In 1969, Senator John Pastore requested that the Surgeon General appoint a committee to conduct an inquiry into television violence and its effect on children. When the Surgeon General's report was finally released in 1972—after a three-year inquiry and a cost of over $1.8 million—it angered and confused a number of critics, including politicians, the broadcast industry, many of the social scientists who had helped carry out the research, and the public.
While the final consequences of the Report may not be played out for years to come, TV Violence and the Child presents a fascinating study of the Surgeon General's quest and, in effect, the process by which social science is recruited and its findings made relevant to public policy.
In addition to dealing with television as an object of concern, the authors also consider the government's effectiveness when dealing with social objectives and the influence of citizen action on our communication systems. Their overwhelming conclusion is that the nation's institutions are ill-equipped for recruiting expert talent, providing clear findings, and carrying out objectives in this area of delicate human concern.
DOUGLASS CATER is director of the Aspen Institute Program on Communications and Society.
STEPHEN STRICKLAND is director of the Washington, D.C., office of the Health Policy Program of the University of California, San Francisco.