ABC Defends Shows From PTC Violence Assault

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ABC, which the Parents Television Council  said on Wednesday was the network that had shown the biggest increase in primetime violence since 1998, stands by its programming choices.

"We have not yet reviewed the report," said the network in a statement.  "But we are confident that our extensive standards review of all of our programming insures acceptable content for our diverse viewing audiences."

There was plenty of violence to go around, according to PTC's study  titled "Dying to Entertain." It was a content analysis--not a contextual one--of violence in the first two weeks of key sweeps for the 2002-2003 through 2005-2006 seasons.

PTC said in a Washington press conference Wednesday that the 2005-2006 season was the most violent since its last study in 1998 with a 75% increase in the number of violent instances. 

For the 2006 season, NBC had the most violent incidences per hour at 6.79, up 83%.5% from the previous season. ABC had 3.8, but that was up 155%, said PTC, from the 2004-2005 season.
The WB had the greatest frequency of violence during the 8 to 9 p.m."Family Hour" and CBS had the most violent at 9-10p.m. (when CSI airs), and ABC producing the most violent at 10-11p.m., according to the PTC.

PTC President Tim Winter said that one "small silver lining" was that some of the violent shows--Night Stalker, for example--had already been cancelled. Winter said that the V-chip was not effective in controlling kids access to such shows, and that the industry needed to better police itself.

The definition of violence did not take into account whether the context celebrated or censured it.  Melissa Caldwell, senior director of programs for PTC,  said she could not remember a single "redeeming instance" among the over 1,100 hours of programming reviewed.

The range of programming considered violent was also broad. For example, ER was NBC's second most violent show in 2005-2006, according to PTC, though it conceded that it was in a category labeled "medical violence," with only 9% "general mayhem." But also considered violent was an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos featuring two girls fighting in which one "pulls some of the other girl's hair and puts it in her tricycle."

On hand to praise PTC was FCC Democrat Michael Copps, who referred to TV as a "vast violent wasteland," and said that both government and the industry needed to address the problem. He said he expected the FCC to release "in the near term" the long-overdue report on TV violence requested by Congress.

He also took the opportunity to tie the rise in violence on TV to media consolidation. He pointed to the "accompanying loss of local control and community checks and balances replaced too often with an always-on marketing plan of selling products to a particular demographic, on the assumption that this demographic will best respond when it is under a constant barrage of sex and violence."

Copps said there were legislators eying the violence issue, and that if the industry did not self-regulate, it should not be surprised to see Congress step in.

Shows on at 10 p.m  would be protected if the FCC were ever to adopt an indecency-like harbor for violence, but Winter said PTC had several issues with violent shows on at that time. One, he said, was violent commercials for 10 p.m. shows that aired earlier in the day or in sports coverage. Another was the syndication of such shows--he mentioned Law & Order and CSI--in the afternoon. He also said there was a trickle-down effect to shows earlier in primetime.He also pointed out that HBO's The Sopranos was debuting Wednesday night on basic cable with most of the violence intact.

A representative of the American Psychological Association was also on hand  to lend support, saying there was clear evidence that media violence affects the behavior of children.

TV Watch, which the networks created to push the V-chip/ratings system, not surprisingly appeared to take issue with the V-chip critcism, though the e-mailed statement Wednesday did not mention the PTC or study by name.

"Activists in Washington who continue their push for increased government regulation of television content refuse to accept the advances in technology that allow parents to enforce the decisions they make about what their children should see on television," said Executive Director Tim Dyke. "They don't want Americans to know that parents have the tools to make informed decisions - and to enforce those decisions - because it would make their approach obsolete." .

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