Calling TV violence America’s No. 1 health problem, panelists testifying before a House subcommittee yesterday called for better labeling of television programs containing violence and tougher network and cable standards.

Representatives from the networks and cable, meanwhile, denied there was any connection between rising violence rates in the country and the amount on television, but admitted there could be better broadcast standards throughout the industry.

“Our addiction to violence on the screen is manifesting itself by violence in our streets in epidemic proportions … and we must do something about it,” Carole Lieberman, M.D. of the National Coalition on Television Violence testified.

According to Lieberman, a recent NCTV study found that Fox Broadcasting had the highest number of violent acts out of the four networks, followed by NBC, CBS and ABC. She explained that regular series were not as much the culprit when it comes to violence but movies were.

‘Lives torn asunder’

Lieberman, a psychiatrist, said she has “seen patient’s lives torn asunder by irresponsible television–especially by its glamorization of violence.”

Lieberman suggested that censorship was not the answer in curbing television violence, but that perhaps such things as a ratings system, ingredient labels, warning labels, and a public service campaign were.

All of the panelists appearing at the hearing agreed that while the television networks did air some violent programming, it was cable programmers who are most responsible for the amount of violence on the air.

Yet according to a TV Guide study entered as evidence, local independents were the purveyors of the most violence followed by TBS, HBO, USA Network, MTV, Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC and PBS. Winston (Tony) Cox, chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks Inc., said that his company was concerned with children being exposed to television violence and that it was a topic the industry needed to address.

The hearing was held a day after the Big Three jointly announced that they had worked together to create a better program practices and broadcast standards rule book.

Network reps

Appearing before the panel for the networks were Dr. Rosalyn Weinman, VP of broadcast standards and practices at NBC; Beth Waxman Bressan, VP and assistant to the president at CBS and Christine Hikawa, VP of broadcast standards and practices at ABC.

Each of the network representatives said they do not believe that network television is a contributor to the acts of real world violence but were concerned with the way violent acts are portrayed on the air. As a result, each stressed that programs and commercials go through rigorous editing and viewing.

More important, the network representatives maintained that they cannot rid the TV world of violence alone. It will take a commitment from all programmers, cable and broadcast, to get a better grasp on television violence.

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