Television Violence

Powerful Essays
Television violence and its effects on viewers has been a controversial issue for many years. Some viewers believe that there is an increasingly large amount of violence on television and this widespread public concern has "led to calls for stricter controls on the depiction of violence in programmes" (Gunter and McAleer 1990:92). Exactly how much violence is there on television though?

Many cultivation theorists have studied this, acquiring data in the form of content analysis. They agree on a definition of a violent act, for example Gerbner in his study used the definition, "an overt expression of physical force against self or other, compelling action against ones will on pain of being hurt or killed, or actually hurting or killing" (Gunter and McAleer 1990:94). This is an objective definition that can then be used to count the number of violent acts in whatever is being observed. Halloran and Croll (1972) used this technique to establish the amount of violence on British television in comparison with that of American television. For one week in April 1971, they observed the news, fictional drama, current affairs and documentaries on BBC1 and ITV Midlands and counted the number of violent incidents using Gerbner’s definition of violence. It was found that on average, 56% of British programmes contained some violence with four incidents of violence per hour. This was in comparison with American television which contained some seven incidents of violence per hour and where it was considerably more prevalent than on British television (Gunter and McAleer 1990:97).

Focusing now on British television and violence, we can analyse Guy Cumberbatch’s research on television violence in 1987. He looked at all types of television programme focusing on four separate weeks between May and September 1986. All four channels were reviewed, totalling 1412 hours of television (930 BBC programmes and 1146 ITV and channel four programmes). He found, using his own definitions of a violent act, that 30% of all programmes contained some violence with an average of 1.14 acts of violence per programme (Gross 1992:455). It was also found that there was much more violence on television after 9pm and that violence was rare in children’s television programmes other than cartoons. It has been questioned however whether the violence in cartoons should actually b...

... middle of paper ... factors have also shown to be influential in this cause and effect relationship between television violence and violent behaviour. Such factors as age, gender, parental influence and amount of viewing contribute to how influential television violence is on an individual’s behaviour. Findings are still however inconclusive in this debate, although a large proportion of the evidence does appear to strongly favour the hypothesis that viewing violence on television does have an effect on a viewer’s violent behaviour. As a Washington Post article states "the preponderance of evidence from more than 3000 research studies over 2 decades shows that the violence portrayed on television influences the attitudes and behaviour of children who watch it" (Oldenburg 1992 cited at


Condry, J. (1989): The Psychology of Television. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Gross, R. (1992): Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Gunter, B. and McAleer, J. (1997): Children and Television. London: Routledge.
Van Evra, J. (1990): Television and Child Development. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
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