By Angelos Anastasiou
CYPRUS television stations broadcast an average of 2.5 scenes of violence per hour, adversely impacting children and society in general, a research project jointly conducted by technical university TEPAK and non-profit research centre CARDET has found.
The research, commissioned by the Cyprus Radio Television Authority (CRTA), looked into the extent of violence and criminality broadcast on television in Cyprus over a period of 24 months (2011 to 2013), as well as the CRTA’s role as perceived by the viewing public.
“Television in Cyprus suffers from excessive broadcast violence, which negatively impacts children in their formative years,” said CRTA head Andreas Petrides.
“The CRTA is collaborating with the Pedagogical Institute in an effort to instil active viewership in children, protecting them from sensationalism, misinformation or misguidance,” he added.
According to the research findings, most violent content is broadcast between 8pm and 2am, from 7am to 8am, and from noon to 2pm. The fact that channel programming includes news shows during all three of these time zones is no coincidence, the panel presenting the research conclusions said – news programmes were measured to depict most criminality and ranked third in violence broadcast among all programmes examined.
One in three children under 12 years old watches TV every day or several times a week after 9pm on weekdays or after 10pm on weekends, the survey found.
Major offenders, both in terms of violence and criminality in the content broadcast, were found to be subscriber channel LTV and free-to-air station ANT1. Natural disasters and accidents were most graphically broadcast by public channel CyBC2, with ANT1 and LTV following suit.
In terms of viewership, on the other hand, more than half of Cypriots asked reported watching anywhere from seven to 20 hours of TV weekly, with a strong preference towards news shows and Cyprus-made series. This finding directly contradicted the group – over 70 per cent – who opined that “the public should watch less television.”
Asked to offer their views on how the CRTA could become more effective in serving Cypriot viewers, respondents urged the authority to impose heavier fines and reward quality programming.
Based on the research findings, TEPAK and CARDET formulated a list of recommendations designed to help the authority become more effective. These include introducing a measurable acceptable limit like violent scenes per minute, replacing TV ratings with quality standards, developing a best-practices code for TV stations, imposing higher fines and rewarding quality programming.
CRTA board member Mary Koutselini stressed the importance of maintaining quality standards in broadcast television, arguing that broadcast violence and criminality can have various negative effects on children.
“Studies have shown that witnessing violence has gender-specific effects in children,” she said.
“Boys of primary-school age tend to exhibit behaviour that is more likely to lead to violence, whereas girls of similar age tend to develop passive tolerance towards violence.”
Stelios Stylianou, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Internet Studies at TEPAK, said in addition to the 2.5 scenes of violence recorded per hour, there were 0.69 crime scenes per hour and 0.03 racism scenes per hour. This also applied to the way news programmes reported on crimes committed by foreigners.
The vast majority of people polled – 75 per cent – believe the TV channels in Cyprus primarily serve the political establishment and financial interests.