Landmarks in the Media Violence Debate: Decade by Decade


Reprinted with permission from the March 1993 issue of the Congressional Quarterly Researcher.

This article originally appeared in Issue# 62

Key events in research, legislation and public awareness over 50 years.

1950s: Rise in youth crime and juvenile delinquency prompts congressional hearings on television violence.

    June 1952

    First congressional hearings on violence in radio and television and its impact on children and youth held by House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Subcommittee.


    Sen. Estes Kefauver, (D-Tenn), chairs hearings of Judiciary Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency on role of TV shows in youth crime. Networks say no link.

1960's: Urban violence prompts more congressional hearings and government funding of research on TV violence.


    University of Pennsylvania begins monitoring television programming.

    Sept. 23, 1969

    Report of National Commission on the Causes mid Prevention of Violence cites TV violence as contributor to society's violence problem.

1970s: More congressional hearings; academic studies proliferate; court cases examine liability of TV in cases of real violence.


    Surgeon general's report on violence cites evidence of link between screen violence and aggressive behavior.


    National PTA adopts resolution demanding that networks and local TV stations reduce the amount of violence in programs and commercials (reaffirmed in 1989).


    American Medical Association's House of Delegates calls TV violence an "environmental hazard"

1980s: Reagan-era deregulation gives media free rein; cable TV, VCRs and rise of independent networks diminish power of networks to control violence on TV.


    National Institutes of Mental Health study says there's a clear consensus on link between TV violence and aggression.

    September, 1984

    Attorney General Task Force on Family Violence says evidence is overwhelming that TV violence contributes to real violence.


    American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Children and Television cautions physicians and parents that TV may promote aggression.


    American Psychological Association Commission on Youth and Violence notes research showing link between TV violence and real violence.

1990s: Networks issue a joint statement of policies on TV violence, made possible by an antitrust exemption passed by Congress. Anti-violence advocates step up pressure.


    Simon-Glickman Television Violence Act gives three major networks an antitrust exemption so they can formulate joint policy on violence. Nothing happens.


    American Psychological Association study shows research on link to real violence is ignored and calls for federal policy to protect society.

    December 1992

    Days before House hearings, the three major networks release joint violence policy and agree to an industry-wide conference.