Thursday, December 06, 2007

Getting messages from the TV

Jeffrey Arenburg is in the news again; this time facing charges for punching an officer in the face.

Twelve years ago, Arenburg killed Ottawa sports broadcaster and former hockey pro, Brian Smith after he finished his 6 p.m. sports show. Police said Arenburg, who had worked as a fisherman, had made complaints in the past that TV stations were broadcasting messages into his head.

According to Canadian media reports, Arenburg was later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and was found by a judge to be “not criminally responsible” for the death of Smith.

In a terrible irony, after Arenburg killed Brian Smith, Ontario passed “Brian’s Law,” in his name – a bill that allows for court-ordered community treatment.

Unfortunately, threats to local TV and radio personnel by people with untreated mental illnesses are more common than many realize.

In a questionnaire answered by 259 radio and TV stations:
  • 123 stations (47.5 percent) reported having at some time received a telephone call, letter, fax, or e-mail from an individual asking the station to stop talking about them or sending voices to their head.
  • The stations had received a total of 3,155 such communications from 284 separate individuals in the past year, with one station reporting having received 1,500 communications.
  • 43 stations reported that an individual had at some time personally come to their station to ask them to stop talking about them or to stop sending voices to their head. The stations reported having received a total of 150 such visits from 61 different individuals in the past year.

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