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MTV's 'Skins' in hot water

The character of Tea from MTV's "Skins."

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: On any given night, network television is happy to show you teenagers being bad. Very bad. From "Gossip Girl" to the new "90210." But it's a 10 p.m. cable show that's got watchdog groups up in arms.

The Parents Television Council is publicly shaming every company that ran an ad on last week's premiere episode of MTV's controversial new series "Skins."

Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.


Eve Troeh: "Skins" started as a British series. The scripted drama won awards for its frank depictions of teen sexuality, drug use, and family dysfunction -- using amateur actors. For the U.S. version, MTV watered down the content, but it does feature actors under age 18, saying things like:

"Skins" clip: I want the sex. The girls I sleep with, bore me.

The first episode aired last week. Several advertisers have pulled out, including General Motors, Subway, H&R Block and Taco Bell.

TV executive and law professor Jeff Schneider says casting any underage actors means extra costs and headaches, from hiring on-set tutors to legal limits on working hours.

Jeff Schneider: It does restrict your production and gives you a lot less freedom.

And, Schneider says, child pornography laws have become so strict, most networks don't cast actors under age 18 in teen roles.

Schneider: They have just assumed that anything that looks like sex on screen is going to apply.

MTV couldn't respond by our deadline to talk about casting actors under 18. In the U.K. version of "Skins," the young ages of the actors are critical. Dan Durbin teaches communications at the University of Southern California. He says "Skins" helps MTV reclaim the credibility of its youth.

Dan Durbin: If they're going to keep their image, they're going to have to come up with programming that's as challenging and daring as the other networks.

He says the controversy will have more advertisers watching tonight, and deciding whether they want to get some skin in the game.

In Los Angeles, I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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