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Study: Broadcast TV still shows excessive gun violence

Published: Monday, May 13 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

The non-partisan Parents Television Council has reviewed 392 primetime television programs that aired on broadcast networks between Jan. 11 and Feb. 11 — the month after a meeting of government and TV executives about gun reform.

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The non-partisan Parents Television Council has reviewed 392 primetime television programs that aired on broadcast networks between Jan. 11 and Feb. 11 — the month after a meeting of government and TV executives about gun reform.

Some of the major findings of the resulting study, “Gun violence is Hollywood’s favorite type of violence,” include:

      • 193 shows included at least one act of violence.
      • 121 shows included at least one act of gun violence.
      • 54 percent of the CBS programs included gun violence.
On Jan. 11 at the White House, Vice President Joe Biden hosted TV and movie industry leaders to dialogue about a pathway to meaningful gun reform in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedies.

When the entertainment executives issued a joint statement assuring Americans their industry “has a long-standing commitment to provide parents the tools necessary to make the right viewing decisions for their families,” those comments helped catalyze Parents Television Council into action via its new study.

During a recent interview, Parents Television Council president Tim Winter spoke about the backstory and consequences of “Gun violence is Hollywood’s favorite of violence.”

Deseret News: Why did you choose to do this particular study, in terms of timing and topical scope?

Tim Winter: It was really in response to the several days leading up to the (TV executives’) meeting with Vice President Biden on Jan. 11. Here in Los Angeles every January the Television Critics Association has their semiannual gathering. The Sandy Hook tragedy was still fresh in everybody’s minds, but when asked how they defend the violence of their shows, the TV network heads responded by pointing to others and saying, “Look at that one that’s more violent over there, and I have to compete with that.” So it was a finger-pointing exercise.

And when we heard that the industry leaders were being invited to the White House on Jan. 11 to meet Vice President Biden, and when we saw the statements that came from that meeting, we thought, “Well, let’s see if what they’re saying is true. Let’s hold them accountable. They’re saying they’re responsible; let’s take a look. They’re saying they’re being mindful and respectful and they’re giving parents the tools; let’s take a look.”

When you look at the volume and the degree of the gun violence, and some of the most horrific scenes of violence that followed in that 30-day period, every single one of those aired on primetime broadcast television — publicly owned airwaves — and was rated as appropriate for a 14-year-old child. So when you hear the finger pointing, when you hear the self-justification, our reaction is, “Let’s hold them to their words — let’s see if their deeds reflect their words.” And I think what we showed was in fact is (their deeds) don’t measure up.

D.N.: Who is ultimately responsible to protect kids from television programming that could be detrimental to them?

T.W.: Whenever you have a group — some multiple numbers of people who are ultimately accountable for something — and those individuals or groups engage in finger pointing, nobody’s held accountable. What we’re trying to do is say, “Let’s put the finger-pointing down.” Instead of saying, “Is it your fault or my fault,” let’s use the word “and”: everybody shares some degree of responsibility.

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