Television America

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Television: America’s New Dictator? Essay, Research Paper Television: America’s New Dictator? During the course of television’s history, this powerful medium has had remarkable influence on the social and moral values of Americans, altering the manner in which they think and live. In the words of Neil Postman, “Television has, by its power to control the time, attention, and cognitive habits of our youths, inevitably gained the power to control their minds and character” (Bill 59). It should first be made clear that television is a business whose focus is profit, not necessarily quality programming. Profit is based on advertising and advertising is based on viewership which is measured by ratings, like Nielsen. In the United States, television is the capitalist

dream come true. Viewers think they are getting entertainment and news for free. They aren’t. All this free stuff has a price. In return for free versus fee TV, Americans expose themselves to slick, sophisticated scenarios devised solely to get them to spend. Television is nothing more or less than an advertising medium. It is perhaps the most effective one ever invented (Bill 39-40). According to a list found in a paper prepared for the 1982 conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, “enhancing buying behavior” is the second highest effect of television, exceeded only by “increasing world knowledge” (Bower 115). Because the television industry wants advertisers’ business, it runs programs that will lure viewers to the set. Unfortunately, the

programs which intrigue the most viewers are often the most harmful. For instance, programs containing sexual scenes will attract viewers. It is a known fact throughout the advertising and film industries that sex sells, so these programs will prevail. In 1987 the Planned Parenthood Federation conducted a study to determine the amount of sexual material that was shown on television. The study concluded that, during prime afternoon and evening hours, 65,000 sexual references are broadcast per year. This means that the average American now sees nearly 14,000 instances of sexual material on television every year. (Lichter et al 26) The same study found that only one in every 85 of those sexual references involved sex education, birth control, abortion, or sexually transmitted

diseases. “Ironically, television is now willing to integrate sex into every aspect of life except for marriage and children” (Lichter et al 47). Television has not always been this way, but it is scary to see its rapid liberal progression. For example, television and the movies used to give married couples separate beds. Sex, or even sexual innuendos were strictly avoided. In today’s society, almost anything goes: Twenty years ago sexual activity was rarely hinted at, much less headlined, and extramarital sex was often condemned. Today most forms of sexual behavior are either taken for granted or treated as legitimate choices of personal life-style. Extramarital sex, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, and prostitution have all lost their taboo status. Shows condemning

adultery have been outnumbered by those that treat it as understandable, a fact of life, or something that doesn’t require comment. (Lichter et al 49; 34-5)The above in itself is quite disturbing, but there is more. sex on television very rarely has anything to do with love or commitment. “Sex is something you do to fulfill a basic urge. Like getting a drink when you’re thirsty. Love and lust are, on television, the same thing” (Bill 77). These morals which are portrayed on television shape the minds of young people across the country. “Through the years the possible effect of television on children has been the subject of more concern by parents, advocacy groups, and governments than any other aspect of the pervasive medium” (Bower 113). A song written by Cole Porter