WASHINGTON — Vice President Al Gore went back on the culture warpath Wednesday in a speech in which he blamed television for creating a culture that is partly “responsible for the whirlwind we are now reaping” when it comes to violent acts committed by children.
Gore did not accuse television programming of being directly responsible for the rash of schoolground shootings in the past year, but he did note, “Children shooting children gives us ever more urgent cause for concern.” In the most recent case, last week an Oregonian high schooler is alleged to have shot and killed two of his fellow students and injured 23 others.
The vice president did not single out any specific shows for blame, but he did repeat the often-quoted statistic that children, on average, see 20,000 simulated murders on television by the time they graduate form high school. “Exposure to this amount of media violence is not healthy for children,” Gore said at a press conference to unveil a Kaiser Family Foundation survey on attitudes toward the new TV rating system.
The survey found that both parents and kids are using the new content code that has now been up and running for its first complete television season. Among the results, the poll of 1,358 parents and 446 children found:
– 90% of parents think ratings advisories are a good idea.
– 93% of parents who use the ratings say it is very or somewhat useful.
– 36% of children have decided not to watch a show because of its rating.
– 31% of boys are more interested in a show with a violent rating.
In addition, the survey found that 79% of youths ages 10 to 17 had watched an R-rated movie with their parents on video or in a theater.
Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti, who led the effort to create the ratings system, said the Kaiser survey shows that parents are using the ratings as they were designed. “The Kaiser study shows that the TV Parental Guidelines are doing what they were designed to do — providing parents with advance cautionary information to assist them in monitoring the television watching of their young children.”
Gore said the current rating system needs to be “broadened,” although he offered few suggestions. Once again, he used the podium to urge NBC to join the rest of the TV industry in implementing the content-based code. Currently, NBC only uses the age-based rating system, which does not make reference to the specific level of violent or sexual content of a show.
The survey also asked kids about their own viewing habits, and the results do not bode well for broadcasters. Approximately 57% of those ages 10 to 17 said they spend most of their time watching cable programming compared with 37% who said they spend most of their time watching any or all of the four major networks.
In addition, the survey found that 10% of the kids responding rated “The Simpsons” as their favorite show. The survey also specifically asked them if they had ever seen Comedy Central’s more adult-oriented “South Park,” with 43% responding positively.