Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate on Bill C-327 dealing with the reduction of violence in television broadcasts.
Television violence is a problem of such scope that it has been the subject of various, often controversial but always relevant and thought provoking, studies, reports and analyses. More importantly, this issue reminds the elected representatives that we are that, in our society, television has become an omnipresent media whose impact on the most receptive or vulnerable audiences, and I am thinking of our children, should never be underestimated.
At a time when an overwhelming majority of people in Canada and Quebec own at least one television set and spend an average of four hours a day watching this hypnotic box; when new media are being put on the market and the number of available stations keeps increasing; and when television is more and more and increasingly openly blamed for breeding a scourge of our society—and I am referring to all forms of violence—the Bloc Québécois, through the determination and perseverance of the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, whose eloquent plea we have heard and grasped the scope of, could not pass on a relevant debate and another meaningful piece of legislation on the theme of television images of a violent nature and their impact on our youth. That is the raison d'être of his bill to reduce violence in television broadcasts by granting the CRTC additional regulatory powers in this respect, without developing a censorship mentality.
The bill's summary states, and I quote, “This enactment amends the Broadcasting Act to grant the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes”.
And here is how the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie introduced his bill at first reading stage:
A recent study by Laval University showed that acts of violence shown on television have tripled since 1994. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Act to create a regulation governing television violence. The CRTC would be responsible for monitoring how large broadcasters apply the regulation that would be created by the bill I am introducing today.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the bill and salutes the initiative of the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. The Bloc Québécois reminds the House that, beyond self-regulation, we must provide broadcasting with an adequate framework in order to avoid a drift toward sensationalism that does not necessarily reflect Quebec and Canadian values.
The Bloc Québécois believes that young children should not be confronted with violence at a very early age, because this would tend to trivialize it, with the predictable consequences.
As I was saying at the beginning of my speech, violence in our society is an issue that raises concerns among the general public and, indeed, the legislator that each of us represents here. In this regard, we have the responsibility to introduce legislation.
What are the impacts of television on our children? In 1998, a UNESCO study showed that children under the age of 12 were spending an average of three hours a day watching television, that is 50% more than at any other activity.
Children who watch very violent television or films are more likely to become aggressive. There is no doubt about it.
Many reports agree on this. There is an enormous amount of research into the effects of media violence.
Researchers have long wondered whether television violence has such effect on young people that it can actually make them more aggressive. After some 50 years of research into this question, some investigators such as Professor Howell Huesmann of the University of Michigan are convinced that there is evidence of a direct correlation. I quote him:
—exposure to media violence causes children to behave more aggressively and affects them as adults years later.
Professor Huesmann demonstrated that when children imitate the actions of their “media heroes”, they develop “cognitive scripts” that ultimately guide their own behaviour. For example, when their heroes are violent, children internalize scripts in which violence is presented as an appropriate or legitimate method of settling disputes, solving problems or dealing with frustrations.
According to other researchers, the psychological effects are not as important as the physiological effects in the internalization of aggressive behaviour seen on television. These researchers observed that exposure to violent imagery is linked to increased heart rate, faster respiration and higher blood pressure. They think that this simulated "fight-or-flight" response predisposes people to act aggressively in the real world.
Similarly, an American study looked at the effects over 20 years. It showed a modest correlation between shows watched by eight-year-old boys and an aggressiveness indicator 11 years later. Boys who watched a lot of violent shows when they were young had much more serious police records at 30 years of age than other boys. These effects could not be ascribed to other social factors. To quantify this “modest” effect, the researchers said that it was comparable to the effect of tobacco consumption on lung cancer. All the experts in large research associations agree on these proven facts.
I want to emphasize once again that the consumption of televisions shows has certain effects, both direct and indirect. No one will be able to say later that they did not know. I encourage the House, therefore, to show good sense and support Bill C-327.