Ill Effects: The Media/Violence Debate

By Martin Barker; Julian Petley | Go to book overview
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Media regulation, education and the 'problem' of media violence

Sara Bragg

Most commonly, public concern about the 'problem' of media violence leads to demands for increased regulation and control of the media themselves. However, some individuals and groups are now promoting educational interventions with audiences as an alternative solution. Comparing the outcome of Greg Philo's research on fans of the film Pulp Fiction in the 1990s (discussed in the introduction to this volume) with William Belson's on youth audiences in the 1970s, suggests this may represent a new phase in media debates. Both writers express concern about media influence, but where Belson's report concluded by demanding an immediate reduction in levels of violence in particular programmes, Philo's proposal is 'anti-violence education' (Belson, 1978; Philo, 1997). An article in the Times Educational Supplement in 1997 notes that he has discussed this with the Scottish Office and the National Society for the Protection of Children, and has been contacted by the government's junior education minister about his work (Ghouri, 1997).

Media education would seem to be both a less authoritarian and a more practical response to the challenge of new technologies, which make centralised control of media within national boundaries increasingly difficult. Since we know that children spend more time watching television than they do in school, and that they clearly do have access to proscribed material, it makes sense to argue that we should 'do something' to help them understand what they encounter. Furthermore, official interest in such proposals offers the tantalising prospect of enhanced status for media education, in gratifying contrast to habitual press and politician ridicule of it as a non-subject, teaching neither a firm body of knowledge nor useful vocational skills. In the first part of this chapter, I want to consider two existing models of education about media violence. My interest is in exploring the logic and rhetoric of the


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