ABC-TV president Frederick S. Pierce yesterday called the current campaign of the American Medical Association (AMA) to lure sponsors away from violent TV shows a "regrettable action" and a "blanket condemnation based on incomplete and misleading data."
Earlier this month AMA president Richard Palmer wrote to 10 U.S. corporations, including General Motors, Sears and Eastman Kodak, asking them to reconsider placing commercials on TV programs with a high violence level. Palmer said at the time, "If the programming a child is exposed to consists largely of violent content, then his perceptions of the real world may be significantly distorted."
In a letter to Palmer released yesterday, Pierce dismisses as "untrue" and "unwarranted" the AMA's charge that TV programming is dominated by violent shows.
"The facts are," Pierce wrote, "that programs which may includes incidents of violence represent a diminishing percentage of ABC's overall primetime schedule."
Pierce criticized the rankings of violent TV shows and sponsors devised by the national Citizens Committee for Broadcasting (NCCb) and used by the AMA. Pierce said the study equates comic violence with serious violence and that a friendly shove given Donny by Marie on the "Donny and Marie" comedy show counted the same as "a murder scene in a theatrical movie on television."
Palmer had not yet received the letter yesterday and could not be reached for comment, but an AMA spokesman in Chicago said Pierce was wrong about the violence rankings. The NCCB used two different definitions of violence in making its survey. One definition included comic violence and the other did not. The results of using both definitions varied little.
"They use that argument each time and it's not valid," the AMA spokesman said.
Another representative of the TV industry staged a counterattack against mounting criticism of TV violence earlier this week in Los Angeles. Van Gordon Sauter, chief censor at CBS, called antiviolence activitists "righteous individuals" and "elitists" during public hearings on TV violence held by the National Parent-Teachers Association.
The activists mistakenly assume, Sauter said, that "viewers are rally incapable of determining what is good for them and their society and thus need th non-solicited intervention of those with greater vision."
National PTA vice president Grace Baisinger said, nevertheless, her group is going to formulate an "action plan" to deal with increased TV violence. Asked if that plan might include urging consumers to boycott the sponsors of violent shows, Baisinger replied, "At this time, we wouldn't exclude anything."