Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day meets TV Turn-off Week

Earth Day, today, falls during TV-Turnoff Week, which lasts through Saturday. The conjunction of the two is occasion to reflect on how television, the public’s most used source of consumer messages and journalistic information, affects the Earth.

Consider this “starter” list of ten ways TV impacts the environment:

1. With the average American watching roughly 7 hours of TV a day, television sucks up lives that could be put to use working to improve the environment.

2. Because most television is in the business of stimulating consumption, it contributes to the depletion of the Earth’s resources.

3. Television sells its time to highest bidders, and the highest bidders are often corporations that exploit the environment and “green wash” their commercial messages.

4. Even public television (once known as “non-commercial” television) has sold out to these corporate interests. Precious few programs address the environmental crisis, and none that I know of do it in an on-going, systematic way. (I’d love to be proven wrong on this. Nominees?)
5. Television appeals to emotion and not the intellect. Issues of importance, like the survival of the planet, are often ignored as being too difficult to explain.

6. TV networks and cable and broadcast outlets are owned by fewer and fewer media conglomerates. Through overlapping directorates and industry lobbying, they collude to put their own commercial interests (ie. profits) above environmental issues.

7. Television’s alluring fantasy programming distracts the public from “real world” issues, like the degradation of the environment.

8. Through stereotyping, television panders to “enemy making,” which contributes to environmentally destructive wars and conflicts.

9. Major media conglomerates are also major military contractors whose very weapons are environmentally destructive.

10. By fear mongering through its violent programming and through news that exaggerates crime, TV isolates adults and children within their homes, segregating from the outdoors, nature and the environment. See "Mean World Syndrome."

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