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PTC Wants More Hearings on TV Violence

The Parents Television Council wants more Hill hearings on TV violence in the wake of what it says is a troubling increase in storylines involving violence toward women.

The group was not so much pointing fingers at anyone, though it did some of that, as it was calling on broadcast networks in general--it said it does not have the resources to monitor cable as well--to be more sensitive to, and tone down, that violence. "What is beyond sobering to me is the trend," said PTC President Tim Winter.

He said he believed that an industry solution, rather than a regulatory solution, was preferable and possible, though he said he had not taken the study results directly to any of the networks.

But he said he has sent the study on TV violence to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and backer in the past of legislation to give the FCC the power to regulate violent content as it does indecency on broadcast TV.

Winter also said he had been in contact with the Senator's office but that it was hard to get past the health care issue these days.

According to a just-released PTC study, Women in Peril: A Look at TV’s Disturbing New Storyline Trend, overall violence increased 2% from 2004 to 2005 on primetime shows surveyed during monitoring periods over that time, but that violence against women increased 120%. Violence against teen age girls increased 400%, PTC said.

PTC attributes part of the growth to the increase in crime shows, which Winter, a former network executive, ascribes to a "lemming mentality. What one successful show spawns is a bunch of copycats."

But it can't jsut be chalked up to giving the public what it wants, says PTC, since some of the more popular shows in the ratings, like American Idol, aren't violent.

Winter also point to the technical advances in realism on the production side that have made the violence much more real-looking, which he says is "almost driving the desire to put more of it out there."

PTC screeners looked at primetime programming--excluding news and sports--on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC during the February and May sweeps over that five-year period.

No broadcast network had weighed in at press time, but TV Watch, an industry-backed online lobby for parental, rather than governmental, control of content, weighed in. “Once again, the PTC is trying a new angle in its efforts to expand government control over what Americans choose to watch on television. Yet, this so-called 'study' is simply more of the same --an attempt to force all television content to conform to their own beliefs," said TV Watch Executive Director Jim Dyke in a statement.

“Parents have the tools to enforce the decisions about their children's viewing. As important, they have the right to make decisions for themselves. And some of those decisions may involve a determination that the shows cited by PTC provide cautionary lessons. Whatever the basis for a decision, it is best left to parents."

One question fielded by PTC during a press conference on the study Wednesday was to the point of the moral lesson value of the violence if the result it someone is caught and presumably punished. Not necessarily, said Melissa Henson, director of communications and public education. "Of course, if there are consequences for the behavior it does have a soemwhat mitigating effect, " she said, "but I don't think that diminished the overall impact of repeated exposure to violence."