TV's CORRUPTION OF BRITAIN; ANALYSIS,Shocking Scenes of Filth and Brutality Can Lead to Real-Life Crime, Say Worried viewers,There Is Evidence That Those Who Are Obsessive Watching Violence Are Most Likely to Commit Violence

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), June 23, 1996 | Go to article overview

TV's CORRUPTION OF BRITAIN; ANALYSIS,Shocking Scenes of Filth and Brutality Can Lead to Real-Life Crime, Say Worried viewers,There Is Evidence That Those Who Are Obsessive Watching Violence Are Most Likely to Commit Violence


Byline: Kim Willsher;Chester Stern

IT IS a fear that millions privately harbour but few dare express. A fear that the daily diet of violence and pornography that we accept into our homes through television and videos is responsible for unspeakable crimes on our streets.

It is a worry that is dismissed by many who make films and television dramas. The liberal lobby which dominates the entertainment industry has, for many years, successfully argued that its freedom of speech is more important than our peace of mind.

But now, in the wake of the shocking massacre of 16 schoolchildren and their teacher at Dunblane, the silent majority has spoken out against this fashionable edict.

And they firmly believe that screen violence could have driven killer Thomas Hamilton to commit the outrage.

This week MPs from across the political divide will call on programme makers to curb excesses of sex and violence following the `failure' of the 9 o'clock TV watershed.

They will be handed evidence from teachers and criminal pyschologists which shows the link between what we view and the violence that haunts our society.

This evidence includes a shocking new survey which reveals the true extent of the fear for our personal safety and the welfare of our children that has been left by television and films.

The survey discloses that the vast majority now firmly believes that child abuse, sexual assaults and violent crimes are encouraged by lurid scenes of explicit sex and violence.

And the more realistic the fictional violence, the more likely it is to lead to vicious attacks in everyday life.

THE poll was commissioned after Dunblane by the influential Parliamentary All Party Family and Child Protection Group. Its findings show that: * Seventy-one per cent agree that there is a link between screen violence and violent crimes;

* Fifty-eight per cent agree that screen violence was one of the contributory causes in the terrible massacres at Dunblane and in Tasmania, where a gunman claimed 35 lives;

* Eighty-five per cent believe pornography encourages sexual assaults on women, while 42 per cent of women think it is a factor in domestic violence;

* Seventy per cent of women say they may be coerced into unacceptable sexual acts as a result of their husbands and boyfriends being influenced by pornography;

* Eighty-seven per cent think the use of pornography can encourage sexual assaults on children, with 63 per cent agreeing there is a connection between pornography and child abuse.

Six out of 10 of those questioned believe that so-called freedom of expression has gone too far and want Government action to curb violent and sexual excesses in the media.

Many said they believed there were too many `immoral' plays on television and agreed that pornography degraded women.

The survey, by Opinion Research Business, interviewed just under 1,000 people. It revealed a marked difference in tolerance levels, with more than twice as many men as women in favour of complete freedom of expression.

But more than two-thirds agreed that current safeguards to protect children from seeing violence and sex in the media were inadequate.

The debate on screen violence was reignited by Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, who said it was a contributory cause of the massacres, and attacked Hollywood's lucrative love affair with violence.

His view was endorsed by British star Roger Moore and comedian Ben Elton.

THE new survey reveals a complete change in public opinion over the past 20 years and will prompt MPs to push for tighter controls on television violence and stronger penalties for the sale of pornographic videos.

Dr Clifford Hill, co-ordinator of the working party set up by the All Party Family and Child Protection Group, said: `A major shift in public opinion has occurred in the past decade which is often attributed to the steep rise in violent crime in Britain during that period. …

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