TV violence down, but shocks up

January 13, 1998|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

LOS ANGELES -- Violence on network television is down for the third straight year, but there's a disturbing new trend in graphic "shockumentary" reality programs featuring animal attacks, police shootouts and car crashes often involving death.

Those are the major findings of the UCLA Television Violence Report to be published today. It is the third annual study of violence on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, WB and UPN. The study, which covered the 1996-97 network season, is conducted by the UCLA Center for Communication Policy with funding from the TV industry.

"Overall, the trend is toward less violence on network television," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the center.

"But, while the majority of network programming deals responsibly with violence issues, reality-based specials do not. The number of these violence-filled specials continued to grow during the 1996-97 season," Cole said.

The report singled out "World's Most Dangerous Animals," "When Animals Attack," "World's Scariest Police Chases" and "Video Justice: Crime Caught on Tape."

"During the 1994-95 season, so few violence issues appeared in television specials that this type of programming didn't even merit its own section in the first UCLA report," Cole said.

"In 1995-96, the study found five such specials, and we were concerned that this might signal a trend. That fear was confirmed this year as television reality specials featuring graphic footage of death and disaster proliferated greatly in intensity and number."

Other findings of the study:

The most violent regular series: "Walker, Texas Ranger" on CBS.

On children's television, there was a decline in what the report last year labeled "sinister combat violence." But four shows featuring such violence -- "Project G.e.e.K.e.R," "Power Rangers," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "X-Men" -- are still on the air. Three are from Saban Entertainment and air on Fox.

The 10 p.m. network dramas, like "Homicide" on NBC, were found to "generally handle violence responsibly."

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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