Pacific Media Watch
'Too much violence on Fiji TV'

Title -- 3831 FIJI: 'Too much violence on Fiji TV
Date -- 7 November 2002
Byline -- None
Origin -- Pacific Media Watch
Source -- Daily Post/FijiLive, 7/11/2
Copyright -- DP/FL
Status -- Unabridged

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by Dr Peter Forster

SUVA (Daily Post/FijiLive/Pacific Media Watch): A large number of parents in Fiji are concerned about the amount of violence shown on television in Fiji, a study by University of the South Pacific students shows.

Parents, through the way they raise their children, are shaping the future of a culture and a nation, as well as of their own families, Dr Peter Forster, head of the Psychology Programme at USP says.

“Their views are important and should be listened to and acted on,” Dr Forster said.

“This study has shown that a large number of Fiji’s parents are concerned about the amount of violence shown on television and want something to be done to reduce it and to mitigate its effects.

“Many parents in Fiji recognise their own role in dealing with violence shown on television.

“Hopefully, through studies such as this, television companies will realise that more is expected of them too.

“All violent programmes have an effect; even cartoon violence.

“The most harmful kind of programmes are those such as Walker, Texas Ranger and Smallville in which the heroes or ‘good guys’ habitually use violence to solve problems, thus legitimising the use of violence generally,” he said.

Students of the Education and Psychology Department at USP recently undertook one of the largest surveys of the views of parents about television violence in Fiji.

As an undergraduate project carried out in the Human Development course, ED/PS151, students were asked to answer the following questions:

* What have psychologists found are the effects of televised violence on young people?

* What types of violence are portrayed on television in Fiji?

* What do parents in Fiji think about the amount of violence on television in Fiji and what do they think should be done about it?

More than 240 students each interviewed an average of 15 parents, making a total of about 3600 parents interviewed. Each parent had an average of three children and in most families, at least one of the children had reached 10 years of age.

Each parent was asked a series of standard questions about their views of violence on television.
They were first asked a question about the amount of violence on television.

This is what they thought:

* 70 percent thought there was too much violence;

* 5 percent thought there was not enough;

* 15 percent thought there was about the right amount;

* 10 percent said they didn’t know.

The parents were then asked what they thought the effect of the violence on their children was:

* 40 percent said that television violence is harmful to children and should not be shown to them;

* 30 percent said that children need to understand what the world is like and so it is acceptable to show some violence to them.

* 10 percent thought that television violence has little or no effect on children so it does not matter how much is shown to them;

* 20 per cent held different views to these main options.

They were then asked what they thought the television company should do:

* 30 per cent said violence should only be shown at a time when most children will be in bed.

* 30 per cent said that clear warnings should be shown before programmes that contain violence, indicating the amount and type of violence that will be portrayed;

* 10 per cent said that violence should be removed from programmes before showing them;

* 30 per cent said that a media council should be set up, which includes parents, which has the power to prevent violent programmes being presented on television.

Finally they were asked if they had any suggestions that they would like to add.

The most popular additional suggestions were:

* Parents should supervise their children’s viewing and only let children watch programmes they think are suitable;

* Parents should watch television with their children and should discuss violence with them to make sure they understand that it is not right;

* Parents should not use the television as a baby sitter;

* Parents should encourage their children to go outside and play, and not become ‘couch potatoes’;

* Fiji One should stop bringing in cheap, foreign television programmes that go against local culture;

* Fiji One should include more local television programmes.

* Fiji One should include more educational programmes and nature programmes such as National Geographic.

One enterprising student contacted Fiji One Television and asked the head of programming about the policy towards presenting violence. This was the reply:

“Fiji One television divides evening viewing into three periods:

* 7pm to 8.30p: Drama considered suitable for the whole family;

* 8.30pm to 9pm: Comedies that require parental guidance;

* 9pm to 10pm: Drama suitable for adults only.

Movies shown during the early evening slot are edited to be suitable for the family.

Movies shown during the late evening are not edited.

Movies considered suitable for adults only are prefaced with AO (adults only) and carry a warning about bad language, violence and sexual content. Programmes shown on the Sky channels are never edited for content. Warnings about content are given before the start of movies.”

Psychologists around the world have carried out hundreds on studies of the effects of television violence on children.

The effects can be summarised as follows:

* Children who watch violence on television become more violent as a result;

* The more violence children watch, the more violent they become;

* The more violence children watch the more they become ‘immunised’ against violence around them and are more likely to accept it and consider it as normal.

* The more violence children watch, the more violent and dangerous they think the world is.

Thanks are due to the students who carried out the study, the tutors who supervised them and the parents who gave their views and their time.

Further reading: Bushman, B. J. and Anderson, C. A. (2001). Media violence and the American public. American Psychologist, 56, 477 – 489.

Hepburn, M. A. (1995). TV violence: Myth and reality. Social Education, September, 309 – 311.

* Dr Peter M. Forster, PhD, head of the Psychology Programme at USP. Opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of USP.

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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