An extensive new study concludes that violence pervades all forms of television programming, and its authors urge broadcast and cable networks to show the consequences of violence more often.
The "National Television Violence Study," sponsored by the cable-television industry and conducted by four universities, is notable in its breadth. The study looked at a cross-section of more than 2,600 hours of programming over 20 weeks on 23 broadcast networks, independent stations, and cable channels, including pay services such as Home Box Office. The report is broader than a recent study, issued last fall by the University of California at Los Angeles, that examined violent programming on the major broadcast networks.
Unlike some past studies that were criticized for merely counting incidents of violence, including slapstick and cartoon incidents, the new study attempted to place violence in context by noting the kinds of violence and its repercussions--or lack thereof.
"Violence predominates on television, often including large numbers of violent interactions per program," the study concludes. Fifty-seven percent of programs in the sample included violence. One in four violent acts involved a gun, and in 73 percent of violent scenes, perpetrators went unpunished.
"The world of television is not only violent, it also consistently sanctions its violence," the study adds.
The report was released the same week that President Clinton signed into law a telecommunications bill that requires new television sets to include the "v-chip," which would allow parents to block violent and sexually explicit programming.
"This is a solid report that should be a strong signal to the TV industry and to the public that glorified violence is harmful and that we still need improvement," U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., said in a statement. Mr. Simon, an outspoken critic of TV violence, coaxed the cable industry into supporting the study.
Some representatives of major broadcast networks were quoted as questioning the study's methodology, while the National Cable Television Association issued a statement saying it would study the findings.
The study urges the television industry to reduce violence in programming and show more of the negative consequences of violence. It also urges networks to air more violence advisories, even though another part of the study warns that such advisories can actually lure more boys ages 11 to 14 to watch the violent programming.