The movie industry's age-based rating system acts as a lure to attract children to movies rated "PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned" and "R: Restricted," according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Their finding, based on a study of 374 children between the ages of 5 and 15, suggests that the new movie-style rating system for television programming may be ineffective in reducing children's exposure to violence.
By contrast, the content-based rating system used by cable-TV premium movie channels reduced children's interest in programs flagged as violent, the researchers found.
The rating-system findings were among many others from the second year of the comprehensive National Television Violence Study, conducted by researchers at four state universities.
The study's first round, released in February, analyzed more than 2,600 hours of programming from the 1994-95 season on 23 broadcast networks, independent stations, and cable channels. Researchers concluded that violence pervades all forms of television programming.
The latest report, based on 3,000 hours of programming from 1995-96, finds that little has changed--despite the attention that has been paid to the issue of television violence.
More than half the programs in a typical week of television contain some violence, the researchers said. And most programs with violence feature numerous violent incidents.
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, expressed particular concern about the high rates of violence in cartoon programs watched by children under age 7. They said those portrayals often included factors that worsen the effect of viewing violence; for example, much cartoon violence is committed by attractive characters who show no remorse and are unpunished.
So-called reality shows such as tabloid news and police shows have less violence than television programming overall, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found.
Among many recommendations, the researchers urged the television industry to reduce the violence in its programming and to consider adopting a content-based rating system. A 60-page summary of the latest findings is available for $10 from the Center for Communication and Social Policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, Calif. 93106; (805) 893-7879.
The reports for both years are on sale for $32.95 each from Sage Publications Inc., 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, Calif. 91320-2218; (805) 499-9774.
--ANDREW TROTTER [email protected]