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Violent Media Could Get Hammered at House Hearing

The Republican-led House Appropriations Commerce, Justice,
Science and Related Agencies  Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing
on Youth Violence Research
next week that could prove problematic for
broadcasters pushing for parental education rather than government regulation
of the media.

The lone researcher witness recently blogged that the media
are in denial about the link between violence and media violence and
"might be reluctant to admit that they are marketing a harmful
product," likening them to tobacco companies.

The March 19 hearing features two witnesses: Subra Suresh,
director of
the National Science Foundation, and Dr. Brad J. Bushman, Ohio State
Communications professor and researcher. Bushman is notable for studies
challenging the "myth that violent media have a trivial effect on
aggression." The NSF studies cite him more than a dozen times and include
one of his co-written papers along with its study, which Bushman links to on
his website.

Subcommittee chair Frank Wolf (R-Va.) last month released an NSF
advisory committee Youth Violence report
that identified violence media as
one of three major risk factors in mass shootings.

Wolf has said he thought President Barack Obama shouldhave focused more on violent media and mental health in his efforts after
the Sandy Hook school shootings to tackle the problem of real-world violence.

Among Bushman's blog postings for Psychology Today, according
to his website,
is "Why
Do People Deny Violent Media Effects?"
. In it, he points to a study
positing that "heavy viewers of violent TV shows in first and third grade
were three times more likely to be convicted of criminal behavior by the time
they were in their 20s, and were significantly more likely to abuse their
spouses and assault others."

He also talks about denial in the entertainment industry:
"In 1972, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a warning about the harmful
effects of TV violence. Since then, the scientific evidence has grown even
stronger, but news reports claim less harm. Indeed, most Americans aren't even
aware that the U.S. Surgeon General issued a warning about TV violence in 1972,
perhaps because the mass media has not publicized it. The entertainment
industry might be reluctant to admit that they are marketing a harmful product,
much like the tobacco industry was reluctant to admit that cigarettes are

In a report, "Media Violence and Youth
Violence," he says: "Educating parents about the research on violent
video games is also important," but calls it "an uphill battle,
however, because the source of news and information for parents is the mass
media, and the mass media are reluctant to report that violent media are

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.