An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that, "In Feburary 2004, 2.9 children ages 2 to 11 watched those four broadcast networks that PTC whomped on in this study." The number of children is actually 2.9 million.
TV Column: Is prime-time violence against women really going up?
The number of violent crimes against women shown in prime time on broadcast television is extremely small, relative to the number of overall violent crimes shown in prime time on broadcast TV, according to a new study by the ever-vigilant Parents Television Council. And yet, the study is called "Women in Peril: A Look at TV's Disturbing New Storyline Trend."
How did this happen? During the February and May sweeps periods of 2009, the watchdog group's team of hired analysts viewed everything that aired in prime time on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. Yes, once again, cable TV got the PTC Pass because, its president, Tim Winter, says, the council doesn't have the resources to monitor all those cable shows.
Collectively, those broadcast networks clocked 3,929 acts of violence in prime time.
Of those, 429 -- 11 percent -- were violent acts against women, PTC said in its new study.
For comparison's sake, during the February and May sweeps in 2004, PTC analysts logged 3,840 acts of violence overall, 195 of which -- 5 percent -- were directed against women.
"This past weekend in Richmond, California, there was a horrific gang rape of a 15-year-old girl who was leaving her homecoming dance. Police called it one of the most heinous crimes they've ever seen. They haven't even determined how many times the girl was raped," Winter said, by way of warming up the crowd at the Wednesday news conference call to discuss the group's study on nasty broadcast TV.
"The nation is gripped in a culture of violence. . . . A wave of media violence is hitting the public like a tsunami."
An observant Associated Press reporter on the call noted that, based on PTC's statistics, the "overwhelming majority of violent acts depicted on prime-time broadcast TV are not against women." And, anyway, isn't half of the population of this country female?
Winter and Melissa Henson, PTC's director of communications and public education, who was also on the call, asked the reporters to instead focus on the fact that 195 to 429 is a 120 percent increase.
"That's the pattern we're concerned about," Henson said.
Winter said he was speaking "out of grave concern for what is being impressed upon a whole generation of American children," and suggested that depiction of crimes against women will have a "devastating effect" on children who learn behavior watching TV.
The PTC report brings us no closer to understanding the situation. In Feburary 2004, 2.9 million children ages 2 to 11 watched those four broadcast networks that PTC whomped on in this study. Meanwhile more than 5 million children watched prime-time cable TV. And, in May 2009, 1.5 million children watched ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox in prime time, while more than 7 million children chose cable programming instead.