Violence on Television: Distribution, Form, Context, and Themes

Violence on Television: Distribution, Form, Context, and Themes

Violence on Television: Distribution, Form, Context, and Themes

Violence on Television: Distribution, Form, Context, and Themes

Synopsis

Concern about violence on television has been publicly debated for the past 50 years. TV violence has repeatedly been identified as a significant causal agent in relation to the prevalence of crime and violence in society. Critics have accused the medium of presenting excessive quantities of violence, to the point where it is virtually impossible for viewers to avoid it. This book presents the findings of the largest British study of violence on TV ever undertaken, funded by the broadcasting industry. The study was carried out at the same time as similar industry-sponsored research was being conducted in the United States. The research groups kept in contact, and one chapter compares findings from Britain and the U.S.A. The book concludes that it is misleading to accuse all broadcasters of presenting excessive quantities of violence in their schedules. This does not deny that problematic portrayals were found. But the most gory, horrific and graphic scenes of violence were generally contained within broadcasts available on a subscription basis or in programs shown at times when few children were expected to be watching. This factual analysis proves that broadcasters were meeting their obligations under their national regulatory codes of practice. Contents: Preface. Violence on Television: The Parameters of Concern. Issues of Measurement and Analysis. Amount and Distribution of Violence on Television. Form of Violence on Television. Motives and Consequences of Violence on Television. Gender and Violence on Television. Children and Violence on Television. Violence in Soaps. News Values and Violence. Violence on Television in British and the United States. Violence on Television andHelping the Audience.

Excerpt

Concern about violence on television has its roots in a familiar societal response to the appearance of any new form of public entertainment that appeals to the masses. But, once firmly established, an initial welcome is replaced by suspicion of its power to influence the public. Such anxiety usually emanates from the ruling establishment, which suspects a ubiquitous mass medium of possessing the capacity to exert significant social and political influence. Rather than attending to the positive social functions that a communications medium might serve, focus instead primarily rests on its capacity for promulgating social ills. This attitude has certainly been true with regard to the usual establishment stance toward television. Governments worry about the role such a mass medium plays in promoting antisocial conduct, religious bodies worry about its role in undermining the moral fiber of society, and advertisers, who provide much othe financial support or the medium, worry that the public images of their brands will suffer if they are advertised within violent programs.

The critics of television accuse the medium of presenting too much violence and of cynically using violence instead of quality scripts to attract audiences to its entertainment programing. It can also be observed that television appears to have developed a predilection for reality-based programs with violent themes. Fictional violence is being supplanted by real-life violence. Thus, television no longer provides pure escapism from everyday life, but all too frequently reflects it back at the public, and in doing so magnifies the presence of the negative elements in society.

The ultimate concern about television violence, however, is founded on the view that it contributes toward social violence. This process operates through a number of psychological mechanisms. The alleged preoccupation of television with violence, both in its entertainment and factual programing, may exaggerate the extent to which violence really . . .

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