TV GUIDE HAD an article a few weeks ago that contained an interview with five television producers on the question of TV violence. The producers were upset because pressure groups, such as the Parents Teachers Association and the American Medical Association, were leaning on the TV networks to cut out violence in their shows.
The networks and advertisers, the TV producers said, were caving into pressure. The producers considered this is a form of censorship and said no one should be able to dictate how much violence there should be on television.
My friend Joanie Conway, who reads TV Guide, said to me, "Do I look like a pressure group?"
I looked at her, "I don't think so."
"Well, I read this article that said people like myself were ruining television because we were complaining to the networks about the violence they were showing in what they like to call their 'action movies.'"
"You mean they didn't want you to write in to show you displeasure?"
"I think so. They said the pressure groups were deciding what people could or could not see because the networks hate to get mail. Now my question is, if I don't like television violence how do I convey my opinion if I don't write to protest?"
"That's a toughie," I admitted. "If you write you're putting pressure on the networks - if you don't write you'll keep getting violent shows. I would say you are in your rights to write."
"But the producers claim the people who write in are ruining TV for the public. Aren't I the public too?"
"I should think so," I said. "I suppose the producers were saying the mass audience like violence on television, but the minority of the people who write letters to the networks don't. But minority opinion prevails because the networks hate to get any mail criticizing their programming."
"How do they know the mass of the people like it?"
"Because of the audience ratings. The violent shows have high ratings."
"I think people will watch anything on television."
"What do you have against violence on television?"
"People keep getting killed, or knifed, or beat up; cars keep crashing into each other, and the impression you get is the country is full of psychos. The police aren't that nice either. They're always beating up anyone who won't tell them what they want to know."
"The producers claim they aren't showing violence for the sake of violence. They have to have the violence so they'll have action. The TV viewer likes his action."
"Well, I don't like it and I think it's bad for kids to see it. They show them how to rob stores, make bombs and blow up safes. That's not my idea of show biz."
"It does raise a problem. Killing on television is as American as apple pie. I'm not sure TV could survive without it."
"That's what the producers in TV Guide said."
Joanie told me, "They said if they can't have violence on their shows there would be no conflict, and the American public would be cheated out of good television."
"They may have a point," I said. "Murder, rape, arson and dope peddling does have a lot of conflict in it."
"But how much of it do we have to take? The producers claim they make these shows because the public wants them. Well, I'm the public and I don't want them, and so when I write in they say I am a pressure group. If I liked them what would that make me?"
"A pro-violence consumer, I guess,"
Joanie says, "I'd rather be a pressure group."
"Go ahead if you want to but if they can't beat up and murder people on TV any more, it's going to be on your conscience."