Citizen Group Fights Television Violence

Article excerpt

WE'RE witnessing the "ghettoization of television," Terry Rakolta says, referring to the "incessant" violence that floods our television airwaves.

Mrs. Rakolta, a mother of four, founded Americans for Responsible Television (ART), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to reducing the amount of television violence during children's viewing hours. Based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., ART currently has 350,000 members.

In a phone interview with the Monitor, Rakolta explained the urgent need to reduce the amount of violence children see on TV and why the issue of television violence has dropped out of the media spotlight.

"This information is consciously being blocked out," Rakolta says. "We're getting information blackouts because we have these huge media conglomerates now that own newspapers, television stations, and movie companies.

"Soon there will be only two or three people who control everything that we see and hear," she says, "and those people will be accountable to only shareholders and bottom-line profits."

"And there are no signs of {TV} violence really letting up, Rakolta says, "Producers know sex and violence sells."

By the time a child is 16, Rakolta says, he or she has seen approximately 33,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence on network television.

Today, 3,000 independent scientific studies from major medical organizations, education groups, and government coalitions "say overwhelmingly that entertainment violence is creating criminally violent behavior in many children," Rakolta says.

While TV violence alone is not the cause of violent tendencies in children, Rakolta agrees, it is one element in the equation.

"We're not saying that entertainment violence is the only reason for violence in America," she says, citing poverty, drugs, the breakdown of family, and the declining state of the nation's school system as contributing factors. "But you certainly cannot talk about violence in America without discussing the entertainment industry.

"I don't think a child picks up a gun and just starts shooting. …

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