Movie critic and talk show host Michael Medved said the Culture and Media Institute's new survey is “one of the most important studies of its kind in years.”
The study, he said, is unique because it shows how large amounts of television, regardless of the content, can adversely affect a person's values. He believes TV does this by promoting pessimism, impatience and instant gratification, rather than optimism and duty. “I'm not trying to suggest that television causes all these problems, but it certainly exacerbates them.”
Medved was the featured speaker at the Culture and Media Institute's release of its latest special report, The Media Assault on American Values. MAAV is based on CMI's National Cultural Values Survey. CMI, a division of the
Speakers also included CMI director Robert H. Knight, MRC president L. Brent Bozell III and Dr. S. Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs.
MAAV finds that 1) the public believes American values are in decline, 2) the public believes the media is contributing to this decline and 3) people who watch more television have more permissive attitudes about moral issues. Specific findings include:
64 percent of Americans believe the media is the most important, or one of the most important, influences on American values
74 percent believe American values are weaker than they were 20 years ago
Clear majorities believe the entertainment media (73 percent) and the news media (54 percent) have a negative influence on American values
Watching more television is associated with lower commitment to charity. 56 percent of heavy television viewers (four hours or more per evening) never volunteer, compared to 27 percent of light TV viewers (one hour or less of TV per evening)
31 percent of heavy TV viewers would cheat a restaurant that left items off the bill, compared to only 19 percent of light TV viewers
44 percent of light TV viewers believe abortion is always wrong, compared to 27 percent of heavy viewers
47 percent of light viewers attend church weekly, compared to just 28 percent of heavy viewers
Knight contended that both the print and entertainment media are contributing to a major decline in
Bozell said the study showcased the values gap between the people and “mainstream” journalists that is causing what he calls a “national media meltdown,” a recent ratings decline in every area of news media except conservative venues and the Internet.
Dr. Lichter praised the report for its intellectual honesty, noting that MAAV states clearly that the National Cultural Values Survey results can be used to assert correlation, but not causation, between television viewing and certain attitudes. But Lichter suggested that the study accurately portrays media values. Journalists, Lichter believes, think their mission is to save the world, rather than just report the facts. However, as Lichter remarked, the result has been rejected by the public. According to the study, only 11 percent of Americans believe the media have a positive impact on American values.