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Prof. Jeff McCall '76 Writes of "Cultural Responsibility of the Media Industry"

January 19, 2014

"The roots of violence in America are many and complex, but there is no doubt the primary dispenser of cultural violence into society is the media industry," opines Jeffrey M. McCall, professor of communication at DePauw University.  His latest column appears in several newspapers, including the Indianapolis Star.

"Prime-time dramas, on both broadcast and cable, are saturated with violence of the most graphic, sordid kind," writes Dr. McCall. "Even the so-called good guys are often depraved, seriously flawed characters who employ violence to solve any problem. Blood-soaked plots fail to put violence in context. In the early 1960s, a program called The Untouchables was criticized for its shoot-’em-up portrayal of FBI agents chasing Prohibition-era mobsters. That show looks like a church picnic compared to the violence on screen today."

The professor, who authored the book Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences, notes, "Countless studies demonstrate the link between consuming mediated violence and aggression. Media consumption, of course, is not the only factor creating a violent society, but it clearly is a key factor."

He adds, "The media industry has done nothing to diminish the amount of violence in entertainment, and it misleads the public with regard to the amount of violence contained in its programming. Two recent studies demonstrate that the ratings system designed to warn viewers about violent content is basically dishonest. Those ratings are applied by the industry itself and fail to accurately warn of violent content."

According to McCall, "None of this discussion is designed to push for censorship. Programmers have First Amendment rights to push whatever garbage they want. This discussion also does not assert that every person who watches mediated violence will become an ax murderer. People do react differently to consuming the same messages. This discussion, however, is about the cultural responsibility of the DSC8736media industry to provide leadership. It is about how media corporations, which make big dollars selling eyeballs to advertisers, diminish society by desensitizing and shocking us with a dim world view filled with violence."

Access the complete essay at IndyStar.com.

Jeff McCall is a 1976 graduate of DePauw.  A former journalist, he has served on the faculty since 1985 and is adviser to student radio station WGRE, where he worked as an undergraduate. Professor McCall is the author of Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences and has been quoted in more than 100 newspapers in articles examining media matters, including a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.

Source: Indianapolis Star

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