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Court TV to Expand Anti-Violence Campaign

July 08, 1999|ELIZABETH JENSEN and STEPHEN FUZESI | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — As the entertainment industry grapples with criticism that it markets violence to children, cable channel Court TV said Wednesday it will expand its anti-violence school curriculum, offering up results of a UC Santa Barbara study that it said proved the anti-violence project was effective.

The 2-year-old Choices and Consequences curriculum uses real-life court cases to teach middle school students about consequences of their actions, such as a high school prank that turned deadly. It was created in response to UCSB's National Television Violence Study, which found that depictions of consequences of violence were missing from the media. Between 10,000 and 15,000 schools have received the materials, which were initially tested at three California schools.

Court TV said new study material, including a look at how to put media violence in perspective, will be added. In September, the channel will also start carrying a monthly show based on the program. The move comes amid a growing debate over how entertainment companies portray violence. Court TV itself has felt the powerful pull to use violence to reel in viewers: In January, the channel apologized after complaints about its ad campaign with the slogan "Wives With Knives," promoting shows about women who attacked their husbands.

At a press conference in Washington, Henry Schleiff, Court TV's president and chief executive, acknowledged criticisms of the industry, but said he doesn't think cable gets "its fair share of praise" for looking at societal issues. He said the initiative, while not a complete solution, "clearly is a step in the right direction."

Court TV developed the program, which cost several million, he said, with partners including AT&T Broadband & Internet Services and Time Warner Cable. The UCSB study, paid for by Court TV and others, concluded that the three-week curriculum had "a significant impact" on students' antisocial behavior, increasing their empathy and their knowledge of the legal system. Tests given one to two weeks later also found decreased verbal and physical aggression, UCSB officials said. Data to assess longer-term changes are still being analyzed, they said.

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Elizabeth Jensen reported from New York and Stephen Fuzesi from Washington.

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