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Culture

Opening the Discussion on TV Violence

In the wake of the Erfurt shootings, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder met with the heads of Germany’s public and private television stations to discuss violence in the media and how to limit it.

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Video games like the ultra-violent "Counter-Strike" as well as violent television have Germany worried.

The meeting was called in the wake of revelations that the Erfurt killer, Robert Steinhäuser, was a eager consumer of violent videos and computer games.

So it came as no surprise that TV executives who gathered in the federal chancellery on Wednesday night were worried about becoming scapegoats for the tragedy in Erfurt.

But Shröder calmed their fears. "We’re not here to put the blame on anyone," he said at the beginning of the meeting, "but to do everything we can to make sure this never happens again."

He added that in the wake of the school shootings that killed 17 in the central German town of Erfurt it was time to look closely at the fundamental principles regarding violence on German TV and "perhaps develop new ones."

Round Table Discussion

At the end of the meeting, Schröder announced that he would call for a round table discussion which would include television stations, politicians, video and computer game producers and Internet service providers. The participants would work out measures that would limit the depictions of violence on TV and online, including developing a voluntary code of standards.

Kind agiert interaktiv mit dem Fernseher

Boy operates web TV with wireless keyboard.

"This code would not only be for television producers," Karl-Ulrich Kuhlo, founder and board chair of the 24-hour news channel n-tv, told reporters "but also for students and their parents." He said there was a severe lack of media education in society.

"Although people watch on average 260 minutes of TV a day," he said, "there’s hardly any discussion about it in schools."

While Thursday's meeting focused on the television industry, Udo Reiter, head of MDR public broadcasting, stressed that representatives from the Internet industry should also be present at the table. He said when it comes to brutality and naked violence, online offerings made TV look very tame.

No date has been set for the group to meet and the list of specific participants has yet to be made. Chancellor Schröder announced he will bring the issue up with his cabinet next Wednesday, when members will look at whether the current regulations for violence on TV are sufficient.

Stricter laws, or anything smacking of censorship, are things TV executives do not want to see.

"I don’t see the necessity of tightening legislation related to media output," Fritz Pleitgen of Germany’s public television station ARD told reporters. "We already have strict control mechanisms as to what goes out and what doesn’t. But, we are certainly willing to review our policies."

Violence--Part of Society

While TV heads said they would put reviews for gratuitous violence in place, as well as produce short educational anti-violence spots for young people, they said they could not make TV violence-free.

"You can’t simply ignore something that is a real part of our society," said Günther Struve, programming director for ARD in an interview with a Berlin radio station.

Limiting, for example, news coverage of violent events would also limit people’s knowledge of war and suffering in the world, said n-tv head Kulho. Rather, he added, there needed to be clearer definition between violence in news reports or documentaries and violence in fictional shows.

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