Study: Violence no ratings winner

U. of Pennsylvania professor George Gerbner is challenging a commonly held belief that violent programming translates into boffo ratings.

Gerbner will release results of his study on Thursday at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives convention in Miami, where he will be a panelist on a session entitled “Sex, Violence & TV.”

Survey says…

Gerbner studied the ratings results for 104 violent programs over the past five TV seasons and compared them with ratings of 103 non-violent shows.

The results: violent programs pulled an average 11.1 rating and an 18.9 share , while non-violent shows averaged a 13.8 rating and 22.5 share.

Despite the lower ratings domestically, Gerbner said violence “travels well” in foreign markets.

“What violent programs lose on ratings, they more than make up by grabbing the attention of younger viewers whom advertisers want to attract” and by providing programming to foreigners “hungry for cheap product,” said Gerbner.

Web challenge

Gerbner has been a leading academic in the anti-TV violence front. However, his past research on the subject has been challenged by network executives and program providers.

On a related note, top cable TV industry executives met Tuesday with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and the staff of Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) in the latest in a series of meetings on the anti-TV violence front. Results of the meeting were sketchy, although one industry source said the sessions “went very well.”

Simon sez

Simon is pushing cablers and broadcasters to establish an independent body to monitor programs for TV violence and make periodic reports to the public.

Both broadcasters and cablers have tentatively endorsed the idea.

Markey has sponsored “V-chip” legislation that would require insertion of a microchip in all new TV sets allowing parents to block out programs carrying a violence rating.

Cablers prefer that no legislation be passed, but they have indicated they can support a combination ratings/V-chip technology proposal.

The four broadcast networks remain adamantly opposed to violence ratings and the V-chip technology.

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