A Survey of TV Films shown in 2000


The growing problem of antisocial behaviour is well known and documented in the soaring statistics for violent crime and aggressive behaviour recently published.  Both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have recently declared war on "yob culture" and new punitive measures have been promised aimed at curbing this phenomenon.

Whilst we welcome attempts to restore peace and tranquillity to the nation's streets we believe that little will be achieved while the film, video and television industries continue, in spite of public and Parliamentary concern about increasing violent crime, to present crime and violence as entertainment.  It is our hope that this Report 'Yob Culture on TV' will lead to a significant and meaningful reduction of violence in entertainment thought to be suitable for the nation by the Broadcasting Authorities.

The Report is complied from accounts of what monitors actually saw on screen.  We have deliberately avoided the approach adopted by others, which depends simply upon people's perceptions.  It is intended to be a further contribution to the urgent debate about violence on television and the causal connection with social unrest and criminal violence.

We agree with the director general of the National Crime Intelligence Service, John Abbott, who recently criticised the film industry for glamorising violent crime and portraying gangsters as heroes.  We would add that the portrayal of police and law enforcement agencies is frequently as bad or worse than the portrayal of criminals.

It is difficult to appreciate in a written report the full impact of the violent fantasy world portrayed by film makers who perpetuate cruelty, killing, maiming, destruction and all manner of brutal behaviour and sexual aggression in their productions.

That the Broadcasting Authorities continue to purchase and screen such material, on the absurd grounds that it simply "reflects reality", has become a scandal.  Long term monitoring of films, conducted over a ten year period, reveals a cynical approach to programming which seems to be concerned only with ratings and audience share rather than with a desire to have a positive beneficial influence.  Our assertion is substantiated by the fact that most of the films catalogued in this report have been shown three, four or five times in as many years.


In this Report a total of 193 films shown in 2000 on BBC1, BBC2, ITV, C4 and C5 are analysed.  The Report is not exhaustive and the findings relate only to the films monitored.

In the 193 films analysed, including the 4 films shown more than once, monitors identified:

1021 incidents involving firearms

(254 on BBC1; 82 on BBC2; 297 on ITV; 162 on C4; 226 on C5)

799 violent assaults

(179 on BBC1; 68 on BBC2; 219 on ITV; 168 on C4; 165 on C5)

87 incidents of fire raising/causing explosions

(21 on BBC1; 5 on BBC2; 25 on ITV; 17 on C4; 19 on C5)

207 incidents involving knives and other offensive weapons

(56 on BBC1; 15 on BBC2; 47 on ITV; 44 on C4; 45 on C5)

36 incidents involving illegal drug abuse

(4 on BBC1; 9 on BBC2; 3 on TV; 15 on C4; 5 on C5)

Of the 193 films shown 4 were shown more than once.

City Heat was shown twice on ITV; Quicksand: No Escape was shown once on ITV and once on C5; Robocop was shown twice on ITV and once on C5; Total Recall was shown once on ITV and once on C4.  Statistics for these films are added for each showing.

Of the 193 (plus 5 multiple showings) films monitored, 50 were shown on BBC1, 19 on BBC2, 50 on ITV, 32 0n C4 and 47 on C5.

Firearms shown being used in these films included:

Revolver; machine pistol; rifle; pump action shotgun; spear gun.

Other offensive weapons shown being used in these films included:

Flick knives; hunting knives; sword; axe; scissors; razor; snooker cue; plank of wood; bottle; iron bar; spade; baseball bat; truncheon; chain saw.

Crimes portrayed included:

Murder; rape; grievous bodily harm; assault; robbery with violence; robbery; burglary; vehicle theft.

We draw attention particularly to the violent acts portrayed against women and against sensitive parts of the body, for example, the head and genitals. We also draw attention to the so-called 'hardware violence' against cars, buildings and property generally.

Principal findings from previous Reports:

In 1994 this Association analysed 111 films screened on the four terrestrial television channels.  Two reports, 'A CULTURE OF CRUELTY AND VIOLENCE', and, 'MORE CRUELTY AND VIOLENCE', were published in November 1994 and June 1995
respectively.  Our analysis of these films detailed 523 incidents involving firearms, 492 violent assaults and 81 incidents involving knives of various kinds and other offensive weapons.

In 1995 this Association analysed 200 films screened on the four terrestrial television channels.  The Report 'MORE CRUELTY AND VIOLENCE 2' was published in August 1996.  Our analysis of these films detailed 835 incidents involving firearms, 689 violent assaults and 232 incidents involving knives of various kinds and other offensive weapons.

In 1996 this Association analysed 246 films screened on the four terrestrial television channels.  The report 'MORE CRUELTY AND VIOLENCE 3' was published in March 1997.  Our analysis of these films detailed 1076 incidents involving firearms, 706 violent assaults and 376 incidents involving knives kinds and other offensive weapons.

In 1997 this Association analysed 265 films screened on the five terrestrial television channels.  The report 'MORE CRUELTY AND VIOLENCE 4' was published in May 1998.  Our analysis of these films detailed 1281 incidents involving firearms, 918 violent assaults and 409 incidents involving knives of various kinds and other offensive weapons.

In 1998 this Association analysed 269 films screened on the five terrestrial television channels.  The report 'MORE CRUELTY AND VIOLENCE 5' was published in May 1999.  Our analysis of these films detailed 1171 incidents involving firearms, 798 violent assaults, 340 incidents involving knives of various kinds and other offensive weapons.


We note that the Government's White Paper on Communications Regulation outlines the tasks to be undertaken by OFCOM.  These include measures to ensure "tough protection" against "potentially offensive or harmful material".  OFCOM will also promote "media literacy" as a way of requiring people to take on greater responsibility for their own and their children's viewing.  OFCOM will also be required to promote the 'Watershed' and programme 'rating schemes' and at the same time balance "freedom of speech against the need to protect against potentially harmful material" as well as "combine a lighter touch" with "tough protection of the genuine public interest".

We believe that violence in entertainment is of widespread public concern and OFCOM must be seen to do rather more than the present regulators to resolve the problem.  Politicians talk of the importance of having "joined-up government" where different departments co-operate and harmonise application of policy with others.  It is clearly pointless to have stringent law and order policy, for example, aimed at encouraging good and responsible citizenship if it is continually undermined by lawlessness and disorder glorified and celebrated in entertainment.  In drafting its "more coherent system of objectives and principles" OFCOM really must take into account the experience of those who have to deal with violence and aggression in their daily work, for example, teachers, probation officers, police, nurses, magistrates, and so on.

Given that shootings, stabbing and violent assaults continue to increase OFCOM must focus its attention upon portrayals of such harmful activities and seek to secure a change to more socially beneficial programming.

A report published by Stanford University in California USA in January 2001 concluded that rationing the time that children spend watching television can make them less aggressive.  This survey is the first to demonstrate that such behaviour can be "unlearnt" by cutting back on television, video games and videotapes.  Thomas Robinson, leading author of the study, said, "the effects of televised violence in kids are really reversible".

We submit that violence in entertainment contributes significantly to violence in society and it remains the one factor that is easiest to deal with.  A more socially responsible approach to programme policy is essential if policies elsewhere are to have any hope of succeeding.


Parents have been urged to stop their children watching a controversial TV cartoon amid claims it is behind playground mayhem.  The cult show South Park has been blamed - by the youngsters themselves - for a growth in aggressive behaviour and foul language.
The Northern Echo 9/2/2000

Computer games which celebrate killing and maiming should be banned said a Home Office adviser as he warned of disturbing evidence that they fuel crime.  Forensic psychologist Professor Kevin Browne said youngsters already predisposed to violence are encouraged to carry out attacks and commit other crimes such as joyriding.  The concern has been heightened by research which found children aged 11-14 become more aggressive after playing the games.
The Daily Mail 22/3/2000

The violence in the latest shoot-'em-up is too realistic, says Keith Blackmore.  Guns kill not games.  The standard response of the gaming industry whenever some frightful act of violence is committed in an American school always seemed fair enough to me.  Playing Doom or Quake in a darkened room for hours at a time might be anti-social but it is hardly homicidal. Or so I used to think.   Soldier of Fortune aspires to a kind of realism. There are no alien invaders or shambling monsters here.  The bad guys are people and to emphasise the point each of them has been given numerous damage areas.  Shoot someone in the knee and they will clutch it in pain. Shoot them in the stomach and they will writhe in agony as their innards spill out.  Shoot them between the eyes and their head will disappear in a red mist.  And so on.
The Times 10/4/2000

Patrick Bateman, the Wall Street serial killer in Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, has been called the "yuppie Marquis de Sade".  Bateman's penchant for chopping up women provoked an outcry among feminists when Ellis first submitted the gory manuscript to Simon & Schuster almost a decade ago, and a campaign by the National Organisation of Women forced the publisher to drop it.  Now the notorious novel has been brought to the big screen by a pregnant Oxford-educated feminist who used to work at the BBC.
The Times 15/4/2000

Paris: A teenage boy dressed up in a black cape and mask and attacked his parents with a carving knife after watching the slasher horror film scream 3.  The 16-year-old's father and stepmother are fighting for their lives after he lay in wait for them at the family home near Paris yesterday.
The Daily Mail 22/4/2000

Playing violent video games for just a few minutes is much more harmful than watching violence on television or films, psychologists have discovered. Interactive computer games such as Doom and Mortal Combat require players to identify with the character carrying out the violence, dramatically increasing aggressive thoughts and behaviour, according to a study at Iowa State University of Science and Technology.
The Daily Telegraph 24/4/2000

A man who became obsessed with a torture scene in the Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs was jailed yesterday for life for setting his girlfriend on fire.
The Times 11/5/2000

After a ten-year decline in violent crime in America, murder rates are starting to edge up again in some cities.  The new figures are emerging on the heels of several high-profile crimes that have stirred renewed public concern, leading to anti-violence summits and town meetings.
The Times 19/6/2000

Your article ('The War Against Boys', News Review, last week) asserts that parents and educators have failed to give the young, particularly boys, moral guidance.  However, the whole of society is to blame for failing to control the harmful effects of the media on our youth.  As a parent or teacher in the 21st century it is not enough to teach children civilised values; one must constantly undo the de-civilising influence of television programmes, video games, films and magazines that are their daily diet.
The Sunday Times 25/6/2000

Britain's crime intelligence chief accused filmmakers yesterday of glamorising the underworld with box-office hits such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.  Appealing for directors and producers of Britain's new wave of crime films to have a sense of social responsibility, John Abbott, director-general of NCIS, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, said that real-life gangsters were nothing more than leeches. Serious and organised crime was on the increase, he said.  In the real world, victims were maimed and killed often for a few hundred pounds. Speaking at the publication of his annual report, Mr Abbott said: "From David Bailey's portraits of the Kray brothers, the exotic exile of Ronnie Biggs to the present genre of major feature films such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Gangster No 1 and Snatch there has been a concerted attempt to show organised crime as a 'bit of a laugh' carried out by 'cheeky chappies'."  Mr Abbott, whose unit gathers information on more than 250 leading underworld figures, said:  "Such an image is far from the truth. Violence is associated with many aspects of serious and organised crime. The threat of force is an essential component.  In the world of organised crime, victims get injured and die, sometimes in horrible circumstances. Violence is used to settle debts.
The Times 9/9/2000

A mentally ill teenager who killed one woman and severely injured another may have been influenced by watching violent wrestling on television, the head of an independent inquiry said.
The Times 19/9/2000

Growing numbers of viewers are expressing concern about explicit violence and sex on television, according to a new report.  The number switching off the television or changing channels either because they have been "personally disgusted" by something they have seen, or because they were viewing with the children, is also on the rise.  The new report, Matters of Offence, by the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC), finds that when viewers were asked what most concerned them about television, 39 per cent mentioned violence.
The Times 23/10/2000

Few Hollywood actors have amassed a body count as impressive as Arnold Schwarzenegger's.  But the former bodybuilder - best known for violent epics such as the Terminator series - is now urging film-makers to staunch the flow of blood, because of his concern at the harmful effect of screen violence on young people.  Schwarzenegger, 53, the father of four young children, has emerged as an unlikely supporter of calls for voluntary restraint that are sweeping the industry.  To drive home his point, he demanded a cut in violence and bad language in his latest offering, The 6th Day.
The Sunday Times 29/10/2000

A drug-crazed teenager who saw a robbery depicted on a television soap, went straight out and thrust a knife to the throat of a terrified shop assistant. Peter Vernal told police later that he had got the idea of a shop hold-up after watching the teen drama Hollyoaks.
The Lancashire Evening Post 21/11/2000

Record levels of mugging and other violent robbery will be revealed by the Home Office next month in the last audit of crime before an expected spring general election.  Crime figures for the six months up to the end of September this year are expected to show muggings and violent robberies have increased by nearly 16% compared with the same period a year earlier. Police chiefs blame the rise of yob culture and a boom in criminal activity among teenagers.  "The increase is down to crimes where both the victims and their assailants are youngsters", said Edward Crew, chief constable of West Midlands police.
The Sunday Times 17/12/2000

Full details of the films making up this Report are published only in the paper copies which may be ordered from mediawatch-uk.

March 2001