FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 19, 2007
TV violence critics urge federal limits on gore and gunplay
Newspaper entertainment section coverage of TV, movies and music includes previews, interviews and reviews. Ask class members for a show of hands and comments about how useful they find such content. Have they made entertainment choices based at least partly on what they’ve read?
Violence in video games also sparks controversy. Some newspapers pay attention to this type of entertainment with reviews, tips, columns and even user comments. Challenge students to find consumer-oriented coverage of video games, or to request those features in letters that can be sent to the newspaper’s editor.
Fictional violence is not the only mayhem on TV, which shows war scenes, real crimes and documentaries that may include bloodshed. Newspapers also show violent images. Lead a classroom discussion about factors broadcasters and editors should consider when deciding what to print or air. Does time of day or page selection matter? Is there value in such images? Does the frequency make a difference? Should certain scenes never appear?
Broadcasters are hearing new outcries against televised violence. Pressure is growing from Congress to reduce graphic and gratuitous scenes in shows, a topic being addressed soon by a major federal report. One proposal would give regulators powers similar to those used to combat sexual content and profanity on TV and radio.
TV violence even is shaping up as a 2008 presidential campaign issue. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., long has talked about a harmful effect of gory shows and video games on children. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wants to let cable subscribers buy channels separately so families can exclude objectionable ones. Senate hearings may consider whether federal officials need power to address graphic violence in TV programming, including cable and satellite.
In a new study titled "Dying to Entertain," a watchdog group called the Parents Television Council says TV violence has reached epidemic proportions, partly because of medical and crime dramas such as Nip/Tuck, Grey's Anatomy, Law & Order, 24, Criminal Minds and the various CSI shows. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is preparing to issue a two-year study confirming "deep concern among parents and health professionals regarding harm from viewing violence in the media," its chairman says. He adds: “Television today contains some of the coarsest and most violent programming ever aired.”
Current law: Although the FCC can restrict cursing and sexual content, it has no clear authority to fine broadcasters for excessive bloodshed and mayhem.
Broadcasters say: “The only way you can deal with it is to have parents do it in the home. You can't do it by legislative fiat, and you can't do it by regulation — because, what is too much violence?" – Jack Valenti, industry lobbyist
Senator says: ”The preference would be to have the industry police itself when it comes to excessive violence. However, if they can't or won't do it, then Congress must step in and address this growing societal problem. … Just sitting on our hands and doing nothing to protect children is not an option." – Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W. Va.
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