BERLIN — A week after a shooting spree in a German school left 17 people dead, the heads of the country’s major networks have agreed to help curb violence while making it clear that television was not to blame for such random acts of brutality.
The TV execs were invited by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to a round table discussion at the federal chancellery in Berlin last week.
The meeting, Schroeder said, was not about accusations, but about what must be done to insure such acts do nor reoccur.
More discussion sought
Schroeder has called for further discussions that would include video producers, Internet providers and state leaders, adding that there was still much to be done to help prevent events like the April 26 shootings at a high school in Erfurt, where expelled 19-year-old pupil Robert Steinhaeuser gunned down 13 teachers, two students and a policeman before killing himself.
Police reported finding violent videos and computer games among Steinhaeuser’s possessions.
On Fridayan estimated 100,000 people, including Schroeder and federal President Johannes Rau, gathered around Erfurt’s medieval cathedral to remember the victims of one of the world’s worst school shootings.
Addressing the mourners, Rau took both the media and viewers to task. “We must defend ourselves against the brutalization of our society,” he said, adding that violence had become central to certain TV programs and videogames and references to it have become increasingly normal in everyday speech.
Following Thursday’s conference networks agreed as a first step to start airing anti-violence public messages. A code of conduct regulating violent scenes or content is also in the planning.
Reps of both commercial and public broadcasters appeared satisfied with the conference but reiterated appeals to political leaders not to make TV networks the scapegoat for such tragic events.
“We were grateful to have these talks, in which no one-sided accusations were made,” said Juergen Doetz, head of the VPRT, the German association of commercial broadcasters.
Schroeder said the government preferred self-regulation but would get tough on screen violence if it saw fit.
In a national survey, 81% of Germans said they favored a ban on violent videogames.