MORE VIOLENCE is coming to television. But the networks say they're trying to examine the issue, not exploit it.
In news specials, movies, series - both dramas and comedies - and public service messages, TV networks are holding a crime-battered America up to the light.
Cynics call it an obvious attempt to blunt criticism of television's own violent instincts and to derail efforts to legislate TV gore. Others say the networks are only adding to the emotional overload felt by many.
But executives at a recent gathering of the Television Critics Association said the programs are justified and their motives pure.
"I think violence is such an overwhelmingly important topic and issue facing America that I don't think we come anywhere close to having done enough," said CBS News President Eric Ober.
"We at Fox Broadcasting are trying to be part of the solution to the problem," said its chairman, Lucie Salhany. "We're not going to simply avoid dealing with violent issues, as some critics propose. I believe we have to deal with problems in order to solve them."
Ober announced a three-hour "CBS Reports" news special on violence, a documentary by film makers Paul and Holly Fine that is scheduled to air later this year.
The prime-time special is not intended simply to rehash the alarming rise in crime, he said; the goal is to examine the impact on individuals and find answers.
"Reporting on violence is half the story," Ober said. "I think that looking for solutions to it is the story that will help culturally."
On the series side, the CBS drama "Picket Fences" offered a recent episode that showed how the easy availability of firearms can have a tragic impact on children.
CBS also is planning a prime-time airing of "Kids Killing Kids," a new one-hour show initially commissioned as a daytime "CBS Schoolbreak Special."
"Kids Killing Kids" will offer a series of vignettes of children in trouble, such as a suicidal teen-ager or a youth who wants a weapon because of gang harassment.
The program will offer two resolutions of each problem, one involving violence and the other a nonviolent alternative. A broadcast date was not announced.
Salhany said Fox will join with CBS in airing the program in a rare network teaming. The networks also are sponsoring formation of a national coalition against violence, linking broadcasters with community groups, she said. …