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Debate: Does television have a malign influence on society?

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Does television have a malign influence on society?

Background and context

Nowadays television plays a significant role not only in social and political life, acting as a tool for spreading information and forming people’s mentality, but also in the everyday life of individuals as a source of entertainment. It affects our minds and plays a role in shaping social changes. It is argued that this may be harmful as television shows more and more sex and violence, sacrifices the quality of the programs for the sake of commercial benefit and takes away the biggest part of our free time. On the other hand it is impossible to imagine the life of modern society without television, especially keeping in mind the crucial importance of spreading information around the globe.

Contents

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Advertisements - Do TV ads have a negative influence on individuals?

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Yes

  • Television is greatly abused for commercial purposes and other types of uses, in which audiences are constantly sold to: Advertisers try to convince the audience that the solution to a problem or the fulfilment of a desire can only be achieved through the purchase of a product. It is designed towards blind acceptance by the viewer. In this way TV negatively affects the human mind, by limiting the possibilities of conscious choice, and promotes a consumer society. It can be also misused to urge people to buy even things they do not need by subliminal advertising.
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No

  • Television is not the only tool for advertisement: The influence of commercials reaches our society through newspapers, radio and other sources of information. On the other hand, advertisement is just a source of information for consumers, which enables them to choose between different products. Advertising can also be regulated in different ways that do not relate to a debate about television. Indeed television broadcasting can be run without advertising at all; the U.K.’s BBC runs no commercials but is paid for through a licensing fee, while commercial broadcasters are increasingly promoting pay-per-view options.
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Violence and crime - Does TV watching increase crime and violence rates?

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Yes

  • TV encourages anti-social behavior.
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No

  • There is no direct link between mass media and antisocial behaviour: Such behavior is usually determined by social environment, family, peer pressure, or other factors. Many antisocial people even do not watch TV, while others may claim it is responsible for their actions simply to avoid taking responsibility for themselves. Psychologists claim that television does not have a simple, direct stimulus-response effect on its audiences. This can be illustrated by the example of Japan, where TV movies are famous for extreme violence, but the crime rate is low – much lower than in many societies where TV viewing is relatively rare.
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Influence - Does TV substantially influence the moral behavior of people, and in a bad way?

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Yes

  • A big part of TV audience consists of teenagers, who are particularly vulnerable to the violence and various stereotypes, promoted by TV: This is because the mentality of young people is in the process of formation. Television’s impact on the morality of the younger generation can affect the future of our society negatively, and so the state and parents should act to limit their exposure to it.
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No

  • It is obvious that the influence of family, friends, religion and school is decisive in forming the moral values of young people: If parents and teachers are not willing or capable of performing their proper role, then teenagers can be negatively influenced not only by TV, but also by friends, their social environment and other factors.
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Value: Does TV have little substantive cultural value?

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Yes

  • Television is mostly directed to films and shows that have commercial purposes but little cultural value: Television has become a temple of mass production, shallow values and stereotypes that have a great influence on modern society. This negative effect spreads with the growing popularity of TV, especially among young people and children. It defiantly changes our society for the worse, trivialising culture and making us all conform to a bland, "Hollywood" model of entertainment in which regional traditions and diversity are lost.
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No

  • Many scientific and cultural programs are shown on television, which give new educational opportunities for our society: In addition TV is a very important factor in our information society. It enables the spread of information and opinion on important political and social issues, thus encouraging individuals to participate more actively in the life of society. Call-in shows and other programs help to establish closer links between politicians and electors. TV represents different interests and gives more opportunities for self-expression, thus forming a more open society. Interactive digital channels promise even more such opportunities in the future, perhaps creating electronic town-halls to assist democratic decision-making, and allowing niche channels to address particular cultural traditions or interests.
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Time and life - Are people simply spending too much of their day watching television, at the expense of living fuller lives?

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Yes

  • People spend the biggest part of their free time watching television: According to the statistics, the average American child watches 26 hours a television per week. That’s how TV programs reduce the quality of real life by narrowing people’s outlook, limiting the variety of free time activities, affecting family relations by reducing conversation, and even having an impact on health by discouraging exercise.
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No

  • People are conscious creatures and they can choose the way to spend their free time that they prefer: Parents should be blamed for the habits of their children, but not television. The life style of the individual determines the role of television in his or her free time, but not vice versa. In any case, young people in many countries are now spending less time watching television than they did ten years ago, preferring to surf the internet instead.
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Depression and TV - Does TV cause depression and/or anxiety among people?

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Yes

  • Depression is a well-known psychological problem of modern society that is partly caused by tv watching: The popularity of TV watching is among the reasons of this phenomenon. Violence, aggression, crimes and wars are broadcast through the daily news as well as in movies, showing dark pictures that encourage psychological tension, pessimism and negative emotions.
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No

  • People should be informed about the World they live in and its problems, and through visceral images on tv that represent that reality honestly: This kind of information is the first step towards solving them. Besides TV shows, comedies, musical channels perfectly serve as a source of entertainment and positive emotions, helping people to take their mind off their troubles.
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Health concerns: Does watching TV have negative effect on human health?

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Yes

  • Obesity risks. TV watching is a passive hobby that raises obesity (and diabetes) risks.
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No

So long as TV watching is not all consuming, it should not have an ill effect on a person's health. In addition to watching TV, a person should be maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle - with sport, nutrition and rest. Part of the TV watching could actually be done in a gym (enabling a person to maintain their aerobic fitness while watching TV), or part of a person's rest and recreation time could involve watching a favourite TV program. The key here is balance.


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