The latest study on depictions of violence in network television has found reduced levels virtually across the board comparing the 1995-96 television season to the previous year.
The second annual report - conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles and sponsored by the four major networks - concluded the networks are “moving in the right direction” with only five of 114 primetime series raising “frequent concerns” about violent content.
Other categories - including TV movies, feature films, promotion and children’s programming - all exhibited improvement.
The center’s director, Jeff Cole, did caution that there’s still reason to continue the monitoring, pointing out new problem areas (including movie ads) as well as such ongoing issues as the broadcast of violent feature films.
Network programmers can nevertheless point to the findings as evidence they have responded to issues voiced by politicians and pressure groups about violence on broadcast television.
UCLA’s monitoring emphasizes context and not merely the number of violent acts, as has been the case in many past studies, some of which have drawn ridicule for failing to differentiate between bloody action movies and Roadrunner cartoons.
The 220-page report, for example, lauded programs such as “NYPD Blue,” “Law & Order” and “Homicide: Life on the Street” for responsibly portraying consequences of violence.
“The key to all of this is context,” Cole said.
Compared to last year’s findings fewer series (from nine down to five) caused serious concerns about violence and the percentage of TV movies mentioned dropped from 14 percent to 10 percent.
Of the five prime-time shows raising frequent concerns - CBS’ “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Nash Bridges,” and Fox’s “New York Undercover,” “Kindred: The Embraced” and “Space: Above and Beyond” - the last two have been canceled.
Similarly, half of the eight shows prompting “occasional concerns” are gone: “American Gothic,” “seaQuest 2032,” “Charlie Grace” and “Due South.”
The others are “Melrose Place,” “JAG,” “The Simpsons” (for the show-within-a-show “Itchy and Scratchy”) and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
Researchers found fewer children’s programs featuring “sinister combat violence,” where there is fighting for fighting’s sake. The report put the Fox Children’s Network shows “X-Men,” “Masked Rider” and “Power Rangers Zeo” in that category.