By Alexandra Marks, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
THE enduring debate over violence on television is reaching a new level.
For years, studies have catalogued and critics have decried the amount of murder and mayhem on the small screen. Now a new study - paid for by the cable TV industry itself - finds the violence prevalent and posing "risks" to viewers.
Clearly, the industry is hoping the research, the most comprehensive ever done on the effects of TV violence, will stave off further federal efforts to regulate the industry. But it is emboldening some lawmakers to want to act now. Others say it shows the industry is at least facing up to a problem it has long denied.
"It exceeded my hopes," says Sen. Paul Simon (D) of Illinois, who brokered the political agreement that brought forth the study and who first pushed the media to do some serious soul-searching and scientific research in 1993. "It is a pull-no-punches study that says we have a serious problem."
The $1.5 million National Television Violence Study, released yesterday, was paid for by the cable industry as part of its ongoing efforts to respond to public outcries over commercial television's daily menu of shootings and stabbings.
Conducted by media scholars at four universities, it is the first of three annual reports that will be used as benchmarks to assess the media's efforts at self-regulation.
"We acknowledge that cable, like the entire television industry, has a responsibility to participate in serious and substantive efforts to address TV violence," says Decker Anstrom, president of the National Cable Television Association, who "welcomed" the findings in a tersely worded release.
Little screen of horrors?
The initial results indicate the industry has its work cut out for it. The researchers found violence in most of the 2,500 hours of programming analyzed. But the most disturbing aspect was the context in which the punching, slapping, kicking, and shootings were shown.
For instance, perpetrators of violence go unpunished in 73 percent of all violent scenes, which, according to the researchers, teaches the lesson "that violence is successful."
Forty-seven percent of all violent interactions show no harm to the victim, and 58 percent show no pain. …