July 2, 2004

Thirteen Strategies for Addressing Media Violence in Ontario

1. Media Literacy materials in schools should NOT be dominated by industry materials. Nor should media literacy curriculum be considered values free with primary emphasis on teaching of production skills. The focus, apart from decoding and deconstructing how media work, should include distinctions between individual freedom of expression and corporate freedom of enterprise. Media literacy courses dropped in Ontario should be reinstated on the basis of these kind of improvements.

2. The Ontario Film Review Board is about to undergo a draft of new classification regulations in the wake of the recent Ontario Superior Court decision declaring its current method of operation unconstitutional. All films and videos will no longer be required to receive board approval prior to distribution in the Province. Those in film festivals have for sometime, been considered exempt.
             The Juriansz judgement is just one of many examples of how the board's mandate has been progressively weakened as the way is paved for unbridled, profit driven production and distribution of popular cultural products laced with increasing levels of violent and pornographic content, regardless of the impact on society. However, an opportunity now arises for the creation of classification criteria not based, solely on moral and ethical judgements, but on child development theory and scientific evidence of harmful effects on the physical and mental health of children and young adults, to whom most of these products are marketed.

3. So far, neither Premier Dalton McGuinty, nor Attorney General Michael Bryant have sufficiently examined the potential savings involved in health care delivery costs, AS WELL AS COMMUNITY POLICING, if our youth were better protected from the ravages of unbridled capitalism in the cultural industries. C-CAVE's membership, since the association was first started in 1983, has included members of the medical, psychiatric and educational communities concerned about the socializing impact of media violence. Some of them have observed the aftermath in emergency rooms from youth gang violence and shootings triggered by something as minor as a cover charge in a nightclub . Schoolyard injuries are another avoidable cost. According to Dr. Brian McCrindle at Toronto's Sick Children's Hospital, Young people now "live in a toxic environment where there is ready access to high-calorie, high-fat food, coupled with TV, computers, video games and very few opportunities for regular physical activity".
             Last fall, the Canadian Teacher's Federation released a survey indicating that over 50 percent of the children involved reported seeing violence being acted out by their school mates that mimicked what they saw on television, in movies or video games. The most popular video game among pre teen boys was the Grand Theft Auto series. Based on this evidence, coverage in THE GLOBE AND MAIL on May 25 of this year about "baby-faced bicycle bandits" holding up gas stations using fake rifles and handguns, then selling their goods, mostly cigarettes in their schoolyards should come as no surprise to anyone.

4. A great help to us all would be the adoption of legislation banning advertising directed to children 13 years and under like the kind that already exists in the province of Quebec and a number of European countries, including Sweden, Norway and Finland. Similar legislation is now before the entire European Union and has been put before Congress by the American Psychological Association and a coalition of over 60 psychologists, psychiatrists and educators. It should be stressed that the legislation in Quebec started out as a municipal by-law.

5. We should be calling for the elimination of tax breaks, incentives, subsides and credits and telefilm grants for extremely violent and pornographic films and TV programs. These cost saving initiatives should be implemented at All levels of government.

6. We should organize protests against the use of our municipal facilities and the construction of extremely costly facilities on Toronto's waterfront now being promised, for such production. On May 26th it was reported in the business section of The Toronto Star that, coming straight to home video, very soon, would be Marvel comic-book characters in Canadian-made animation, expected, also, to result in at least 8 new, additional live-action movies.

7. Insist that the Toronto Transit Commission re-instate its policy to prevent use of their facilities by crews with extremely violent and pornographic scripts. We should, also, implement bans on any kind of municipal permits to crews with such scripts.

8. We must defend the national gun registry in Canada and oppose any measures to dismantle it by amplifying frequent claims in support of its current use by spokesmen for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, among others, that thousands of police officers across Canada use this registry every week. Instead, we must challenge its opponents to explain how they intend to reduce the use, possession and, especially, the glamorization of guns through films, video games and television programs amongst youth.

9. We should urge adoption of measures such as those laws ratified by the upper house in Germany in 2002 aimed at curbing gunownership and children's exposure to violence on computers but expand the latter to include other forms of harm from electronic entertainment, such as video games.

10. We can organize local runs against media violence, modelled after the initiatives of Bala Kumar in the City of Brampton, Ontario and ask for help from Mayor David Miller and Chief Julian Fantino.

11. Ways in which class action law-suits might be launched against purveyors of harmful popular culture should also be explored. Now, these merchants of violence and cultural breakdown enjoy unfettered protection against any restriction under the Charter of Rights. Public education is needed to facilitate better understanding of distinctions that can be made between individual freedom of expression and corporate freedom of enterprise. The conventional wisdom is that we cannot do anything about these problems because of the grave threat to our collective civil liberties and that needs to change. A conference on this topic was held at the University of Toronto in November, 1999, co-sponsored by C-CAVE and Science for Peace with support and input from the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime. It is time for us to have another one.

12. The public should be encouraged to file complaints about programming they object to on either radio or television, first with the station involved and then, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council in Ottawa if necessary. Pamphlets, outlining the procedure are available from the CBSC office in over a dozen different languages.

13. Join Canadians Concerned About Violence In Entertainment and become part of the solution to the problem www.C-CAVE.com

Key strategies include EDUCATION - ADVOCACY - REGULATION - LEGISLATION

Rose Anne Dyson, Ed.D.
Chairperson, C-CAVE
Author of MIND ABUSE: Media Violence In An Information Age
Co-author of MEDIA, SEX, VIOLENCE and DRUGS in the GLOBAL VILLAGE and Terrorism, Globalization & Mass Communication