MTV Worried 'Skins' May Violate Child Pornography Laws

Skins - MTV - PR Image - 2011
Courtesy of MTV Networks

Executives have ordered producers to either make changes or tone down the most explicit content.

MTV executives are nervous their racy new hit, Skins, may violate child pornography laws.

Viacom executives have ordered producers to either make changes or tone down the most explicit content, the New York Times reports.

Meetings on the show were held Tuesday, and executives wondered if they could face criminal prosecution and jail time if the episodes were broadcast without changes, the Times reports.

They are nervous about the third episode of the series, in which 17-year-old actor Jesse Carere is shown running down these street naked from behind. The plot centers around his erection, aided by erectile dysfunction pills. It's slated to air Jan. 31.

The network has long pushed the envelope with The Real World and Jersey Shore, but those shows feature adults -- while Skins, a scripted series adapted from a U.K. show of the same name -- involves underage kids using drugs, obscenities and having sex.

An MTV spokeswoman, Jeannie Kedas, did not address executives' fears that the show was breaking the law, but admitted future shows were a work in progress.

"Skins is a show that addresses real-world issues confronting teens in a frank way,” she said in a statement. “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.”

The youngest actor on the show is 15.

The network points out that it airs after 10 p.m. ET, and is rated TV-MA. Added the rep, "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.”

Kids are still watching, though. Some 3.3 million tuned in to its premiere Monday, setting a net record for viewers aged 12 to 34. According to Nielsen, 1.2 million viewers were under 18.

Still, one expert defends the show, pointing out Miley Cyrus' racy videos and the CW's use of condemnations by the Parents Television Council to promote itself.

“There are times when I look at mainstream culture and think it is skirting up against the edge of child pornography law,” Amy M. Adler, a law professor at New York University who specializes in free speech, art and pornography, told the Times.