The number of violent scenes during prime-time programs has risen on all six US networks since 1998, found a study conducted by American organisation Parents Television Council and released last month. And an increasing number of violent scenes include a sexual element.
The report highlighted the 2005 television season as one of the most violent, with 49 per cent of all episodes in the study containing at least one instance of violence.
"Not only was there more on-screen violence than ever before," the study said, "but the discussions of violent crimes were more explicit and the violence depicted was far more graphic than anything TV viewers had ever seen before."
The report, Dying to Entertain, details more than 30 scenes from various episodes to support its finding of a growing number of "graphic autopsy scenes, scenes depicting medical procedures and extensive torture sequences".
"Violence has shifted from being incidental to the storytelling to being an integral part of the program," it said.
Similar thoughts had been going through my mind after watching the first couple of episodes of the new season of 24 (subtitled "A New Beginning" for some reason). Even for a show about terrorism, the amount of killing and torture in the first couple of hours was confronting.
Recently prime-time shows such as Bones and NCIS seem to spend half their time in the morgue cutting people up. Somehow it seemed in better taste when Sam Ryan did similar things in Silent Witness. Now I tend to go out into the kitchen and make coffee during the opening scenes of Bones and my sister tells me when it's safe to return.
Nowadays the heroes in television programmes do things that we would have once found shocking if it was the villains doing them.
In my childhood, the Australian television censors were scrupulous in removing any scenes involving knives or stabbing. Their reasoning, I suspect, was that no Australian had a handgun so cowboys and cops could blaze away with no impact on our psychology, but nearly everyone carried a pocket-knife of some kind. (That led to some strange looking stories where people would suddenly be inexplicably dead in between scenes - even Star Trek and Phil Silvers didn't escape the censor's scissors.)
Sometimes I pine for the days of Naked City, when the only things stripped bare were the emotions of the protagonists.
Years ago, whenever there were problems with television reception between Tasmania and the other states of Australia, the technicians would mutter about "bearer problems" caused by Bass Strait.
Recently someone on the BBC message board queried why a certain radio programme kept skipping. The answer was as follows : "These glitches are caused from time to time by atmospheric conditions interfering with the satellite feed to our listen again service encoders. We are working longer term to provide a more stable feed."
The more things change, the more they stay the same!
Of course there is so much more to listen to on the BBC.
Another contributor added up all the drama and readings aired in a week on BBC Radio 4:
Drama & Readings per week (in mins)
Afternoon play 225
Classic serial 60
Friday play 60
Saturday play 60
Book of the week75
Book at bedtime 75
Women's hour drama75
Sub total 630
Repeat classic serial 60
Repeat book of the week 75
Repeat Women's hour drama75
Sub Total 210
Total air play of Drama & Readings per week
including Repeats 14 hours (840 mins)
And that's on just one of the BBC radio stations!