Sunday, 30 January 2011

Post#168 Death to Television

Here are some comments from a post by Anastasia on Ana the Imp about censorship. I was prompted to suggest that the entire concept of broadcast television should have been deleted:

/// Retarius said... bad does something have to be before it's a genuine threat? And how relentlessly insightful do you need to be to recognise it?

In the 1950's there was actually a debate in Australia about whether television broadcasting should be allowed. I think, on balance, that we'd be better off if the opposers had won. That's something I wouldn't have expected to write in earnest 30 years ago. Now it seems the most natural and sensible conclusion to come to.

15 December 20:10 01:15

Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont said...

Retarius, all television? That seems a bit drastic. Mind you the idea of being spared Simon Cowal and Gordon Ramsay has a certain appeal. :-)

15 december 2010 15:24

Retarius said...

Yes, all. An interesting indicator of the state of affairs in a home is to locate the television/s and see how the rest of the furniture is arranged with respect to it/them. There's something pathetic in a room where the TV is the focus of the seating, like an altar in a temple.

I drove the false god out of my home about twelve years ago by deciding to not replace the last of its avatars which had infested my space. I still see some of it occasionally in other places but I've never regretted being rid of it. It has two serious evils; it is non-interactive and acts as an anchor to the viewer who is trapped by it.

16 December 2010 03:28 ///

Television means "far-seeing", a compound of Greek and Latin which provoked some controversy among philologists when first coined, because of its mixed lineage. This academic quibble is the least cause to complain of it. Here's something I wrote way back in Post#8 to this blog:

I once read an article about television in a very old bound volume of Meanjin, a venerable magazine which many Australians will know of. The edition was from the early 1950's and the article dealt with the issue of whether television should be allowed to be established as a service in Australia. I was amazed at the time of reading that anybody could have thought of stopping it. I now wonder what would have happened if a transmission of the typical fare of today could have been sent back to 1950 for the edification of the citizens. The cynical, unashamed stuff that really is broadcast. Not the placatory promises about the cultural and educational benefits of the service which accompanied its introduction; the real everynight thing. I am sure they would have been utterly repulsed and would have damned the thing to Hell. Even though I still watch some of it, I wouldn't mind if it didn't exist. The cost/benefit analysis is in. Television is a net loss.

I wouldn't change a letter of that. The television device itself is not the menace. The video screen component is adapted for use in surveillance, computer displays and video players. The essential difference is that these are devices used at the discretion of the viewer. The free-to-air broadcast which was the original and worst use of television is not free in the least. It imposes a loss of choice; requiring that the viewer make themselves available at the convenience of the broadcaster. It also contains potential for obnoxious ambushes in which something one wouldn't choose to see is snuck in during a commercial break or in the course of a programme which, while initially tolerable may take a nasty turn.  If there's a child in the room these incidents can really annoy a would-be responsible adult. Yes, the home video recorder can spare this, if you're willing to engage in the manouvres required to make it work and to cope with the unreliable schedules of the networks.

The most vile effect of the contraption is the brainwashing of children into Pavlovian consumerism. In the hey-day of the Mutant Ninja Turtles in the mid-1990's I  saw a woman pushing a trolley through a supermarket with a child of three or four years riding in it.  He caught sight of a pizza box in a freezer with one of the critters pictured on the cover and began frantically screaming, "I want the turtle! I WANT THE TURTLE!!"
She pushed him away into the distance with his screams echoing and a dispirited expression on her face. The proper response to this was to take a sledgehammer to the television, but I imagine it didn't occur to her.

An American commentator said it in one line: "The television is the open end of a sewer which deposits its contents in your living-room."