Violent TV given friendlier ratings on networks than cable, study finds

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DENVER — Shows with comparable violence are often given different ratings, with network TV generally being less stringent than cable channels, a new study has found.

Scenes with stabbings, rape and mutilation received a TV-14 Parents Strongly Cautioned rating on network TV, said a study by the Parents Television Council.

Similar scenes on cable were given the highest level of caution, TV-MA for Mature Audiences Only.

The PTC study also found:

  • Most violent shows on broadcast TV have essentially similar levels of violence as the most violent cable TV shows, rendering untrue the popular assumption that broadcast TV is a “safer” media environment for children.
  • Viewers watching these violent TV shows on broadcast are exposed to guns or bladed weapons every 3 minutes.
  • The TV ratings system is failing to protect children and families due to the fact that the broadcast networks are assigning a younger age rating than similarly violent programs on cable.
  • The violent situations on television programs run the gamut, including instances of child molestation, rape, mutilation/disfigurement, dismemberment, graphic killings and/or injuries by gunfire and stabbings, violent abductions, physical torture, cannibalism, burning flesh and suicide.

“The entertainment industry has done virtually nothing to reduce the flow of graphically violent media to children. Those concerned about media violence and its effects on society should be extremely disturbed by the findings of this new research report,” said PTC President Tim Winter in a statement.

The study of 14 series during a four-week period found a 6 percent difference in the overall incidence of violence of all types on cable versus broadcast, with 1,482 violent acts on the cable programs and 1,392 on the network series.

The study looked at shows on NBC, FOX, CBS and the CW. ABC was not included.

Broadcasters are required to follow decency standards for expletives, but not for violence. Shows are rated using the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, which is made up of TV industry members and public interest groups.

A V-chip can help parents block unwanted shows with too much violence, but critics said that it may be ineffective if the programs are not appropriately labeled.

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