The Parents Television Council has released a new study on television violence, Dying to Entertain, which found that violence on prime time broadcast television has increased 75% since 1998. The television season that began in the fall of 2005 was also one of the most violent ever recorded by the PTC. Violence on television is alarmingly more frequent and much more disturbing. Children and families who watched prime time network television last season were exposed to a disturbing amount and degree of violence. Not only was there more on-screen violence than ever before, but the discussions of violent crimes were more explicit and the violence depicted was far more graphic. I believe that the networks, the cable industry, and the satellite industry have a duty to clean up their programming and newscasts.
It is up to the program creators, the networks, the sponsors and public officials who can do something to solve the problem to institute sweeping changes to the current system that clearly do not go far enough to protect children. Experts like Dr. Deborah A. Fisher with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, have attempted to explain the effects of violence on children. On that subject, Dr. Fisher observed:
Given that on average American youth witness more than 1,000 murders, rapes, and assaults per year on television, understanding the consequences of such exposure is an important public health issue. After decades of research and more than a thousand studies, the answer is yes, watching violent content on television affects youth. Although not all those exposed will commit violent acts, the evidence is overwhelming that viewing high levels of violent programming increases the likelihood of aggression.
The following are the overall findings from the study:
• Since 1998, violence increased in every time slot during prime time: During the 8:00 pm Family Hour, it increased by 45%. During the 9:00 p.m. hour, violence increased by 92%. During the 10:00 p.m. hour, there was an increase of 167%.
• ABC experienced the biggest increase in violent content overall. In 1998, ABC averaged .93 instances of violence per hour during prime time. By 2006, ABC was averaging 3.80 instances of violence per hour — an increase of 309%.
• Fox, the second-most violent network in 1998 experienced the smallest increase. Fox averaged 3.43 instances of violence per hour in 1998 and 3.84 instances of violence per hour by 2006 — an increase of only 12%.
• Over half (56%) of all violence on prime time network television during the 2005-2006 season was person-on-person violence. Nearly half (49%) of all episodes airing during the study period contained at least one instance of violence.
• For each hour of prime time, CBS had the highest percentage of deaths depicted on screen during the 2005-2006 season. During the 8:00 p.m. hour, 66% of violent scenes depicted a death. During the 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. hours, 68% of violent scenes depicted a death.
• Across the board, 54% of violent scenes contained either a depiction of death (13%) or an implied death (41%) during the 2005-2006 season.
• Over time, violence has shifted from being incidental to the story-telling, to being an integral part of the program, with more and more programs focusing on graphic autopsy scenes, scenes depicting medical procedures, and extensive torture sequences.
• Violent scenes increasingly include a sexual element. Rapists, sexual predators and fetishists are cropping up with increasing frequency on prime time programs like Law and Order: S.V.U., C.S.I., C.S.I. Miami, C.S.I. New York, Medium, Crossing Jordan, Prison Break, E.R., and House.
Source: Parents Television Council
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