LDS producer understands the influence TV can wield

Television affects the lives of nearly everyone, according to an award-winning British television producer.

Peter Urie, who produces children's television programs, said: "TV is a powerful tool and in the wrong hands can incite children and adults to become violent; it can expose our minds to disturbing images that will stay with us for many years. It's important to protect our children and ourselves from those images."But he also believes that television can be used in a positive way. Speaking of his work, he said: "As a member of the Church I decided to strive to achieve the highest possible standards in TV broadcasting. The viewing habits of our children must be carefully protected and we must ensure that anything they watch will uplift and edify them, and that's not to say that the programs cannot be entertaining as well - as we have proved."

Brother Urie, second counselor in the bishopric of the Maidstone Ward, Maidstone England Stake, started his television career working for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a producer and director. He left the BBC in 1988 to join Independent Television, and formed his own television company when the company he worked for lost its franchise. Within the first year he was in business for himself, one of his productions won a BAFTA award (similar to an Emmy in the United States) presented by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It is the most prestigious award in British television.

Brother Urie's award was for a children's program called "Artattack." The purpose of "Artattack" is to inspire young children to become involved in art. The program became an instant success and achieved extraordinarily high ratings; in fact, the highest rating among children's programs in Britain. It demonstrated that high quality, moral, entertaining programs could achieve high ratings.

Brother Urie feels there is a responsibility that goes with his career, and explains, "It is a very sobering thought to know that there could be 10-15 million people watching something I've produced, and knowing that it could affect the way they live. Producers can sit in their offices, producing programs in studios or on location and be oblivious to the power and influence they have on others as they cannot see or hear the viewers.

"Sometimes when I travel the country, I overhear a conversation about one of my programs, and it reminds me of the far-reaching consequences that a program can have. As a producer and director involved in British television, I am acutely aware of the power and influence that the television has in today's society."

Brother Urie, who strives to reach high moral standards - similar to Church standards - in his children's programs, warns that parents need to monitor closely what their children watch.

"I have watched my own boys - Michael, Robert and Ben - completely immersed in programs that trivialize violence or that teach unrighteous principles and I am very concerned about the influence these programs have on their lives," he pointed out. "Even seemingly harmless cartoons depict violent acts without consequences in a humorous way, tempting children to copy their example."

All through his career he has been true to his principles, but acknowledges that is much easier now that he runs his own company. While working for the BBC, it was more difficult to maintain the standards that he holds. Ratings are a major determining factor as to what programs are made, and unfortunately, in order to attract higher ratings, standards are very often lowered in a manner that members of the Church would find unsuitable. But Brother Urie said he has never lowered his standards.

"I refuse to compromise my beliefs, my standards, or my family just for the sake of my career," he emphasized. "I have, and would still turn down commissions that I feel unhappy with. I have never produced anything that made me feel uncomfortable. I have always prayed about the programs I produce and the decisions I make."

He advises everyone, especially parents, to be discrimating when it comes to watching television.

"As a member of the Church, I try to be selective in what I watch, and as a father, what my children watch. And we should all strive to ensure that whatever we do watch has some benefit to our lives, whether it be educating, uplifting or just relaxing entertainment."

He warns parents that they have "a great responsibility in what their children see and it is important not to use the television as a baby-sitter."

Research showed that in the United Kingdom, people watch an average of five to six hours of television each day, Brother Urie pointed out. He was reluctant to specify how much TV viewing is acceptable, but said, "Maybe 10 hours a week, but certainly not more than two hours a day. There are other things to do, and TV can be a time waster."

He then encouraged all parents: "There are many good programs without any scenes that disturb and if we watch these, more will be produced. If a program is unsuitable, we need to have the strength to switch off. It is only by switching off that the ratings go down and a program loses its commission."

Brother Urie has proven that high quality, popular programs without dropping moral standards are wanted, watched and enjoyed.

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