America’s four major television networks are generally responsible in the way they portray violence in entertainment programming, although excessive violence remains a problem in their airing of theatrical films, children’s fare and on-air promotion, according to an intensive, yearlong study released Tuesday by the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Communication Policy.
The independent analysis of nearly 3,000 hours of programming during the 1994-95 TV season also reported that the ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox networks frequently failed to warn viewers in advance about violent programs by broadcasting parental advisory labels.
“The world of television … is not as violent as we had feared and not as wholesome as we might have hoped,” Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, wrote in the 181-page report, which was commissioned by the four networks. “There is room for substantial improvement.”
Overall, the study praised the networks for reducing the levels of gratuitous violence from recent years. Among 121 prime-time TV series that aired last season, only 10 raised frequent concerns about violence, as did 23 of the 161 made-for-television movies.
Theatrical movies were the biggest offender, the study found, with 42 percent of them containing extensive depictions of murder and mayhem.
“What we are doing is what any teacher does when he or she applies a grade, or what any judge does when he or she applies a ruling,” Cole said of his study, which used a panel of student monitors to apply a set of criteria examining violence to virtually every program that aired last season on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.
The networks agreed to fund the watchdog study last year under heavy political pressure. But their efforts to reduce gratuitous violence were not enough to dissuade Congress from pushing ahead this year with legislation to install a computer chip in TV sets that could help parents limit what programs their children see.