Curran begins campaign against violence in media State attorney general urges stations to promote safer children's shows

September 10, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. launched yesterday a campaign against violence in the media, calling on parents, doctors and television stations to help steer children away from violent television shows.

Noting 30 years of research that shows violence in the media promotes aggressive behavior in children, Curran asked local television stations to promote safer programming for children and warn viewers about violent shows.

"We find most American children will watch 28 hours of television a week," said Curran, noting that "by the end of elementary school, our children have seen 8,000 murders on television and 100,000 other acts of violence.

"They're learning that violence is OK. It's glamorous and it doesn't even hurt," he said at a news conference at Baltimore's Northeast Middle School.

Curran asked local stations to run public service announcements about the effects of media violence on children and show more nonviolent television programs.

He asked parents, pediatricians and teachers to promote awareness about the link between television violence and aggression in children.

His office will distribute hundreds of copies of "A Parent's Diary" for parents to keep logs of the shows their children watch.

Curran also urged advertisers to consider withdrawing ads on violent shows.

His remarks came on the same day that the American Medical Association, meeting in Chicago, announced that it will distribute a physician's guide to media violence to 60,000 doctors to help educate them on the dangers of violence in entertainment.

Curran was joined yesterday by city State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, children's advocate Susan Leviton and Dr. Timothy Doran, who heads the Maryland branch of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"There is a clear link between media violence and violent behavior," said Doran, noting that "parents need to be empowered to screen out" violent material on television.

Although representatives of local television stations were invited to yesterday's news conference, only one showed up, from WJZ-TV.

Mike Easterling, programming and public affairs manager for WJZ, said his station airs three hours a week of programs for children. But he stopped short of promising to take Curran's advice to air public service announcements and increase the number of nonviolent shows.

Representatives of other local stations also were noncommittal yesterday.

"I don't think television today is as violent as when I grew up, which is 20 or 30 years ago," said Steven Marks, regional director of Sinclair Communications, which owns Channel 45 and operates Channel 54.

"Television is being blamed for society's ills," he added.

Wanda Draper, director of public affairs for WBAL-TV, said her NBC affiliate airs spots with television stars telling children to avoid violence and stay away from drugs.

But she said the station has problems attracting viewers for children's shows such as "Cappelli and Company."

"Our problem is not getting enough children to watch it no matter what time we run it. If people aren't going to watch it, why should television stations show it?"

Pub Date: 9/10/96

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