Emory Report

February 28, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 23

Conference to explore violence in the media

By Peter Mills

A recent study on media violence examined the top television series, movies and music videos of the 1998-1999 season and found that one act of serious violence was presented every four minutes. Robert Agnew, director of Emory's Violence Studies Program and professor of sociology, said the upcoming Confronting Media Violence Conference "should do much to shed light on the important and troubling issue of media violence."

The conference, to be held March 2 from 1 to 5 p.m. in WHSCAB Auditorium, will feature a panel of academic, government and media experts presenting different views on such issues as the saliency of media violence and whether the much-publicized V-chip is a real solution to the supposed problem.

Agnew alluded to the ongoing controversy over the effects of media portrayals of violence on their audiences. "Most researchers agree that media violence has some effect on violent cases," he said. "Certain researchers claim that media violence only has a small, even trivial effect on violent behavior in our society. And there is some concern that the focus on media violence will divert attention from other, more important causes of violence--poverty, family problems and gangs."

Greta Van Susteren, co-host of CNN's "Burden of Proof," will moderate the conference, which will be divided into two sessions. The first will address the effect of media violence on violent behavior and will open with Art Kellerman, chair of emergency medicine, giving an "Overview of Leading Causes of Violence" to attendees.

Other speakers during the first session will be:

  • Ellen Wartella, dean of the College of Communication and Walter Cronkite Regents Chair in Communication at the University of Texas, who will identify recent trends and detail the nature and extent of violence in the media.
  • Edward Donnerstein from the University of California at Santa Barbara and Jonathan Freedman from the University of Toronto, leading academic experts on media violence, who will present opposing viewpoints on its effects.

The second session will address what is being done to regulate media violence and whether these efforts are proving effective. Speakers for the second session will be:

  • Gloria Tristan, federal communications commissioner and chair of the Clinton administration's V-Chip Task Force, who will describe the new ratings system and the V-chip, which now comes installed in all new televisions.
  • Bradley Siegel, president of General Entertainment Networks at Turner Broad-casting, who will present the television industry's position.
  • James Alan Fox, Lipman Family Professor and former dean of the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, who will offer criticism of current measures to address media violence. Siegel and Lipman will also address questions from each other and the audience.

The conference is free and open to the public. For more information or for reservations, call 404-778-7777.

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