TV—Its Impact on the Modern World
THE French call it “la télé,” the British, the “telly,” the Australians, the “box,” and many blasé Americans, the “tube,” or even the “boob tube.” “It” is television.
Whatever name is given to it, television is recognized worldwide as “one of the most influential instruments for shaping the values, opinions and beliefs of the postwar society.” A report published in the Scientific Australian states that “television watching takes up more time than any other activity our society engages in,” with the possible exception of sleep and, one might add, the working hours of wage earners.
The social impact of television over the past twenty or thirty years has been so great that the subject is still being heavily researched by sociologists and other experts. It has been said that television has had a greater impact on the lives and thoughts of people than has any other invention since the printing press. And this it has done within two or three decades. Moreover, a fifth of the world’s population is still unable to read, but many of these watch TV on private or collective sets.
What have been the effects of this—favorable and unfavorable? In other words, to what degree has TV been either beneficial or harmful to the viewers?
Positive and Negative Aspects
In many lands television has transformed the lives of the peasantry and other people who live in the country. These days a French count in his château may spend the evening watching the same TV program as a poor farm laborer living in a nearby cottage. There has been an equalizing of opportunities for entertainment between rich and poor. Concerts, opera, ballet and theater have been opened up to social classes that until now were deprived of such artistic fields of entertainment and education.
Documentary programs have created desire for travel and have even fostered vacations. Geographical programs have done much to promote international understanding. They have opened up new vistas for many and encouraged greater tolerance among races and peoples. TV fills the hours of loneliness of the elderly and the sick. And think of the tremendous impact TV programs are having, for good or for bad, on the impressionable minds of school-age children.
But has TV’s impact on the modern world been exclusively positive? Do TV stations broadcast only programs that improve people’s culture, education and understanding of the world about them? Has not television also been used to bias people’s minds by means of subtle political propaganda or commercial high-pressuring? What has television done to people’s nerves, to their eating habits, to their health, both physical and spiritual? What impact has it had on family life and particularly on the children?
These are some of the questions that will be examined in the following articles on what television can do FOR you and TO you.