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TV execs deny violence connection

PASADENA, Calif. - If there's any soul-searching among top television executives about onscreen violence contributing to real-life tragedies like the Connecticut school shooting, it isn't readily apparent.

All say the horrors of Newtown and Aurora, Colorado, rocked them. But during a series of meetings with reporters here over the last 10 days, none offered concrete examples of how it is changing what they put on the air, or if that is necessary.

"I'm not a psychologist, so I'm not sure you can make the leap (that) a show about serial killers has caused the sort of problems with violence in our country," said Robert Greenblatt, who put "Dexter" on the air when he ran the pay cable TV network Showtime and is now overseeing development of a series on the notorious creep Hannibal Lecter for NBC. "There are many, many other factors, from mental illness to guns."

All of those points are being considered by Vice-President Joe Biden as he prepares to make recommendations Tuesday to President Barack Obama on ways to curb violence. When entertainment executives met with Biden in Washington on Friday, makers of blood-spurting video games like "Call of Duty" and "Mortal Kombat" dominated attention. In theatres, "Texas Chainsaw 3-D" dominated box office receipts during its first week.

Television's biggest influence is its omnipresence; the average American watches more than four hours of TV a day.

In recent days, only FX President John Landgraf said he was in favour of further study about any correlation between entertainment and real violence. Previous studies have been mixed.

Landgraf has sons aged 15, 12 and 9 and said he doesn't let them play video games in which the player is shooting.

Everything the entertainment industry does should be fair game in a discussion about violence, he said. But he pointed out that the zombie series "Walking Dead" and brutally violent "Sons of Anarchy" are both very popular in Britain and that country has far fewer gun murders than the United States. The availability of powerful assault weapons and ammunition are most responsible for the difference, he said.

The Newtown shooting was heartbreaking, said Paul Lee, ABC entertainment president. "We welcome the conversation as to how we as a culture can make sure that we don't let these events happen again," he said.

The Canadian Press


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