Letter: What young people choose to watch

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Sir: Chris Holligan (Letters, 14 April) says that for two methodological reasons caution should be exercised when interpreting the results of our research which found that the viewing habits of young offenders and non-offending schoolchildren were remarkably similar.

First, he suggests that the findings may disguise the fact that young offenders may be watching 'more video nasties' than schoolkids of the same age. In fact, the full report contains no evidence that young offenders are watching 'video nasties' at all. Their tastes and viewing habits were notably conservative and mainstream.

Second, he argues that the sensitivity of the subject matter means that our respondents may have concealed their true habits. As professional researchers we took steps to address the matter, including 'lie-detectors' in the questionnaire as well as being very careful to build up rapport with our interviewees.

Our book, Young Offenders and the Media, describes the research methods in detail. Finally, particularly when the topic is one of such importance, and where debate is frequently based on assertion and assumption rather than evidence, we would urge people to read research in the original and exercise caution if they are going to rely on newspapers for their information.

Yours sincerely,

TIM NEWBURN

ANN HAGELL

Social Justice Group

Policy Studies Institute

London, NW1

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