Commercial television networks yesterday disputed a major government study's conclusion that televised violence can lead to aggressive behavior in children. But consumer and health groups said the new report confirmed their worst fears.
A spokesman for Columbia Broadcasting Co. criticized the National Institute of Mental Health report as "uncritical" and "put together in large measure by individuals who came to it with publicly identified positions on the role of television in society."
The National Broadcasting Co. charged that there were a "number of inaccurate statements" in the report and contended "that many of the conclusions in the report will be challenged by social scientists conducting independent reviews."
The American Broadcasting Co. said it would wait to comment until it obtained a copy of the report.
The government's report on "Television and Behavior," a review of the last decade of research, concluded that "the consensus among most of the research community is that violence on television does lead to aggressive behavior by children and teen-agers who watch the programs. This conclusion is based on laboratory experiments and on field studies."
The report, an update of a 1972 surgeon general's report that drew preliminary links between televised violence and aggression, also found that violence on entertainment programs essentially remained the same during the last decade, despite concern by Congress and consumer groups.
Network spokesmen disagreed. National Association of Broadcasters Vice President Shawn Sheehan argued that "networks had made a concerted effort to lessen violence aimed at children's programming."
But Peggy Charren, president of Action for Children's Television, said the study should spur new efforts by the government to fund public broadcasting alternatives.
Stanley Matek, president of the American Public Health Association, agreed that a new infusion of money into public broadcasting should be encouraged. "I think that what this study shows is that we need more choice and less homogenized TV fare."