When there is a flood, fire or other natural disaster, broadcasters are on the front lines with the news, or filling sandbags and helping get people to higher ground, or holding food and blood drives. In the war on violence, broadcasters have an opportunity to be on the front lines as well. That is not to discount the good work already being done by The Ad Council or various local broadcasters, but we're talking about a unified effort to strike at the roots of crime. Given its powerful voice and history of community action, there is no industry better suited to the task.
In our Sept. 18 issue (Airtime: "It's broadcasters' turn"), independent radio broadcaster Jerry Lee asked his colleagues to join him in an effort to focus that same energy and commitment on the problem of crime. The industry consolidation that has allowed broadcasters to become stronger and more powerful makes them the ideal catalyst for such an effort, he says. It would be, of course, an opportunity to demonstrate to a concerned Washington the good that can come out of such strength.
Lee has provided the seed money for an eponymous center at the University of Pennsylvania to research the "causes, prevention and treatment of crime." Lee wants his fellow broadcasters not only to help fund the center but also to publicize what it discovers-which anti-crime programs work and which don't-and help unite the public and private sectors in implementing the winning programs.
The Jerry Lee Center is the real deal. To head it, Lee recruited Lawrence Sherman, one of the country's top criminologists and the current president of the International Society of Criminology. When Congress needed an honest assessment of the anti-crime program it funded in 1996, it turned to a team headed by Sherman. With sufficient funding, the center could be a real weapon in the war on crime.
In the latest round of media bashing, TV got off lighter than films and videogames, but the campaign rhetoric is heating up again, and one of these two candidates pledging to clean up Dodge City is going to get the badge. This can be an answer to the increasingly persistent question from Washington: "What are you doing about the problem of violence in society?" That answer: "We're part of the solution."