Television violence 'on the increase': Study shows rise in bad or potentially offensive language

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The Independent Online
THE AMOUNT of violence on the four main terrestrial television channels is rising, despite increased and broadly based public concern, and stiffer programme curbs drawn up by the BBC and the Independent Television Commission, a study by the Broadcasting Standards Council has found.

The findings, based on an analysis of all programmes broadcast during a week in September, showed that scenes of violence have risen by 40 per cent to four scenes per hour during 1993, compared with 2.9 scenes over the same period in 1992.

The study is the first in Britain to make a year-on-year comparison. News and factual programmes accounted for 86 per cent of the increase, partly because of the war in Bosnia. There were scenes of violence on the news every eight minutes in 1993, compared with once every 21 minutes in 1992. But the study found that most types of programmes showed a rise in violent scenes, except for films. Overall, the proportion containing violence rose from 43 per cent in 1992 to 50 per cent in 1993.

The incidence of bad or potentially offensive language also increased, from 6.9 times an hour in 1992 to 7.6 last year.

The study did find, however, that the watershed was having an impact and was being observed, despite the current debate about whether it should be put back to 10pm to protect the 4 million children who regularly watch after 9pm.

The study found that sex scenes were shown relatively infrequently and were predominantly not explicit. The number of scenes per hour rose from 0.5 in 1992 to 0.7 in 1993, while the average duration dropped from 20 seconds to 16, reducing the potential for embarrassment among family viewing groups.

In the 1992 study, there were 11 portrayals of sexual intercourse, and none in the 1993 survey. There was also less nudity.

Lady Elspeth Howe, the council's chair, directed attention towards the effect of US programmes in increasing the amount of violence and bad language.

Although US imports accounted for 13 per cent of total programmes on terrestrial television, they were responsible for 26 per cent of bad language, 25 per cent of violence and 35 per cent of sexual scenes.

Lady Howe said: 'Broadcasters should take note of the viewers' feelings. They may be more used to violence but they are concerned, particularly for children.'

The study, which also covered four BSkyB channels, three of them running films, found that satellite output featured twice as many sex scenes as the four terrestrial television channels, while 'contributing generously to incidents of bad language and violence'. The report's research organiser, Dr Guy Cumberbatch, said: 'If you stick a kid in front of Sky Movies they are going to be exposed to a lot more violence than if you stick them in front of the BBC. There's a level of trust in the BBC which is justified.'

The survey also monitored the representation on television of minority groups. It found that black and Asian people were featured 368 times compared with 274 times in 1992 - an increase of 34 per cent.

Liz Forgan, the managing director of BBC Radio, yesterday criticised the style of presentation on Radio 3, saying that it had not yet found the right accessible tone to attract new listeners to its wide range of music.

She said she wanted to have a wider range of accents and voices on BBC Radio. 'We need a changing in the sound of voices, so they don't all sound like me,' said Ms Forgan, who was educated at Benenden and Oxford University.