By LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) - ``South Park'' leads the pack of basic cable shows bringing a new level of raunchiness and violence to television, according to a watchdog group's new study.
The rate of sexual references, profanity and violence in primetime cable series was found to be more than double that of broadcast television, the Parents Television Council said Monday.
``Hollywood's push-the-primetime-envelope mindset, it seems, has become established in the cable business,'' the council said in its study.
``South Park,'' an animated show on Comedy Central, was overall the most ``offensive series,'' the study said, with a per-hour combined average of 126 violent or raunchy moments.
The MTV shows ``Undergrads'' and ``Celebrity Deathmatch'' were next with, respectively, 73 and 66 such references.
``Undergrads,'' an animated series not on the current MTV schedule, had the most sexual material with a per-hour average of 28.4 references, according to the nonprofit council's first study of cable content.
The combined average for all shows was 21.7, while the combined average found in the council's latest study of broadcast network programming (for fall 1999) was 9.8.
The study examined 33 series, for a total of nearly 112 hours, that were shown between last April and September. The council focused on basic cable, which reaches about three-quarters of U.S. households, rather than less widely distributed premium services such as HBO or Showtime.
Responding to the report, a Comedy Central spokesman contended the council failed to ``provide context.''
Comedy Central ``is not designed for kids. It's designed for adults,'' said spokesman Tony Fox. ``Eighty percent of our audience is 18 or older.''
He noted that ``South Park'' was at the top of the council's list because of an episode that used the same four-letter word 162 times as part of a satirical commentary on profanity.
``That episode had something to say beyond the gratuitous use of swear words,'' Fox said.
A call to MTV seeking comment was not immediately returned Monday.