NEW YORK (AP) – Fights, gun battles and blood are increasingly making their way into homes each night through television, according to a study released Tuesday.

The study by the Parents Television Council counted 534 separate episodes of prime-time violence on the six major broadcast networks during the first two weeks of the November ratings “sweeps” in 2002. That was up from 292 violent incidents during the same period four years earlier, the organization said.

Although the study is slightly outdated, the PTC says preliminary data from last month shows the trend toward increased violence is continuing.

The violence is getting more serious, too. The study found 156 incidents where guns or other weapons were used during the two-week period in prime-time in 2002, up from 67 four years earlier.

“In both quantity and quality it is getting worse,” said Brent Bozell, founder of the conservative media watchdog group. “I think it is a cause for concern.”

Fox narrowly beat CBS, 151 to 148, for having the most violent incidents, the PTC said, even though Fox broadcasts an hour less each night than ABC, CBS and NBC. Fox executives say they never comment on PTC studies, although they privately note that some of their more violent shows in 2002 have since been canceled.

Four of the networks – ABC, Fox, the WB and UPN – had more than double the violent incidents in 2002 than they had four years earlier, the study said.

NBC was the only network where the level of violence went down, from 51 in 1998 to 42 last year, the PTC said.

During the four-year period, CBS’ forensics drama, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” became the nation’s most popular television program. CBS has already completed one spin-off of its most successful show and is planning another.

At the same time, HBO’s “The Sopranos” was one of the nation’s most influential programs. Although its violence level wasn’t studied here, the broadcast networks took note of the drama’s success and tried to imitate it.

There was no immediate comment from the TV networks on the PTC’s study.

Among the incidents cited in the study from last year: Gil cutting a finger off a dead man’s body in “CSI”; a man being shot in the forehead on NBC’s “Boomtown”; a warlock on the WB’s “Charmed” taking a human heart from someone still alive.

Television isn’t operating in a vacuum, Bozell said, noting violent content in video games and in music. And he said that it’s likely television was even more violent during the 1970s and early 1980s, with Westerns and police dramas popular.

“It’s a cyclical thing, I think,” he said. “But this is cyclical with an edge to it.”

The PTC isn’t opposed to violence on television, particularly if it comes with a moral message that makes clear the consequences of actions, Bozell said. But the networks should be mindful of what they’re beaming into homes, he said.

“If you believe that the product has consequences and you believe you can influence an audience, particularly impressionable youngsters, then I think television along with all the entertainment media ought to be mindful about what they’re teaching,” he said.

One positive finding for the PTC was that three networks – CBS, NBC and the WB – cut back on the level of violence during TV’s so-called family hour, between 8 and 9 p.m. For the WB, that’s due almost entirely to losing one program, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Otherwise, the PTC found that violence increased during every time slot.

AP-ES-12-09-03 1754EST



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