Peele: Does violence on TV promote violence?

Jan. 17, 2013 @ 08:41 AM

Recently, there have been a number of meetings between TV executives and reporters. These meetings were the result of recent massacres, particularly the Newtown killings.  A question posed by the reporters was whether any of the executives had plans to reduce the violence shown on TV.  

The answer was no.  

Robert Greenblatt, who will bring a reprise of Hannibal Lecter (the diabolical killer in “The Silence of the Lambs”) does not believe TV violence has any effect on the behavior of the public.  The video games like "Mortal Combat" and "Call of Duty" have scenes of graphic and gory death and destruction that goes way beyond sane behavior.  These kinds of video games will continue.  In my opinion, they will get even worse.

Paul Lee, ABC entertainment president, responded to the question by saying that ABC has strong standards for what it broadcasts -- stronger than the other networks.  So he has no plans to change the violence shown on his network.

Some organizations that advocate reduced violence on TV allege that there are many studies that show that violence on TV produces increased violence by the public.  This is not true, for some of the studies were faulty.  However, an examination of all the studies together gives a strong indication that TV violence is one of the things that is producing more and more violence by the public.

A great number of people in the US strongly disapprove of the violence on TV.  This is particularly true of parents with young children.  Unfortunately, this group has not been strong enough to counter the tendency of TV executives to show more and more violence.  

This is a good time for these people to increase the pressure on TV networks and advertisers to reduce the violence.

There are many organizations that oppose excessive TV violence.  Here are four:

1.  The Dove Foundation.  They give the Dove certificate of approval to those movies and shows that are family oriented.  They do good work, and are helpful to parents who want to keep their children away from salacious movies.  However, their work is not sufficient to stop the increased media violence

2.  ACT.  Adults and Children Together.  This organization is sponsored by the American Psychological Association.  It is a violence-prevention group focusing on parenting – not emphasizing prevention of TV violence.  Neither Dove nor ACT has a rating by “Charity Navigator.”

3.  Parents Television Council (PTC).  It actively opposes TV violence. Although Charity Navigator only gives them a one-star rating, the information they give on their web page indicates to me that overall, they do a good job.

The PTC's list of the "Top Ten Best and Worst Advertisers” is based on each company's prime time broadcast television ad buys during the 2011-2012 television season.  The best ones are more family-oriented.  Here is their list of the best advertisers:

1. Ford

2. Procter & Gamble (Tide, Crest, Downy, etc.)

3. General Mills (Cheerios, Pillsbury, etc.)

4. Nissan

5. Wal-Mart

6. Clorox 

7. CVS

8. Brinker International (Chili's, etc.)

9. Wendy's

10. SC Johnson and Coca-Cola (tied)

Their list of the worst advertisers:

1. Yum!

2. Toyota 

3. Metro PCS

4. Sprint

5. Red Bull

6. Target

7. McDonald's

8. CKE Restaurant (Hardee's, etc.)

9. PepsiCo

10. Apple

Can one person make a difference?   Yes.  Donald Wildmon, a former pastor, did it.  

In 1977, Wildmon created an organization now called American Family Association (AFA).  He caused some TV programs to be removed from the air.  If we go back to the late 1970s and l980s, and look at the programs that were considered too violent or immoral then, we will be surprised.  This is because those programs are no longer considered unacceptable at all.  We not only see no harm in them but now accept them with open arms.  One example:  M*A*S*H.

Wildmon resigned in 2010.   The AFA is still in existence and has 200 radio stations.   However, they have shifted their main goal from violence on TV to various moral issues affecting the family.

Does violence on TV promote violence among those that watch it?