The rise and rise of violence on television

Media Matters in NZ | Sunday, 17 March 2013

Dianna Wichtel [Listener columnist] deserves the thanks of us all, for her telling appraisal of the rise and rise of violence on television.  She is the only NZ media commentator I know of, who has been brave enough to label it "unacceptable".

Why is there not more regular critical assessment of the social impact in this country of the most powerful instrument of behaviour modification ever devised in our media?  TV columnists prattle on about what they have seen.  A Radio NZ journalist lectures journalists about journalism standards weekly on Media Watch.  TV3 runs a show around midnight in which a pompous academic bangs on about various esoteric subjects. 

None of these people show any awareness whatsoever that this month, a study by Otago University was released which found that constant exposure to TV Violence, contributes to violent crime. 

Similar findings have accumulated all over the world from similar respected research bodies over the last 40 years.  Some countries have taken legislative action as a result, Australia and UK among them.  NZ legislation is now 24 years old and is as irrelevant in a fast changing media landscape, as the Model T is to modern automotive engineering. 

Our regime, if it can be called that, is overseen by a Broadcasting Standards Authority which, rather than take on the Media here for its laxity (in for instance having no visible Watershed to warn young viewers and their parents of adult viewing - the only country in the Western world which does not), instead tries to fine complainants for having the temerity to complain. 

Part of our problem as a media advocacy organisation of 20 years standing, is that we ourselves are subjected to a media blackout.  Our press releases are never printed, even though we are the only advocacy group active in this area.  Such is free speech in Godzone, where you are allowed to express yourself only if the media agree with you.

We are not bluestockings out to spoil adults enjoyment, but rather, want to ensure that the Right to Free Speech does not trample on the Rights of the Child to protection from harm.

So, as Diana Wichtel has observed so succinctly, the electronic media continue to be allowed to show endlessly repetitive grisly acts of graphic violence, night after night, week after week, knowing this is bad for kids, and so continue to effectively 'get away with murder'.  It's (literally) a bloody disgrace and the resultant social harm is all around us.

John Terris
Media Matters President
Tel. (04) 566 3175
55 Queen's Grove Lower Hutt