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Violence on Television

“There was murderers going around killing lots of people and stealing jewelry. ” This quote comes from the mouth of an eight year old girl after watching the evening news on television. The eight year old girl claims that she is afraid “when there is a murder near because you never know if he could be in town” (Cullingford, 61).

A recent report from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) pools evidence from over 2,500 studies within the last decade on over 100,000 subjects from several nations to show that the compiled evidence of television’s influence on behavior is so overwhelming” that there is a consensus in the research community that “violence on television does lead to aggressive behavior” (Methvin, 49).

Given that the majority of scientific community agrees that “the research findings of the NIMH publication support conclusion of a causal relationship between television violence and aggressive behavior” (Wurtzel, 21), why is it that “the Saturday morning “kid vid ghetto” is the most violent time on T. V. ” (Methvin, 49), and that “despite slight variations over the past decade, the amount of violence on television has remained at consistently high levels” (Wurtzel, 23)?

Why is it that, like the tobacco companies twenty years ago, the present day television broadcasting companies refuse to consent that violent films and programming can and do have harmful effects on their viewers (Rowland, 280) What can be done to combat the stubborn minded broadcasting companies and to reduce the amount of violent scenes that infest the current air waves? The television giants of today, such as ABC, CBS, and NBC continue to air violent shows, because they make money off of these programs.

In general, society finds scenes of violence “simply exciting” (Feshbach, 12). Broadcasting companies argue that “based on the high ratings, they are giving the public what it wants, and therefore are serving the public interest” (Time, 77). Michael Howe states: “We have to remember that children and adults do enjoy and do choose to watch those programs that contain violence” (48). At the same time, however, we must also remember the undeniable truth that “there is clear evidence between television violence and later aggressive behavior” (Palmer, 120).

Because violent television has been proven time and time again to play an active role toward inciting hostile behavior in children, the level of combative rogramming must be reduced. The media argument that high ratings correspond with the public’s best interest is simply not valid. Even the American Medical Association agrees that the “link between televised violence and later aggressive behavior warrants a major organized cry of protest from the medical profession” (Palmer, 122). The issue of the public’s infatuation with television can be paralleled with that of a young child and his desire for candy and “junk foods. The child enjoys eating such foods, though they produce the harmful effects of rotting away at his teeth. With a parent to limit his intake of such harmful sweets, however, the child is protected from their damage. Similarly, the American public desires to view violent programs at the risk of adapting induced aggressive behaviors. Because the networks refuse to act as a “mother,” and to limit the amount of violence shown on television, there are no restrictions to prevent television’s violent candy from rotting away at the teeth of society.

Harry Skornia claims that “it is naive and romantic to expect a corporation to have either a heart of a soul in the struggle for profits nd survival” (34). But who, then, is to take responsibility for the media’s actions if not the industry itself? Because there has not been any sufficient answers to this question so far, “television violence has not diminished greatly; nor have Saturday morning programs for children, marked by excessively violent cartoons, changed much for the better” (Palmer, 125).

One may ask: “Why can’t the government or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intervene to control the amount of violent programming that currently circulates during most broadcasting hours? ” Edward Palmer tates: “The FCC’s reluctance to regulate – especially directly about violent content – is consistent with that of many other groups. Because the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, no direct censorship os programming has ever been advocated by responsible groups concerned with the problem of television violence” (124).

The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) holds fast to its claim that there are no scientific findings that show a link between television violence and unusually violent behavior in children (Rowland, 279). The network executives at ABC express the deals that “they are self-confident about the lack of both a serious case against them and of any sincere willingness by Congress to pursue beyond the heat of rhetoric the matters of broadcasting profitability and commercial purpose” (Rowland, 280).

One can derive from this statement that the networks are clearly not worried about any form of government intervention or even the slightest bit concerned about the barrage of scientific data that correlates violent television and hostility among children. Because of the First Amendment to the Constitution, the government and he FCC are rendered virtually ineffective in the pursuit of limiting the current amount of violence on television.

Public action is the only other option if society wishes to create a stronger programming schedule for today’s children. Several organizations such as the National Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have urged their members to lobby public force against advertisers on high-violence programs (Methvin, 53). The public must dictate its feelings by not lending support to those companies that advertise during violent television shows.

The viewer has a right to declare that he is not going to help pay for those programs by buying the advertised products (Methvin, 52) To aid public, The National Coalition on Television Violence (NCTV) publishes quarterly lists of the companies and products that sponsor the most mayhem, and also companies that allot the largest portion of their television budgets to violent programming (Methvin, 53). Public boycott of companies who advertise on violent programs seems to be the only way to inform the networks and syndicators that “a public health problem exists with which they must deal” (Broadcasting, 92).

Michael Howe claims that “over many years, little more than lip service has been paid by the television networks to the expressed need to protect children from the injurious influences (46). History shows too, that “cries of protest, even when accompanied by rigorous data, have had little influence on the television industry in the past (Palmer, 177). A public boycott of violent television, apparently, is the only way to make the “production staff accept television violence first and foremost as potentially damaging, rather than regarding it principally as potential entertainment” (Belson, 27).

Only when the public is able to change the current attitudes of the media on the topic of aggression and television, can a plan to engender more beneficial and useful forms of television content be implemented (Brown,259). Despite the continuously mounting evidence that violent television has harmful effects on its young viewers, the three major broadcasting companies, ABC, CBS, and NBC, refuse to acknowledge these findings. One may find it ironic that out of over 2,500 reports on television violence, only seven do not indicate a link between the violence on the screen and ggressive behavior in young children (Chaffee, 33).

Even more ironic is the fact that one such report was heavily funded by The National Broadcasting Network (NBC). The NBC funded report claims that their study “did not find any evidence that, over the time periods studied, television was causally implicated in the development of aggressive behavior patterns among children and adolescents” (Milavsky, 489). In a CBS study, the network “succeeded in reducing the amount of violence reported by excluding a significant (and unreported) amount of violent representation” (Chaffee, 3).

Studies by the large networks can easily be “rigged” to present values to support the broadcasters’ hypothesis that television aggression does not influence violent behavior by changing the definition of what constitutes a violent act. The network studies only count “the use of force against persons or animals ,or the articulated, explicit threat of physical force to compel particular behavior on the part of a person” (Wurtzel, 27). Unlike the NIMH study, the network program did not include violence from comedy and slapstick, accidents and acts of nature such as loods, earthquakes, and hurricanes (Wurtzel, 27).

By excluding certain types of violence, the broadcasters are able to manipulate their data to support the conclusion that television violence does not incite hostile behavior in children. The networks cannot be trusted to present accurate surveys of televised violence, because evidence shows that their findings are the result of “loaded” statistics and data. The current networks stand, stubborn and deaf, to the cries of the American Medical Association, suggestions by the Federal Communications Commission, and the concerns of other public organizations.

The networks do not wish to alter their present displays of violence, because they fear financial losses and economic decline. To force the media to acknowledge public opinion against aggressive television programming, society must create financial distress for the television networks and force them to recognize the harmful effects of televised hostility on children. Only when the broadcasters and producers of violent programming admit and realize the damaging results of violence on children will significant improvements be made to generate productive and imaginative children’s television.

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Home » First amendment » Violence on Television

Violence on Television

We hear a great deal about violence on television these days. Nearly everywhere you turn there is something being written about it, or a program dealing with the issue of it, or a news story about a child somewhere who was influenced by it to do something harmful. The subject permeates our collective consciousness. Maybe this is due to the ever-increasing number of gangs in our urban centers. Maybe it’s due to the ever-increasing crime rate that we hear about almost nightly on the news.

Whatever the reasons behind its being such a concern, the fact remains that violence on television is a very real roblem that is quite definitely a contributing factor to increasing violence among children and, yes, even among adults. Cartoon violence has been around as long as cartoons have – and that’s a long time. The first animated Disney cartoons featured a rabbit named Oswald back in 1928 and the cartoon industry grew from there.

So for seventy years now we’ve been treated to the antics of various characters, either through the opening Looney Tunes at the movies or the five hours of Saturday morning cartoons that were a ritual with us all growing up. There was Tweety Bird always getting the best of Sylvester the Cat, Bugs Bunny always outsmarting Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn constantly getting bruised by the awkward antics of his little chicks, Yosemite Sam getting his head blown off at least once a week and of course, the memorable Wyle E.

Coyote who never, in all his forty-odd years of pursuing the Roadrunner ever bought anything from the Acme Co. that ever worked right (Siano, 20). They were truly funny and, in some respects, cathartic for us and it is this writer’s opinion that cartoon violence is quite probably the least of our worries as far as what is corrupting the minds of our children today. We grew up on it and there is not one single documented case of a violent criminal who ever claimed that he ended up the way he did because he ingested a steady diet of Roadrunner episodes. Let’s get serious.

Most of these violent criminal types weren’t home with the family watching Saturday morning cartoons when they grew up. They were out tying cats’ tails together and throwing them over somebody’s clothesline so they could watch them kill each other. Or they were torturing the neighbor’s new puppy while Mom was at work, Dad was non-existent, and all 3 or 4 or 5 kids were left to raise hemselves. Or they were busy learning violence first-hand from their alcoholic father whose chief mission in life seemed to be using them and their siblings and their mother for a punching bag.

The difference, I would submit, is that even the smallest children understand that these are cartoon characters, that they are not real, and that the violence depicted in cartoons is so unrealistic that even small children realize that it’s purely make-believe. Is television really toxic to children? (Chidley, 36). As David Link says, “The problem isn’t that people pay too much ttention to the violence that appears on television; the problem is they pay too little,” (22). Mr.

Link proposes that fictional violence is not at the root of the problem, but the real violence that is depicted daily on television that should be our biggest source of concern. In this, he has a very valid point. Does a rabid, demon-possessed little doll named Chuckie really influence anyone as he stabs people ten times his size with a little knife barely long enough to break through all of the layers of a person’s skin? Is that ghoul riding in the backseat of the car, with his face falling off all over the place s he strangles the teenage driver really believable?

In fiction, there is a thing called “willing suspension of disbelief. ” This must be achieved in order for the person reading, or viewing, a fictional story to be able to participate in the story. It’s what holds the reader’s attention. It’s what causes us to cry when the heroine dies; or when we find out the boy’s dog really wasn’t dead after all and he comes running home at the end; or when the ghost of the woman’s husband finally makes contact with her and gives her one last kiss followed by, “I will always love you.

Willing suspension of disbelief is what keeps all those Harlequin Romances selling; it’s what made Danielle Steel rich and Ernest Hemmingway famous. And it’s what made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star. But is it what makes murderers out of 12-year old boys? Or arsonists out of 10-year olds? There are certainly those who would have us believe that it does. According to a 1996 survey of television violence the following statistics were cited. Programming Violence on Television, by Network Type Public Broadcasting Systems (PBS) 18% Broadcast networks 44% Independent broadcast 55% Basic cable 59%

Subscription television, premium cable 85% Source: Mediascope, Inc. , February, 1996 (Women, 11). The argument, as women’s groups have set forth goes something like this: it is children’s programming that is of the most concern. Why? Because of two reasons. The first is that very often violence (in 67% of programs surveyed) is portrayed in a humorous context. The second is that in 5% of programs, violence is not portrayed with any associated consequences to it.

Those opposed to television violence claim that it is responsible for the rise in violence in schools and classrooms (Feigenbaum, 2). In particular, educators claim that if violence on television were curbed, children would be less violent in school, that children are mimicking what they see acted out on the television screen. In 1995, the V chip bill was introduced into Congress. It’s purpose was to impose a rating system upon television programs so that parents could monitor the types of programs their children were watching a bit more closely.

That’s not a bad idea, since there are times when one turns on a specific program thinking it will be all right for viewing by one’s 3rd grader, only to find, part way through it, that there’s oing to be a bedroom scene that doesn’t leave a lot to anyone’s imagination. However, no matter what bills and legislation are introduced and actually made into law, that does not preclude the fact that parents must have the will and inclination to instill in their children the values necessary to respect themselves and others and if parents are doing their jobs with regard to this, nothing that comes across in television will affect that.

Yet even with this, one has to ask some very important questions: If people are watching television with their children, ow can those children not know or understand that this violence is not real? How can they not understand the difference between reality and make-believe? And if they don’t, is it because their parents are letting the television raise the children for them? In actuality, the biggest problem that occurs as a result of repeated exposure to violence on television is desensitization to scenes of violence (Hough, 411).

This is very real and occurs frequently. For example, consider the woman who did not feel that her son was watching enough television (or television iolence) to affect him, and yet when driving past an automobile accident one day was appalled when her young son excitedly asked her to turn around and go back so he could see the person lying on the side of the road again. As David Link further states, it’s not the fictional violence on television that we need to worry about, but the factual violence that is causing problems.

When the kids sit down with Mom and Dad while they watch the news at night and get to see real-life scenes of death and dismemberment, violence for them takes on an entirely different meaning. When Dad and Johnny spend Sunday afternoon watching the football game and four players from the two teams end up duking it out on the playing field because of a bad call by one of the referees, there’s a message that gets sent to the kids that should be of much more concern to us than the fact that Daffy Duck just got his beak blown off for the four thousandth time.

When Dennis Rodman falls out of bounds during a Bulls game, kicks a cameraman in the crotch for no reason, gets up laughing about it, and we all get to watch it on the news, something is terribly wrong. What does this teach our children? This is NOT make-believe. This is the real world and kids know it. When the Undertaker gets insulted by another wrestler and he picks the guy up and throws him out of the ring – and they aren’t even having a match yet – there’s a message that comes across to the kids that it’s okay to use violence when you get mad at someone.

Wrestling, particularly WWF wrestling, is probably one of the worst things for kids to watch due to the fact that, although almost all of it is stuntwork, kids don’t realize that. And when Mom or Dad tries to explain that to the kids, they don’t believe it. There is no way for the kids to understand that it’s all show. And heaven help it if someone actually starts to bleed while in the ring because that only adds to the realism that much more and completely convinces the kids that this is, indeed, real. Legislation is not the answer to this however.

The answer to this lies in those who are icons to children taking responsibility for their behavior in front of the camera so that they are not giving the wrong message to these children. Rodman is a case in point. Young boys, in particular, look up to pro basketball players and when they see someone intentionally hurt omeone else for no reason other than they are angry at themselves, or angry at their circumstances, the message that it is all right to take your anger out on whomever has the misfortune to be in your way at the time comes through loud and clear.

David Link is absolutely right. Fictional violence is not the problem and, if more parents paid attention to the true, real-life, up-to-the-minute violence their kids were experiencing every day, they would realize just how harmless all those Roadrunner cartoons really are – and just how serious a problem we are creating through media sensationalism.

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