Violent TV Undermining Family Violence Message

Family First NZ says that a report by the Parents Television Council which documents an alarming rise in violence against women and girls on prime-time television should sound warning bells in NZ.

According to the report Women in Peril: A Look at TV’s Disturbing New Storyline Trend which studied trends from 2004 to 2009, it found a dramatic increase in storylines depicting violence against women and girls, and the violence being more graphic than ever before.

The study also found a shocking rise in the depiction of teenage girls as victims (400% increase over the 5 years); more scenes showing intimate partner violence (81% increase); and an increase in the use of violence against women as a punch line in comedy series.

“Most of the programmes mentioned in the report are shown in NZ including Heroes, Prison Break, C.S.I. Medium, Family Guy, and American Dad, and this highlights the concern that our unacceptable levels of family violence are potentially being driven by a violent media culture,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“The increasing use of violence against women as a punch line in comedies such as Family Guy and American Dad also shows a disturbing trivialisation of the seriousness of this issue.”

The report correctly concludes that ‘By depicting violence against women with increasing frequency on television, or as a trivial, even humorous matter, the networks may be contributing to an atmosphere in which young people view aggression and violence against women as normative, even acceptable’.

“There is ample evidence and research that shows that violence in our media is a significant risk factor for violence in the community and families,” says Mr McCoskrie.

A Family First investigation of 15 programmes on four free-to-air channels between 6pm and 8.30pm over a period covering November 4–13 in 2008 found a saturation of foul language, sexual innuendo, and promotion of Adult Only programmes, and called in to question the so-called family watershed time.

“As NZ invests millions of dollars and resources into tackling the problem of family violence, sexual abuse and assaults, and the It’s Not OK campaign, it may be that the media is being left uncontrolled and unaccountable as they undermine these messages and normalize unacceptable behaviour which the community is trying to tackle.”

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