- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007

The combined influence of Hollywood and the mainstream news media erodes traditional American values and respect for religion — and it may diminish our character and sense of responsibility as well, according to a report released yesterday by the Culture and Media Institute.

The overall media landscape diverts people “from a mature acceptance of personal responsibility for their own lives and treatment of others,” the study said.

An insidious cause-and-effect phenomenon is at work. The more people watch television, the more likely they are to have permissive attitudes toward abortion and sexuality, a survey included in the study found. Heavy TV viewers are also prone to skim over classical virtues such as honesty and fairness, not to mention religious principles and even charity.

“If you watch a lot of TV, you tend to think your problems are someone else’s responsibility,” said CMI director Robert Knight.

The survey of 2,000 adults found opposing attitudes between “light” TV viewers who watched less than an hour a day and “heavy” viewers who took in four or more hours daily. For example, 51 percent of the light viewers described themselves as pro-life, compared with 37 percent of the heavy viewers. About 55 percent of the light TV viewers said homosexuality was wrong, compared with 43 percent of the heavy viewers.

Two-thirds of the heavy TV viewers said government should be responsible for retirement benefits and health care, compared with 43 percent of the light viewers. About 31 percent of the heavy viewers say they would cheat on a restaurant bill if they could, compared with 19 percent of the light viewers.

“There’s a disconnect between the public’s worldview and that of the news and entertainment media, which just doesn’t get the idea that we remain a patriotic nation with values,” said Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, parent company to CMI.

Hollywood is guiltier of compromising moral and cultural values than the press is, the survey found. Only 9 percent of the respondents said the effect of the combined news and entertainment media was positive, 73 percent blamed Hollywood, and 54 percent blamed news media for the “assault on American values.”

Some partisan difference emerged: 82 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Democrats were critical of the media; the numbers were 86 percent for conservatives and 64 percent for liberals.

“We can talk politics all day long about these findings. But they go deeper. They’re cultural and spiritual too,” Mr. Bozell said.

The growing chasm between media and audience has been a 30-year evolutionary process, said Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Hollywood and the press have taken on political agendas and a penchant for revealing “greater truths” about life in general, he said.

“They see themselves as our protectors and representatives,” Mr. Lichter said. “But how surprised the media has been by major polls in recent years which reveal that the public actually thinks the media is biased and arrogant — trying to tell them not facts, but what to think as well.”