Obsession: Television

May 10, 2010
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When a major activity isn’t healthy or overall productive, there’s always someone out there that feels the need to change it. That someone is the American medical community and the activity to be changed is the constant viewing of television. They have setup a program known as the TV Turnoff Week. For one week, every year, since 1994, they have been striving to persuade people to become healthier for that one week. The reason the AMC is incorporating this program is because Americans are obsessed with television. TV viewing is off the charts, health concerns are growing, spending is skyrocketing and the problem keeps growing.

Over ninety-nine percent of American households have one TV; sixty-six have three or more. Doesn’t this just scream couch potato? It’s not just the adults or teens alone are the problem. If that’s the way it was, then there wouldn’t be any “Dora: The Explorer” or “Magic School Bus.” Everyone in the family has a show on TV. Teens have “Family Guy” and adults have “Law and Order.” Americans alone, watch over 250 billion hours combined every ten hours. That adds up to $1.25 trillion if the rate is five dollars an hour. So Americans have more television than they should, and many will abuse what they see.

Has there ever been a time where someone has quoted something from television? There are many people that take it one step further. Dr. John Nelson has said that 2888 out of 3000 studies show that violent television shows incite real world violence. The worst things to expose violence to are children who are still learning what is good and bad. Studies show that before a child finishes elementary school, he is subjected to 8000 murder scenes. By the time that person is 18, he/she has experienced five times that amount. What if this child likes these images? What if they grow up and become a criminal just like the ones seen every Thursday night at 8:00? At least they have a chance of being on that show.

Television is also a leading advertiser. Watching commercials are a large part of television viewing. In one year, the average number of 30 second-long commercials seen is 20,000. By the time someone is 65, they will have viewed two million commercials. They are effective for advertisement, but they do not come cheap. In all, 100 of the top TV advertisers spent $15 billion in 1993. As long as there is TV, there will be advertisers and viewers, and as long as there is money being made, there will be TV.

Television profits account for large sections of the stock market. They basically go hand in hand. If TV were to fall, the whole market would fall as well, just like a mountain climbing chain gang. Comcast, a top 10 cable company, has a P/E (percent exchange) of 30.5 and TWC (Time Warner Cable) is close to it with 19.6.

Individual companies also pay sums of money to service their networks. TCI is the world’s largest cable company. It includes channels such as Turner and Discovery. It’s operating income is a staggering $956 million. TCI also has revenues of up to $3.6 billion. Many other networks exist such as Comcast, TWC, and Viacom Inc. Keep in mind that these are only the major companies. TV always deals with money whether it is the operating costs of the various networks or the pay-per-view movie at home. There is a thing called “too much TV” though.

Heavy television viewing has been known to cause health defects. The largest and most commonly known is obesity. This is caused by the lack of exercise of muscles. These muscles would normally be used in activities such as riding bike or going for a run. In addition, television promotes unhealthy foods that contain high fats and sugars. Results from obesity can include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other heart problems.

Television can attack health physically and mentally, such as ADD or ADHD. Both disorders cause a person to lose focus on the task at hand. This makes it harder for a person suffering from it to concentrate over long periods of time, or even sleep. In the 1970s Professor Werner Halperia discovered that rapid changes in sounds and images, commonly seen on TV, overwhelm a youth’s neurological system. Later, in April 2004, Dr. Dimitri Christakis’ studies suggest that early TV viewing (ages 1-3) developed ADHD at an older age.

One other side effect of TV overload is a decrease in manual dexterity. A fine craftsman or carpenter would have excellent manual dexterity since he/she works well with their hands. Early preschoolers had far better hand-eye coordination than present-day preschoolers because of a decrease in activity regarding TV. A good way to see this is in writing. The handwriting of young children earlier in time was much neater than the handwriting of today. So, remote masters who pay for cable might be paying more if their heart gives out. No matter, TV will keep growing.

Since TV has existed there have been subscribers or viewers. It all started back in the 1940s when local TV broadcasts were coming around. Towards 1952 there were about 40,000 viewers; ten years later there were 850,000 viewers. As time progressed, TV started spreading even more than the previous year. The 1970’s spawned 16 million subscribers. At the start of the 1980s, there was a boom in television activity causing the total to rise to 53 million people. Today, the stats have been recorded in the 100 million region.

To continuously serve the subscribers, there has to be more than one network. As every year goes by, more networks form. In 1952 there were 70 local networks that could only reach as far as the counties. A decade later, that number was stretched to 800. By the time it was 1995, there were 139 nation-wide networks. In 1998 that number increased to 171. These are records from more than ten years ago. Today’s stats are much higher.

In order to keep pace with subscribers, networks have to keep finding ways to bring in more customers. Television needs to evolve to keep up with the latest technology. But before anything, TV had to be invented. In the 1940s to the 1950s, local TV started coming around in Arkansas, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. But, these were only local networks and did not work well in mountains. To fix this problem, television antennas were invented in 1948 to boost signal range. In 1972 Charles Dolan and Gerald Levin from Sterling Manhattan Cable created the first pay TV network home box office (HBO). Around the same time the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) made satellite rights for all networks. The framework to stimulate investment in TV, called the Cable Act, was passed by Congress in 1984. In order to make television more accessible by land, instead of the new and untested satellites, a $15 billion dollar program to wire America was conducted in 1984 through 1992. This was the biggest program, money-wise, since World War II. In 1992, wireless TV was popularized, lessening the use of “cable” TV. To replace cables the satellites were made the predominant signal broadcasters. In 2002 a replacement for the slow dial-up computers was DSL (Digital Subscriber Line). This also was a product of cable that does not use the traditional phone jack. The latest innovations include HD cable in 2003 also accompanied by VDO (Video On Demand). This has definitely been an improvement from the single valley networks.

So has learning about America’s obsession with television taught someone something? Everyday people say they watch too much TV, money is being spent in the billions by networks, many people are decreasing in health from cable TV, and that these problems begin to mount more and more every day. So, if someone wants to change their ways, the 2010 TV Turnoff Week is April 19th through April 25th.

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