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NCJ Number: 67222 Find in a Library
Title: TRIAL BY TELEVISION - ARE WE AT THE POINT OF NO RETURN?
Journal: JUDICATURE  Volume:63  Issue:9  Dated:(APRIL 1980)  Pages:416-426
Author(s): G GERBNER
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 11
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: NEITHER HISTORY NOR RESEARCH SUPPORT THE CONTENTION THAT TELEVISION COVERAGE OF COURTS WOULD ENHANCE FAIRNESS, PROTECT FREEDOM, INCREASE PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING, OR PROMOTE NEEDED COURT REFORM.
Abstract: TRIALS BY TELEVISION ARE LIKELY TO ALTER THE HISTORIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TWO INSTITUTIONS THAT HAVE LARGELY DIVERGENT AND PARTIALLY CONFLICTING FUNCTIONS: POPULAR ENTERTAINMENT AND NEWS VIA MASS MEDIA REPRESENT THE CONVENTIONAL CULTURAL PRESSURES OF THE SOCIAL ORDER, WHILE JUDICIAL PROCESS REPRESENTS AN EFFORT TO ADJUDICATE INDIVIDUAL CASES ACCORDING TO LAW. IN CRIMINAL CASES, THE MOST LIKELY TO BE TELEVISED, A FAIR TRIAL CALLS FOR DETERMINING GUILT FOR THE SPECIFIC OFFENSE CHARGED, AND NOT, AS IN THE GENERAL ENTERTAINMENT AND NEWS, WHETHER A PERSON HAS DONE SOMETHING BAD FOR WHICH HE SHOULD BE PUNISHED. CASTING AND FATE COMBINE, IN TELEVISION, TO CULTIVATE A SOCIAL STRUCTURE TYPICALLY RULED BY FORCE AND DOMINATED BY STEREOTYPES. MOREOVER, A STUDY OF PRIME TIME POLICE PROGRAMS FOUND THAT IN ALL BUT 3 OF 15 IN 1 WEEK, THE LAW ENFORCERS ROUTINELY COMMITTED CLEAR VIOLATIONS OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, DEPICTIONS WHICH MAY BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR CASUAL VIOLATIONS IN REAL LIFE AND FOR THE GROWING PRESSURE ON COURTS TO CONFORM TO THE TOUGH OMNISCIENCE AND OMNIPOTENCE OF TELEVISION JUSTICE. TELEVISION THUS REPRESENTS A PROCESS THAT SETS CULTURAL NORMS AND GENERATES ANXIETIES AND INSECURITIES THAT CAN FIND RELEASE IN DEPENDENCE ON STRONG AUTHORITY AND IN HARSH AND REPRESSIVE MEASURES. YET THE PURPOSE OF OPEN TRIALS IS TO HELP PROTECT THE ACCUSED FROM ARBITRARY POWER AND PUBLIC PREJUDICE AND NOT TO ENTERTAIN OR EVEN TO EDUCATE. EXPERIENCE WITH TELEVISED TRIALS HAS PROVEN THE ENTERTAINMENT PRESSURES ON THE SELECTION AND TREATMENT OF TRIALS; THE IMPACT OF NOTORIETY ON PARTICIPANTS, INCLUDING JURORS RETURNING TO THEIR COMMUNITIES; THE PROBLEM OF IMPARTIALLY RETRYING A CASE AFTER WIDE NATIONAL EXPOSURE; AND THE LIKELIHOOD THAT DEFEDANTS WHO HAVE ATTRACTED PUBLIC INTEREST CANNOT SECURE AN IMPARTIAL TRIAL EVEN WITHOUT THE PRESENCE OF TELEVISION. FOOTNOTES ARE SUPPLIED.
Index Term(s): Courtroom proceedings broadcasting; Fair trial-free press; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Public information; Right to fair trial; Rights of the accused; Television programming
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=67222

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