Bad Company: Executive Summary

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 The entertainment industry boasts it provides but a depiction of reality. In the real world, is the average businessman a murderer, kidnapper and/or philandering backstabber? If not, why is this the way the businessman is portrayed on television? In the world of entertainment TV, businessmen pose a greater threat than the mob.

     Almost 10 years ago, the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute published “Businessmen Behaving Badly,” which found that businessmen on TV committed more crimes than any other demographic. In this new study, BMI looked at 129 episodes from 12 top-rated dramas on the four networks: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. These broadcasts were picked from two “sweeps” months in 2005 – May and November – when networks try to attract the largest audiences to maximize ad dollars.

     In this look at primetime, BMI found:

    TV Overwhelmingly Negative toward Business: Negative plots about business and businessmen outnumbered positive ones by almost 4-to-1. Of the 39 episodes that included business-related plots or characters, 30 (77 percent) cast businessmen and commerce in a negative light. 

    Businessmen Are Villains, Not Heroes: When businessmen appeared on TV, they were up to no good. Only NBC’s “Medium” and “Las Vegas” featured businessmen in a consistently positive light.  

    TV Businessmen a Greater Threat to Society than Terrorists or Gangs: According to primetime TV, you are 21 times more likely to be kidnapped or murdered at the hands of a businessman than the mob. Businessmen also committed crimes five times more often than terrorists and four times more often than gangs.  

    Businessmen Almost as Likely to Commit a Serious Felony as Career Criminals: Businessmen turned up as kidnappers or murderers almost as often (21 times) as hardened criminals like drug dealers, child molesters and serial killers put together (23 times). 

    “Law & Order” Franchise Finds Businessmen Guilty: In the three popular NBC shows – “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” – almost 50 percent of the felonies (13 of 27) – mostly murders – were committed by businessmen.  

    Show Business Heroes: Heroes don’t have to be just policemen and social workers. Private-sector businessmen help society as well. Businessmen, innovators and risk takers shouldn’t be cast mainly as criminals, cheats and philanderers.