Family TV 'can corrupt children'

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The Independent Online
Television shows such as Gladiators and Blind Date are making violence, sex and cruelty more enjoyable for the public and fuelling a growing addiction to real-life violence, according to a criminologist.

Mike Presdee, a reader in criminology at the University of Sunderland, is warning that some "family" shows could be more of a corrupting influence than films such as Pulp Fiction. He believes that as a result of the programmes, people view intimidation and cruelty as everyday events.

"Gladiators is just real-life violence," said Mr Presdee. "There are two shapely young women dressed in sexually attractive costumes stood on plinths beating the hell out of each other, and mothers, fathers, children and grandparents cheer them on."

Mr Presdee said ITV's Blind Date is "cruelty television". "People watch it to see two people humiliating each other and tearing each other apart emotionally. It is often nasty and shocking and sexually gratuitous and people love watching others being torn apart." Mr Presdee and Gavin Carver of the University of Kent will deliver a paper on this theme to the British Sociological Society's annual conference at York University next week and are calling for a wider debate about television and video violence.

Other experts are less convinced of the dangers of family television shows, but remain concerned about the wider effects of "trivialising" violence. "I find some scenes in shows such as EastEnders far more disturbing and violent than you get in many films which are supposed to be outright violence," said Roger Matthews, a reader in criminology at Middlesex University.

LWT, which makes Blind Date and Gladiators, defended the shows. "Gladiators is a hugely popular show watched by over 10 million viewers at tea-time," said a spokesman. "Tony Blair recently said that Gladiators was the programme he was most likely to sit down and watch with his children."