“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
programming 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
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
and 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
states: “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
ideals 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
Because of the First Amendment to the Constitution, the government and
the 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,
527). 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
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
aggressive 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,
33). 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
floods, 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
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