Murderers on the Loose!

“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

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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

Work Sited

Belson, William A. Television and the Adolescent Boy. Great
Britain: Saxon House, 1978.

Broadcasting. “T.V. Castigated for Link With Violence in
Children.” May 10, 1982: 92-94.

Brown, Ray, ed. Children and Television. Beverly Hills,
California: Sage Publications Inc., 1976.

Chaffee, Steven H., George Gerbner, Beatrix A. Hamburgh,
Chester M. Pierce, Eli A. Rebinstein, Alberta E. Siegel, and
Jerome L. Singer. “Defending the Undefendable.” Society
Sept.-Oct. 1984: 30-36.

Cullingford, Cedric. Children and Television. New York: St.

Martin’s Press, 1984.

Himmelweit, Hilde T., A.N. Oppenheim, and Pamela Vince.

Television and the Child. London: Oxford University Press,

Howe, Michael J.A. Television and Children. London: New
University Education, 1977.

Lowe, Carl, ed. Television and American Culture. New York: The
H.W. Wilson Company, 1981.

Methvin, Eugene H. “T.V. violence: the shocking new evidence.”
Reader’s Digest Jan. 1983: 49-54.

Milavsky, Ronald J., Ronald C. Kessler, Horst. H. Stipp, and
William S. Rubens. Television and Aggression. Orlando:
Academic Press Inc., 1982.

Palmer, Edward L. Children and the Faces of Television. New
York: Academic Press Inc., 1980.

Pearl, David. “Violence and Aggression” Society Sept.-Oct.

1984: 17-23.

Rowland, Willard D. Jr. and Horace Newcomb. The Politics of T.V.

Violence. Sage Publications Inc., 1983.

Feshbach, Seymour and Robert D. Singer. Television and
Aggression. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1971.

Skornia, Harry J. Television and Society. New York: McGraw
Hill Book Company, 1965.

Time. “Warning from Washington: Violence on Television is
Harmful to children.” May 17, 1982: 77.

Wurtzel, Alan, and Guy Lometti. “Researching Television
Violence.” Society Sept.-Oct. 1984: 22-31.

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Murderers on the Loose!. (2018, Jun 24). Retrieved from