Topic 45: Some people suggest that there should be restrictions on a detailed description of crimes in the newspapers and on television. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
The violent contents broadcasted by the mass media (the television and the printing press in particular) have been singled outin recent years as a matter of urgent public concern. It has been argued that a detailed description of crime, especially violent crime, should be restricted. I agree on this suggestion based on the following concerns.
There can be little doubt that a complete description of crimes has a direct impact on viewers' perception of crime, including its nature and impacts. Ongoing exposure to reports on crime scenes has desensitised viewers to the horrorsof serious crimes such as homicide. Many TV programmes tend to dramatisethe process of tracing criminals. So immersed areviewers inthe storyline that few are encouraged to link the crime to a brutal, unsympatheticand devastating act. Meanwhile, hardly has any newspaper or TV editor carried out a follow-upstudy of convictingcriminals. This form of representationfails to alert viewers to the fact that no criminal can stay at largeand all offenders will be brought to justice.
Meanwhile, the depiction of violence is potentially the primary cause of "copycat" suicides, fights, shootings and bombings. People are inclined to vent their discontent in various ways, and one of the most common is violence. The documentary on a criminal or violent act provides them with role models, those characters who initiate most of the acts of violence on television. The portrayal of those characters encourages viewers to emulate violent behaviour, believing that their acts are likely to be acknowledged.
Despite its enormous effects on the audience, the description of crimes on television or newspapers should not be made a scapegoat for all social violence. It would divert people's attention from the root causes of violence. Some depictions of violence are likely to contribute to harmful effects on viewers, whereas other portrayals may be pro-social and beneficial for the audience. For example, many programmes encourage no-violent alternatives to solutions. Similarly, television and newspapers have played a significant role in educating the audience about the advantages of building a non-violence community and the inadvisabilityof excessive drinking, car racing, drug using and other unlawfulacts.
As suggested above, media violence, including the detailed picturing of violent acts, contributes at least partly to social violence and to the audience's aggressive thoughts and behaviour. However, there is no simple cause-and-effect relationship between media violence and societal violence and both have multiple causes.