Clearer warning signals
Guyana Chronicle
April 1, 2002

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GUYANA is still awaiting the passage of laws to bring order to television territory, which largely remains rooted in the Wild West.

And while the nation waits for the long-awaited order to come so that the TV outfits would be governed by some kind of rules, there is more reason for concern about the kind of daily and nightly fare they serve up - especially to children and teenagers.

Unlike TV operations elsewhere in the region and most other countries where local content is emphasised and pirating is not as wanton as it is here, local operators are in a landscape all their own. They steal from American and other channels and pirate even movies which people elsewhere rent as home movies from video rental stores.

As a result, there is no control over what is broadcast and there is a steady serving of the kind of movies that have been blamed for the culture of violence in some developed countries.

A study released last week should make those who are supposed to be in charge of what goes on in television sit rigidly up and take deep note.

Researchers have found that teenagers who watch more than an hour of television a day are much more likely to become violent than the rare adolescent who watches less.

In what has been called one of the most definitive studies yet to link watching television with violent behaviour, it was found that both men and women are affected by violent programmes on television -- but teenaged boys are especially at risk.

"We saw the jump was between less than one hour and more than one hour a day. There was a four-fold increase," Jeffrey Johnson of Columbia University in New York, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

His advice: "Parents should try not to let children watch more than one hour a day on the average."

Mr. Johnson, a psychiatric epidemiologist who studies patterns of behaviour, said 60 per cent of TV programming contained violence. An average hour of television portrays three to five violent acts, the American Psychological Association says.

These findings have to be of serious concern to the authorities concerned since the bulk of what the TV outfits here pirate is the American stuff, the same kind of programming that is triggering so much concern in the United States.

President Bharrat Jagdeo recently urged Guyanese parents and others to guard their children against negative values which he says seem to flourish on television. He pointed to the crudity that comes out of some television programmes, noting that TV is used to create the perception that the people lack faith and that different religions cannot live in peace and harmony.

"If you absorb dirt then you are going to put out dirt", the President said, referring to TV programmes here.

The recent findings by the researchers in the study we have referred to, makes bringing order to the TV landscape here even more urgent.

The study found that the link between watching television and behaving violently was clear even after the researchers accounted for other factors such as childhood neglect, low family income, or a psychiatric disorder during adolescence.

Mr. Johnson said several mechanisms are at work. "One of the most important one is the tendency to imitate behaviour that people see on TV," he said.

The warning signals are clear and it is becoming even more imperative for rules to be implemented for TV operations - cutting out the naked violence in the pirated movies would be good for starters.