Volume 93, Issue 42

Friday, November 12, 1999


Super Build proposal released

Opt-out fee debate heats up USC meeting

Scholarship sets $1 million aside

An O.J. a day keeps the doctor away

Plea bargaining focus of show

I'll take door #3

Caught on campus

Bass Ackwards

Plea bargaining focus of show

By Chris Lackner
Gazette Staff

Detractors of violence in the media now have new fuel to add to their fire, thanks to the Emmy Award-winning television series Law & Order.

The crime-based television series is to set to begin filming an episode inspired by the crimes of Paul Bernardo and his former wife, Karla Homolka, who were convicted of the murders of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, said Chris Worsnop, a freelance speaker with the Media Awareness Network.

Worsnop said the episode, slated to air sometime this season, plans to focus on the issue of plea bargaining with criminals, such as the bargain negotiated with Homolka. "It's insensitive, there's no doubt," he said.

Wayne McNanney, former consultant for the Waterloo County Board of Education, said the show's producers were bent on getting high ratings and a mass audience for reality-based programs. "Reality shows are in," he said. "Everything from The Jerry Springer Show to Inside Edition, to the next movie of the week. People identify, I guess. Reality is immediate." McNanney added the episode should be heavily fictionalized and done tactfully due to it's highly sensitive nature.

Ron DeBoer, a former media education critic and teacher at the Eastwood Collegiate Institute in Kitchener, said there were also positive aspects to the program. "If the whole point [of the episode] is to expose the potential negative consequences of plea bargaining, then it may bring a sense of justice. Maybe [the producers] can use something terrible to do something good."

He added the show is only creating controversy because the Bernardo case is recent and still in the media spotlight. "In almost every episode of Law & Order, one can draw a parallel to a real case and a real situation of violence. This episode is not unique. The issue is heightened by a well known case, but the violence is still the same."

David Spencer, a professor in Western's faculty of Information and Media studies, said there was no reason for television viewers to panic since it is not the first television show to be based on real life events. "Law and Order has a tendency to base its stories on real life. It's a technique the networks use get higher ratings," he explained.

Worsnop said the problems also lay in society's willingness to consume the media's products. "Media is a convenient scapegoat," he said. "Sickness is in society, not the media itself. Even if they are tasteless and exploitive, these shows appeal to audiences, so they get made. That's the bottom line."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999