause it's not your birthday / You can find me in the club, bottle full of bub  / Look mami I got the X if you into taking drugs / I'm into having sex, I ain't into making love / So come give me a hug if you into to getting rubbed

CHRISTINA AGUILERA, SINGER: Wanna get rowdy / Going to get a little unruly / Get it fired up in a hurry / Wanna get dirty / It's about time that I came to start the party / Sweat dripping over my body / Dance and getting just a little naughty / Wanna get dirty / It's about time for my arrival

MADONNA, SINGER: I guess, die another day / I guess, die another day / I guess, die another day / I guess, die another day / I guess I'll die another day / Another day / I guess I'll die another day / Another day / I guess I'll die another day / Another day / I guess I'll die another day / Sigmund Freud


O'REILLY: It’s not exactly The Ed Sullivan Show.

Joining us now from Los Angeles is Dr. Karen Sternheimer, a sociology professor at USC and author of the book It's Not the Media: The Truth About Pop Culture's Influence on Children.

All right. Now, look, Doctor, I mean we're not old fogies here at The Factor. I may be one, but we're pretty hip behind the scenes, and I mean adults can digest this kind of decadence, but a steady diet of it has to have an affect on children, does it not?

KAREN STERNHEIMER, PH.D., USC PROFESSOR: Well, I have to let you know I agree that a lot of what we see on MTV is very shocking and it is somewhat offensive to the eye and sometimes to the ear as well.

But I think we have a problem when we presume that offensive content is going to lead to offensive behavior. And let me just give you the example of the thing I think a lot of parents fear the most with the sexual content of music videos.

I think a lot of parents, obviously, are afraid that kids are going to see this and become very sexual themselves, and I would say, if we look at the overall trends, if we look at, for instance, CDC data, which tell us that, for instance, teens today are less likely to be sexually active than 10 years ago…

O'REILLY: Yes, but that's misleading. That stat is misleading because it's...

STERNHEIMER: Well, let me just finish the one thought.

O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa, whoa, Doctor. But I can't let you because this is the no-spin zone. The stat is misleading because it doesn't take into account the socioeconomic basis of who you're talking about. The lower echelons of society -- with the 70 percent out of wedlock in the black community -- has really been affected by the increasing acceptance of permissiveness and decadence driven by MTV and other media outlets.

STERNHEIMER: Well, I think it is important to look at context here, and let me add that particularly for African-American girls, teen pregnancy rates have steadily declined. So that's something that we really need to keep in mind.

O'REILLY: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. They're at 80 percent between...

STERNHEIMER: They have been declining.

O'REILLY: Wait. Look, you can decline from anything, but black girls between 15 and 24 who give birth -- 80 percent of them are out of wedlock. So, if you're going to make that case, you're going to be laughed off the dais.

STERNHEIMER: Well, in any case, I think it's important to look at context, and here we could see that the behavior of most kids isn't nearly as bad as the shocking content that MTV might predict.

And I think, if we want to also put things in context, we have to look at other types of programming, and, frankly, I think, for better or worse, programming today is much more about shock than it is about substance, and it's not just young people...

O'REILLY: But how could that be for better? Doctor, you said for better or for worse. How could that be for better?

STERNHEIMER: Well, I would refrain from making value judgments about programming. I think that...

O'REILLY: Aha! Nobody makes value judgments about programming, and that's why we have what we have. Nobody does.

STERNHEIMER: Well, you know, I think that, in an ideal world, the networks themselves would be making those types of judgments, but, as we all know, the bottom line is profit. The bottom line is ratings.

O'REILLY: Yes. In the real world, you know, I'd be living on the Riviera. I mean it ain't going to happen. Well, listen, Doctor, I'm going to give you the last word on it, but I do think this stuff is harmful to society. What do you think?

STERNHEIMER: Absolutely. I don't agree, but I think a lot of people agree with you, and I would say media is a great thing to criticize. I think that we need to start there to do social criticism. I don't think we should end there.

O'REILLY: OK, Doctor. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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