Big rise in violence on TV news programmes

September 11: contributed to rise in TV violence

The terrorist attacks of September 11 and the war in Afghanistan meant news programmes contained almost a quarter of the violence broadcast on television in 2001.

Events in Kosovo also contributed to an increase in violence shown between 1997 and 2001, with the number of violent scenes increasing from 4.1 per hour to 5.2 per hour over that period.

The study was carried out by the BBC and TV watchdogs the Broadcasting Standards Commission and the Independent Television Commission and showed that the levels of violent scenes or acts of violence reported in news programming doubled between 1998 and 2001.

In 2001 there were 243 scenes of violence shown in the context of terrorism and 148 in the context of war during the sample period.

In 1999, there were 25 scenes shown in the context of terrorism and 247 war scenes. In 1997 there were 19 scenes depicting terrorism and 108 scenes shown in the context of war.

The survey also showed that 70 per cent of the news watched on the five terrestrial channels from a two-week sample of programmes in spring and autumn contained scenes of violence.

The report, The Depiction of Violence on Terrestrial Television, also showed that the increase in the number of scenes of violence in children’s programmes from 2.5 per hour in 1997 to 6.4 in 2001 was "due to scenes from the US reported in Newsround".

Football violence also added to the amount of violence shown in sports, says the report, which claims that an increase in slow-motion replays of fouls and injuries is to blame.

But despite the impact of the events of September 11 on the figures, the report said that "the underlying year-on-year trend suggest that scenes of violence have been increasing across a variety of programme types".

The main area that saw the biggest increase was light entertainment where the amount of violent scenes increased by 1.4 per cent scenes per hour while soap operas increased by 0.4 scenes per hour.

For the first time since the monitoring began in 1997 the amount of pre-watershed violence is higher than after that time.

Broadcasting Standards Commission director Paul Bolt said that "raw figures" gained during the exercise "could only be a starting point for analysis. Obviously, the impact and potential harm of violent images are greatly affected by their context and presentation."

By Julie Tomlin

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