October 1, 1997

Violence in Television Commercials During Nonviolent ProgrammingThe 1996 Major League Baseball Playoffs

Author Affiliations

From the Family Practice Department, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, Minn.

JAMA. 1997;278(13):1045-1046. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550130011003

Objective.  —To identify the frequency of violent television commercials aired during major league baseball playoffs, traditionally thought to be a family-oriented viewing time.

Design and Setting.  —All 6 World Series games televised on the Fox Television Network (Fox), all 5 American League Championship Series playoff games televised by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and 4 first-round playoff games televised by ESPN Sports Television Network (ESPN) were videotaped in October 1996.

Results.  —During the 15 televised games reviewed, 104 (6.8%) of the 1528 commercials contained violent content. Sixty-one commercials (10 per game) that included violent interactions were noted during the World Series, 30 (6 per game) during the American League Championship Series, and 13 (3 per game) during the 4 first-round playoff games for a total of 104. In these 104 violent commercials, 69 contained at least 1 violent act, 90 contained at least 1 violent threat, and 27 contained evidence of at least 1 violent consequence. Seventy (67.3%) of the violent commercials were promotions for television programs, 7 (6.7%) were cable television program advertisements, and 20 (19.2%) were big-screen movie promotions. Twenty (71.4%) of 28 bigscreen movie promotions were violent. Twenty-two (21.2%) of the 104 violent commercials and 7 "nonviolent" commercials contained blood or other graphic content, all of which were televised during the Fox presentation of the World Series. Fox also accounted for all 24 violent commercials that used a knife. Guns were involved in 25 violent commercials on NBC (5.0 per game), in 20 on Fox (3.33 per game), and in 7 on ESPN (1.75 per game).

Conclusion.  —Overt violent content in commercials during the 1996 major league playoffs was common and consisted mainly of promotions for television programs and big-screen movies. It is counterintuitive to find such commercials in nonviolent programming and makes it difficult for parents to avoid exposing their children to this form of violence.