Cypriot TV stations broadcast on average 2.5 violent scenes per hour of transmission, something which is considered to have negative consequences for children and society in general, according to a study by Cyprus Radio Television Authority (CRTA).
The negative and long-term consequences of screening of brutal violent scenes were discussed during a press conference to present the results of a study entitled "Violence and Crime on Cypriot television and the role of CRTA" conducted by the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT) and the Centre for the Advancement of Research and Development in Educational Technology (CARDET).
The study was conducted between September 2011 and November 2013 following various complaints from the public related to violent scenes on TV.
It found that violence appears 24 hours a day with most content occurring between 10pm and midnight but also in the 7pm to 9pm zone.
Also that one in three children under the age of 12 watch TV daily or sometimes during the week until 9pm and after 10pm on weekends.
CUT Associate Professor Stelios Stylianou said scenes of excessive violence broadcast amount to 2.5 per hour, crime scenes 0.69 per hour, scenes related to racism 0.03 per hour and natural disaster scenes and accidents at 0.72 per hour.
Suggestions to take measures and combat the phenomenon of violent and crime scenes broadcast by TV stations are being examined by CRTA as well as the introduction of a system of positive measures such as awards and funding for TV stations to encourage the transmission of suitable content.
CRTA has also suggested measures to minimise the broadcast of such scenes by TV channels, along with the introduction of a set of incentives and seminars, in cooperation with journalists, the police, universities and other stakeholders.
CRTA head Andreas Petrides said, "Media have an impact on personal and social life. TV has a significant effect on the psycho-social development of children who are not ready to take in the intense messages that they receive from the media.
"The screening of violence scenes especially those screened during the "family zone", have negative effects on the development of minors. Broadcasting violent behaviour creates bad role models for kids that they then imitate with negative consequences for them and their social circle," said Petrides.
He added that various stakeholders need to cooperate in order to find the solutions to the problem, and said that the Authority is already collaborating with the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute in an effort to instil active viewership in children, protecting them from sensationalism and misinformation.
The aim is for citizens to have a say and be able to monitor to some extent what they are being shown and exposed to every day when they watch TV.
"Control of the exercise of power of TV is necessary for a modern, democratic country."
He added that society should allow for both freedom of expression but also respect of the protection of citizen's rights especially of children, the most vulnerable and crucial social age group.
The study examined the content of 1,000 TV programmes and 771 trailers. It also involved 48 personal interviews to include target groups and field experts as well as a telephone poll which involved the participation of 1000 people aged 18 and above, who were asked questions about TV content and the role of CRTA.
The aim of the research was to find the dominant forms of violence and crime and how are they represented, how often are they represented and in what ways. Also to locate how they are distributed across different types of programmes, on which days and times they are screened, and on which channels.
Also to examine representations and profiles of victims and victimisers and observe the relation between the violence depicted on TV and reality through statistics recorded by police and the statistical service.
Also to examine to what extent racism found in TV programmes implies and promotes violence and crime in society.
It also aimed to examine the role of CRTA concering the prevention of transmission of violence and how it can improve.
According to the study among non-subscription channels, ANT1 holds the first place for broadcasting the most violence-based content, and PLUS broadcasts the least violent content. Subscription channel LTV and ANT1 were found to have the highest non-violent crime content. CyBC 2 broadcasts the most scenes concerning natural disasters and accidents followed by CyBC 1, ANT1 and LTV. Trailers with violent content are more frequent on MEGA, ANT1 and PLUS.
You can find detailed research findings at www.crta.org.cy
CUT Associate Professor Stelios Stylianou said that the interviews focused on the various forms of racism broadcast on Cypriot television, identifying a series of “labels” that are used arbitrarily to characterise “others”.
Participants mentioned that racist content depicted on TV is usually in the form of various labels used such as “foreigner”, “black”, “alien”. They also mentioned that news reports are also often racist when they refer to the country of origin of those involved in crimes and that they are biased in the ways that they present news.
In relation to fanaticism they said that there is promotion of violent incidents and of provoking views on certain issues with football being the most common area where such content is projected.
The telephone poll showed that the majority of participants did not know anything about the CRTA (57.6%)
More than 70% of the people asked believe CRTA should focus on raising awareness among journalists and the public, impose fines and penalties, encourage the public to report violent content and encourage TV channels to broadcast quality programmes.
More than 70% support that parents should not trust the supervisory role of the CRTA on programmes broadcast during the “family zone”, while more than 80% said TV channels should develop a quality-control system.
Half of those asked do not agree that TV channels serve the ‘common good’, with the overwhelming majority believing that they primarily serve political interests and their own financial interests with 75% and 85% respectively.
Almost all participants in the poll said that there is plenty of room for improvement and positive action.
One in four participants said people should watch less Cypriot TV, and about 65% agree that people should watch less TV in general.
TURN OFF YOUR TVS, SAYS CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST
Child psychologist and family counsellor Doros Michaelides told The Cyprus Daily that in contemporary society parents are not always able to control what their child is exposed to when watching TV. As a consequence children have to deal with the images of violence they receive on their own.
This poses a problem as children imitate violence because they are at an age where they cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality.
He said bad role models are created because at a young age, any extreme behaviour the child is exposed to can develop into exemplary behaviour for the child.
“Children below the ages of eight and nine cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality, and therefore often, they take everything as being real,” Doros Michaelides told The Cyprus Daily.
He added that children older than 10 can make the distinction but by that age they have already been influenced by the excessive amount of violence that they have been exposed to.
“The issue of violence is everywhere not just on TV, children experience scenes of violence at school or maybe at home, and so what they see on TV is often not something unknown or strange, it’s a continuation of what they experience in daily life.”
He said that parents can help children distinguish between reality and fantasy by explaining that anything the child sees on TV does not have an impact or relation to their personal life.
He also referred to the fact that a lot of video games that children play also contain substantial amounts of violence, because violence is appealing and it helps companies sell their products.
He explained that the reason children are attracted to violence and play such games is because they have a cathartic element, of emotional release.
“Product makers believe that it is up to the family, the school or society to censor what their child is exposed to. But often, no one is able to monitor what they watch on TV.”
He said what we should do is encourage children to watch much less TV or turn off the TV, and give them the opportunity to interact with other people and live their own lives.
He concluded: “Children should not sit isolated in front of a TV, but should be encouraged to play with their friends, and develop their social skills, to learn to distinguish when violence is necessary and when violence is completely futile.”