Friday, 13 June 2014

Violence is not entertainment

Last week over 6 million people tuned in to watch the final episode of the BBC's drama Happy Valley.  The series has come in for some criticism over the past few weeks because of its depictions of brutality.

These graphic depictions of violence – often against women – are becoming increasingly mainstream on British television.  What has caused this is a subject of some debate; the popularity of the ‘Nordic Noir’ genre has been cited as a possible trigger.  However, the Radio Times TV critic, Alison Graham summed it up with her comment that such violence ‘seems to have become the norm without anyone noticing’.

Mediawatch has noticed and we have spoken out about this disturbing trend; it now seems that for a television programme to make an impact it has to be extreme.  

In programmes such as the BBC’s Ripper Street and The Falls and Sky’s Game of Thrones we see acts of violence rather too lasciviously portrayed; depictions which are so enthusiastic the violence itself becomes also fetishised.  These programmes are well made with quality writing, production values and acting, which makes them all the more powerful.

These images are powerful but their increasing ubiquity means we are at risk of desensitization to the horror they represent.

In 1976 parents jammed the switchboards of the BBC to complain about the traumatic effect on their children of seeing their hero, Doctor Who, apparently drowned.  The producer of the programme was removed from the programme but it’s almost impossible to imagine what kind of violence could get a BBC producer sacked these days.

The writer of Happy Valley defended the context of the violence in her programme but added ‘If violence on screen was so regular and people barely noticed it, that would be gratuitous’.  Sadly, it would seem we may be moving ever closer to this scenario.

Back in 1964 Mary Whitehouse launched our campaign with the words: “if violence is shown as normal on the television screen it will help to create a violent society”.  Her words are as true today as they were half a century ago and we continue to raise the issue in the media, with broadcasters and the regulator.

And our voice is being heard.  Over the past week the subject has been much discussed in print, online and on the radio.  We were delighted to be asked to contribute points for a discussion on the issue on Newsnight earlier this week.

Producers must take our warning seriously.  Violence is not entertainment and treating it as such debases us all.

1 comment:

  1. Violence is not entertainment, that's just your opinion. And some people watch violence as entertainment. What about old cowboy movies that features people being shot?