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Children's TV Still Too Violent, Report Says

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The mean-spirited, combat-heavy content of some Saturday-morning children's TV shows continues to get poor reception among those trying to turn down the amount of violence on television.

A yearlong study by the Center for Communication Policy at the University of California at Los Angeles has found that while the four leading broadcast networks seem to have made progress in reducing violent content in adult programming, they haven't performed so well with shows for younger viewers.

Violence is down, for instance, in prime-time series and made-for-television movies. But the report found that children's television, theatrical films shown on television, and on-air promotions for TV programs still contain too much violence. It recommended more liberal use of advisories warning of an upcoming program's violent content.

"It is ironic that programming geared largely to adults, prime time, is showing promising signs in regard to violence," the report says, "while that created especially for children continues to have serious problems."

Overall, ml-one word now--wal10 out of 121 network wal/ml: right?gc television series raised frequent concerns about violence, and 23 out of 161 TV movies raised some such concerns. But nearly half of the theatrical films prompted serious concerns about violent content.

This is the first of three annual reports the center will issue on the state of television violence. The independent research is financed but not monitored by the four top broadcast-television networks: ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC.

Ucla won the contract after the broadcast and cable networks came under pressure from Congress to decrease their programs' violent content. In June 1994, the networks reached an agreement with Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., to have the ucla center conduct the study.

Saturday Shows Cited

The authors conclude that "the world of television, from broadcast networks to syndication to cable to home video, is not as violent as we had feared and not as wholesome as we might have hoped." They note: "There is room for substantial improvement."

The researchers singled out eight Saturday-morning children's shows as having what they called "sinister combat violence." They distinguished such violence from the slapstick of Bugs Bunny cartoons and what is termed "tame combat violence" in shows such as "Spiderman" and "Aladdin."

The "sinister" programs included three Fox animated cartoons--"Batman and Robin," "X-Men," and "Mega Man"--and the network's live-action " "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers." Three CBS programs also made the list: "WildC.A.T.S," "Skeleton Warriors," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." An ABC knock-off of the Power Rangers called "Super Samurai Syber Squad" also fell into this category. NBC no longer offers Saturday-morning programming for young children.

These programs are solely about fighting, with heroes always eager to engage in combat, the report says, and rarely show options other than fighting. "Remorse and restraint are seldom seen or even considered," the researchers write. "These are the shows that, by far, raise the largest number of concerns about violence."ml-no need to attribute again here.-wal

The report does praise some children's shows for their lack of violence and their use of constructive messages. The PBS program "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" ml-not fox, and sandiego one word--waland CBS's "Beakman's World" both received kudos.

The report recommends that schools incorporate media literacy into lessons. Teachers should ask students about what they watch on television and how accurately it reflects their lives, it says, and should foster dis~cussions of how TV deals with gender and racial stereotyping, among other topics.

Children Surveyed

In a survey released last week on children's opinions about television, more girls than boys said TV is too violent--37 percent vs. 19 percent. More girls than boys also thought video games were too violent and that there was too much sex on television.

Louis Harris and Associates surveyed 2,092 students in grades 3 to 12 in public and private schools last spring. The advocacy group Girls Inc., formerly the Girls Clubs of America, commissioned the study, which was financed by the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Industry Advancement and Cooperative Fund.

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