As Nation Contemplates Gun Violence, Prime-time Broadcast Television Programming Embraces It

Written by PTC | Published February 26, 2018

2018_GV_Study The PTC agrees with a growing choir of elected and appointed officials that media violence impacts children, and calls for reduction of onscreen violence and reforms to age-based ratings systems. New research from the Parents Television Council has found that TV violence – and gun violence in particular – that is marketed as appropriate for children has increased on primetime broadcast television shows in the five years since Newtown. MViolence_DonateDuring the November 2017 “sweeps” period of primetime broadcast TV shows, almost 61% (175 of the 287 episodes examined) contained violence; and 39% (112 episodes) contained violence and guns. Of note, the study period was approximately one month following the Las Vegas mass shooting on October 1, 2017. The study period in 2013 was about one month following the Newtown mass shooting. Every program during the November 2017 “sweeps” period was rated either TV-PG or TV-14, meaning that the television networks determined every single program to be appropriate for a child aged 14 or, in many instances, even younger. The “V” content descriptor connoting violence was absent on nearly a quarter (24%) of the shows that contained violence. Comparatively, research conducted by the PTC in 2013 during the month following Newtown found that on primetime broadcast TV shows, nearly half contained violence; and almost a third contained violence and guns. “Our latest research shows that children are being fed a steady diet of graphic TV violence – and, in particular, bloody gun violence – that is being marketed to them by the entertainment industry. On a nightly basis, the publicly-owned airwaves are a toxic environment awash with depictions of violence and gun violence. Despite the spate of tragic events in recent years, violence and gun violence on primetime broadcast television have actually increased proportionally since the horrific shootings at Newtown five years ago,” said PTC President Tim Winter. President Donald Trump discussed media violence and its impact on children late last week, saying, “We have to look at the internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed. We have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they're seeing it. And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. … You see these movies, they’re so violent. And yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved. And maybe they have to put a rating system for that. You get into a whole very complicated, very big deal but the fact is that you are having movies come out that are so violent with the killing and everything else that maybe that's another thing we’re going to have to discuss.” ViolenceViewing“We wholeheartedly agree that kids can be impacted and harmed by exposure to violent media – and decades of academic research backs it up. Our kids are inundated with a culture of violence, in part because of Hollywood’s penchant for marketing violent films, TV shows, and violent video games to kids,” said Winter. “Gun violence has been Hollywood’s favorite kind of violence for years. A 2013 study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that gun violence tripled in PG-13-rated films. And violence is typically rated lower than films with sexual content, as the president alluded to, meaning that more children will be able to watch those kinds of films. “We have called on the governing body for TV content ratings – the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board – to make the TV ratings system more accurate, consistent, transparent and publicly accountable; but our calls have fallen on the very same deaf ears that control the system and game it to their advantage. When TV content ratings are determined by each respective network, and the system’s oversight is administered entirely by the same people who assign inaccurate content ratings to begin with, it is impossible for the system to protect children as it was intended. The TV content ratings system needs to be overhauled so it truly serves the needs of parents and families, and not to provide cover for the industry. “Vital reforms to protect kids from the toxic culture of media violence are urgently needed. In the meantime, we urge the entertainment industry to reduce – even eliminate – portrayals of graphic violence, and specifically, gun violence,” Winter concluded.

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