Advertisers pour billions of dollars annually into commercials, because of the proven power of 30-second ad spots to influence consumer attitudes and behavior. If the networks accept the money on that premise, it is unreasonable and hypocritical for them to then assert that the rest of the programming, which is what the public is actually viewing by choice, has no influence.
To argue this point, defenders of offensive entertainment often set up a straw man to knock down -- the image of an otherwise perfectly normal and well-adjusted person watching a program and turning into a killer. No one is suggesting that it works that way, nor does the PTC believe that people are not responsible for their own actions. That again begs the question of what responsibility the entertainment industry bears for its own product.
There are numerous instances where the media clearly does influence behavior. Another way is through desensitization. A person who regularly views positive portrayals of adultery and fornication or heroes using violence is less apt to view those behaviors as undesirable or abnormal. Finally, television can influence through its focus on extreme and dangerous behavior, both in news and entertainment. The Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, for instance, were apparently motivated, at least in part, by the prospect of being the subjects of a television movie.
Most of what appears on television is make-believe, but nevertheless has profound effects, as hundreds of studies on the influence of television have shown. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have both demonstrated television's undeniable influence, especially on children. Some complaints the PTC receives from critics amply illustrate this very point. Their letters are often laced with the jargon, phrases, and attitudes of their professed television heroes, and viewers sometimes credit television characters or programs as having a profound influence on their lives.
Parents Television Council
707 Wilshire Boulevard #2075
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: (213) 403-1300