Media can impact morals for good, bad

by Brad Russo | 11/20/98 6:00am

A panel of entertainment executives discussed Hollywood's role in shaping America's moral agenda in Cook Auditorium last night.

The panel was part of the continuing meeting at the College of the Association for Moral Education.

All members of the panel agreed the entertainment media has at least some impact on morality and actions.

Chairman of the Christian Film and Television Association Ted Baehr said entertainment desensitizes children to violence in the same way the military does to its new soldiers.

Baehr said the influence extends to actions for only a small number of people however.

"We know that 7to 11 percent of adults want to copy the violence they see in the media," Baehr said. "The majority becomes desensitized and the minority becomes paranoid."

He said the way to combat these forces is to educate children about the media.

Television and Film Producer Ken Wales said it is contradictory to say television does not have the power to influence and at the same time charge large sums of money for advertising time.

He said positive programming, like his own former CBS television program "Christy," can have the reverse effect -- serving to influence children to better their lives.

Script Consultant Linda Segar said she thinks this could occur more often and for more people if behind-the-scenes Hollywood was more diverse.

Segar said she thinks this would enable films to affirm more people's lifestyles by including different types of people on screen.

"Stereotypes happen because the insider looks at the outsider and doesn't understand the outsider," Segar said. "When the outsider becomes the insider there are no stereotypes."

She pointed to what she said she perceives to be a current relative lack of movies about minorities or realistically portrayed females.

Children's Programmer Judith Reisman discussed the role of the media in promoting Alfred Kinsey's investigation into the science of sex in the first half of this century as an example of the media's power.

She said Kinsey was made into a hero without the proper scientific backing and many sex laws and ideas changed because of this media push.

Dean of the Tucker Foundation Scott Brown moderated the discussion.

Approximately 300 people, mostly non-College conference participants, attended the panel discussion.