In this chapter from Media Literacy: A Reader, Jacques Brodeur presents arguments against media violence, particularly its availability to children. He explains that violence in the media, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Canada, is abusive to children. He explains his search for promising practices that can protect children from the abuse of violent media.
In the introduction, the author suggests that large media conglomerates have the "privilege to decide alone what will be aired to children on the global market, 'with little to tell but a lot to sell.'" The author uses the analogy to environmental contamination in analysing the environment present in children's media and suggests that the industry is trying to manipulate children by coupling product marketing with the use of violence in media. He states that the current industry control of public airwaves is against the public interest. As an example, he describes the development of the V-chip (a programmable device for making certain television programmes unavailable to children), which placed the responsibility of children's viewing exclusively on parents and "shift[ed] responsibility for regulating TV violence away from polluters and public deciders."
The author reviews arguments on censorship, regulation, and freedom of expression put forth by corporations, marketers, and civil society groups. This includes the so-called “law of commerce”, which states that "whenever people are ready to watch violent programs, broadcasters have the right to air them and NO government should interfere." The author’s counter argument, based on the right of children to live in a safe cultural environment, is stated as: "The argument of airing material despite the interest of children is the opposite of freedom. If there is a choice between freedom of speech and safety for children, all civilized societies give priority to children’s safety." The author also argues that citizens own the airwaves and are within their rights to demand that they be "healthy, free, and fair....When any violent program is chosen to be aired, citizens are aware that censorship by the industry allowed some decision makers to eliminate other programs and films that could have contributed to their children’s health and safety."
The article shows that a legislative effort to regulate marketing to children in the province of Quebec, Canada, is a successful strategy in reducing the influence of advertisers over children. The Canadian Supreme Court based its decision defending regulation of marketing in children's media on children’s vulnerability before the age of 13. Citing media violence as a form of child abuse, the author describes studies linking media violence to troubled behaviours, bullying, crime, and desensitisation.
The author reviews strategies for mobilisation centred on the issue of violence in the media, including recommendations by UNICEF Canada. One practice he sees as promising is the legislative intervention of the province of Quebec, Canada, which legislated for regulation of marketing to children in 1976, resulting in, as stated here, "richer, more diverse, and more educational" programming than in unregulated provinces.
The article cites Edupax's report to the UN Secretary General's Study on Violence against Children, which highlights 20 promising practices by civil society to protect children from media violence. Among these are the 10-Day Challenge and the SMART Program. The SMART Program consists of 18 lessons for teachers that prepare students and motivate them to turn off the TV for 10 days and keeping their consumption under 7 hours per week during the following months. The 10-day Challenge TV and Video Game Free uses media education sessions with students, teachers, and parents to offer a motivating approach as an efficient way to mobilise entire communities in improving protection from media violence. According to the programme's self-evaluation from 2003 and 2004, the programme provided benefits to both elementary school and high school children that include increased physical activity and increased time with parents or friends, as well as other social benefits.
The author concludes that media education programmes, such as the 10 Day Challenge, represent a promising practise in child, youth, and community mobilisation to challenge the media to contribute to youth violence prevention and challenge legislators to consider marketing regulation of advertising to children.
Edupax website; Media Literacy: A Reader; and email from Jacques Brodeur to The Communication Initiative, October 12 2008.