There were murderers going around killing lots of people and stealing jewelry.” This quote comes from the mouth of an eight-year-old girl after watching the evening news on television. The eight-year-old girl claims that she is afraid “when there is a murder near because you never know if he could be in town” (Cullingford, 61). A recent report from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) pools evidence from over 2,500 studies within the last decade on over 100,000 subjects from several nations to show that the compiled evidence of television’s influence on behavior is so overwhelming that there is a consensus in the research community that violence on television does lead to aggressive behavior (Methvin, 49). Given that the majority of the scientific community agrees that “the research findings of the NIMH publication support the conclusion of a causal relationship between television violence and aggressive behavior” (Wurtzel, 21), why is it that the Saturday morning “kid vid ghetto” is the most violent time on TV?
Why is it that television broadcasting companies refuse to acknowledge that violent films and programming can have harmful effects on viewers? The amount of violence on television has remained consistently high over the past decade (Wurtzel, 23), and studies have shown that it can have negative impacts on individuals (Methvin, 49). What can be done to combat this issue and reduce the amount of violent scenes on air?
Despite the evidence, television giants such as ABC, CBS, and NBC continue to air violent shows because they generate profit. Society may find scenes of violence exciting, but this does not justify the potential harm it can cause (Feshbach, 12). Broadcasting companies argue that they are serving the public interest by providing what the public wants, as evidenced by high ratings (Time, 77).
Michael Howe states, We have to remember that children and adults enjoy and choose to watch programs that contain violence” (48). However, we must also acknowledge the undeniable truth that “there is clear evidence between television violence and later aggressive behavior” (Palmer, 120). Violent television has been proven to incite hostile behavior in children, and therefore, the level of combative programming must be reduced. The media argument that high ratings correspond with the public’s best interest is not valid.
Even the American Medical Association agrees that the link between televised violence and later aggressive behavior warrants a major organized cry of protest from the medical profession” (Palmer, 122). The issue of the public’s infatuation with television can be paralleled with that of a young child and their desire for candy and junk food. The child enjoys eating such foods, though they produce harmful effects such as rotting away at their teeth. With a parent to limit their intake of such harmful sweets, however, the child is protected from their damage.
Similarly, the American public desires to view violent programs, risking the adoption of aggressive behaviors. The networks refuse to limit the amount of violence shown on television, allowing television’s violent content to rot away at society’s teeth. Harry Skornia claims that it is naive and romantic to expect a corporation to have either a heart or a soul in the struggle for profits and survival” (34). But who is responsible for the media’s actions if not the industry itself? There have been no sufficient answers to this question, and as a result, “television violence has not diminished greatly; nor have Saturday morning programs for children, marked by excessively violent cartoons, changed much for the better” (Palmer, 125).
One may ask, Why can’t the government or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intervene to control the amount of violent programming that currently circulates during most broadcasting hours?” Edward Palmer states, “The FCC’s reluctance to regulate, especially directly about violent content, is consistent with that of many other groups. Because the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, no direct censorship of programming has ever been advocated by responsible groups concerned with the problem of television violence” (124). The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) holds fast to its claim that there are no scientific findings that show a link between television violence and unusually violent behavior in children (Rowland, 279). The network executives at ABC express the ideals that they are self-confident about the lack.