I would agree strongly that much popular entertainment today is degrading, demeaning, violent, and often disgusting (not to put too fine a point on it). Sometimes this is true even of the commercials! I've seen a huge change take place just since my youth, and it's hard to imagine what may be coming in the future. Fortunately, a lot of the older popular entertainment is still available on specialized cable TV channels. Comparing and contrasting that entertainment with much of the entertainment produced today would be an interesting way to work on your topic.
I agree with post 4 that television has really changed drastically in the last 5 to 10 years. When I was growing up, popular children's shows had a moral and a message. Family shows were popular and parents would often watch television with their children. Now, reality shows tend to rule the TV. Even shows that are not realty shows follow the same style as those that are. The problem is that realty TV does not depict reality. Most of the shows that are on today show a darker side of human nature. This can lead to people believing that this is normal or acceptable behavior. Even some children's shows and cartoons depict a very different world where unacceptable behavior is the norm.
I would have to say a little, yes. I cannot believe how much television has changed since I was young. There would be no way that television (....years ago) would allow the shows which are so popular today.
That being said, I have to agree with pohnpei. I can see how watching something violent or wrong could "relieve us of our need to actually go out and do it." I would hope that the youth today recognizes the consequences of the behaviors as seen on television today and realize how wrong they are.
One argument against this idea is that the portrayals of bad things that we see in the media actually help make us less likely to act badly. Let's say that we all have some degree of an inner need to be violent. You can argue that, if we see lots of violence in the movies, that it sort of takes the pressure off. It allows us to feel as if we are doing violence ourselves, which relieves us of the need to actually go out and do it. That way, the things we see in movies, etc, help ease our inclination to actually act badly in our own lives.
The obvious argument that it does might center on the way that entertainment media focus on entertainment over all else and the way this has bled into news and other things that have to mimic their behavior or risk becoming irrelevant. So news stories have to now fit the same incredibly short and shocking nature of entertainment media. The argument could also focus on the way entertainment media has put screens into every place possible, in front of children and in schools and everywhere.
The arguments that it doesn't are also relatively straight forward. It is irrelevant, people turn to it for entertainment, not for news or important information. It provides relaxation, stress relief, is an industry that employs thousands and thousands of people, etc.
I would like to think that watching something violent relieves us of actually going out and doing something violent, but I'm not sure it's the case. To many in this day and age - and I know I'm generalising, there is no sense of responsibility anymore, if someones watches something violent on the news to far too many people it's a license to go out and do it themselves, look at the recent riots in the UK - word spread through the social networking sites on mobile phones that places were being broken into a looted and others followed suit - because he did it I did. How many times in the lives of bringing up children do we hear - he did it first?