Television

We usually spend a lot of time in front of the TV whether we realize it or not. Whenever we have spare time, it's a way to relax, to get informed, entertained, forgetting about the worries of our daily life, about problems we have at work or school. It's the most common way of spending the weekends comfortably at home. There is thus a tendency of people's turning into the so-called "couch potatoes", even if it's for a while.

Although TV has its good and informative side, there are many bad things that it can bring, especially for children and teenagers who are more vulnerable than grown-ups. The movies on TV can often be damaging for young people. They show other young people indulging in all kinds of vices and harmful behavior, who act as if going to church is un-cool, unpleasant, that Christians are generally brain-damaged or hypocrites. The characters in those movies often show very little respect towards anything, unfortunately, and they also often become teenagers' role models. They curse a lot and use a vulgar language in order to express all they are thinking, and often have dubious entourages.

Role Models - Imitation

A study conducted by child and family protection association shows that more and more young people and children under 10 years of age tend to imitate movies, cartoons and music stars' behavior in their need for a role model. If we take a random TV show, we notice that more than a third of it contains elements of vulgarity, violence, atheism or frequenting certain people and places that don't really have any good influence. Moreover, it is considered as cool and fashionable to have all sorts of vices. There have recently appeared a lot of such programs with all sorts of "fights" between good and evil, where the protagonists use magic to defeat their enemies, where violence is highly valued, where there are a lot of vulgar words and insults. And an innocent and naive child can learn that one should use magic as that magic makes you look superior, it helps you control the world, and so you can control anybody. Aren't these bad things to teach a child?

Violence

Violence is another bad thing promoted in television by means of all sorts of films including cartoons. Children and youngsters watching violent movies, cartoons or other TV shows learn that they can use violence to ask for something and are sure to get what they want whenever they want, which again, is obviously yet another lie. We can't get all we want anytime we want; many times there are other elements involved that we need to take into account.

By following the advice and imitating the characters in the world of showbiz, youngsters end up making mistakes that bring destruction, such as taking up vices together with the desire of getting deeper into them and not giving them up, so that they would not appear as "weird" in the eyes of their judging friends. Unfortunately, still going down that path, many young people commit abortions, killings or even suicide. Numerous young girls have troubles accepting their looks, their weight, still due to the influence of showbiz and mass-media. They have eating disorders, they get depressed.

When you come to think at the people in the countryside although they are usually considered redundant and old-fashioned, (definitely not cool), they do not have so many problems with depression, weight, and so on. They are used to physical labor, which also keeps the mind healthy and strong, and the spirit high. So TV has one of the most disastrous effects on human mind. The radiations emitted by the TV produce a hypnotic effect on the viewers, irascibility and anxiety.

However, we cannot say that television does not promote good things also. For instance, certain TV programs broadcast documentaries and reportages about people and places, about animals, and of course, religious programs. But unfortunately, most TV programs seem contaminated with a virus which has the power to reduce the viewer's general culture, turning him/her into a sort of puppet that can be easily controlled, without any opposition from his/her part. And apart from cartoons (or at least some of them), we cannot even choose a harmless TV program for us and our children.

The word 'television' has its roots in the Latin and Greek languages. The word is derived from the Greek word 'tele', which translates as 'far sight' and the Latin word 'visio', which means 'sight'. The invention made it to commercial markets in the late 1930s. Today, television is the most popular form of audio-visual communication in homes and commercial set-ups. The mere mention of the word 'TV', brings to mind a medium that helps us to keep abreast with current affairs and entertainment. The television set is no more a single communications unit. It has evolved in design complexity to broadcast recorded material stored in video cassettes, DVDs, laser discs, and Blu-ray discs.

Television: An Account of its History

The history of television spans over regions and time zones, since the technology evolved at different times in different places. The communication system, as we know it today, is not the brainstorm of any 'one' particular inventor. It has taken the efforts of many engineers, over many decades, to progress along different overlapping designs, to employ commonly accepted mechanical and electronic principles. Even though the electromechanical television sets are now being abandoned in favor of the ultra-modern, completely electronic designs, the basic design rests on the 1873 discovery of selenium photo-conductivity. This discovery made by Willoughby Smith led to the Paul Gottlieb Nipkow invention of a scanning disk, in 1884. Thereafter, in 1926, when John Logie Baird demonstrated televised moving images, the technology was combined with the image dissector designed by Philo Farnsworth, in 1927, to give us the basic principles of the communication device we know today.

These basics were experimented upon in different countries, by different people. However, the earliest records were those maintained and publicized by Nipkow, a 20-year old German student. In 1884, he became the first to propose and patent an electromechanical television system. The discovery of selenium photo-conductivity and Nipkow's scanning disk technology were first combined to produce an electronic transmission in the early 20th century. Thereafter, still pictures composed of spaced dots were a regular feature. Development of the amplification tube technology is credited to Lee DeForest and Arthur Korn. Between 1907 and 1909, the first demonstration of instantaneous transmission by Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier, using the rotating mirror-drum and a 64 selenium matrix, added another chapter to the Information and Communication Revolution.

The first development of sound backed pictures came in 1911, when Boris Rosing and Vladimir Kozmich Zworykin used the mechanical mirror-drum scanner to transmit sound through a Braun or cathode ray tube. Thought the sensitivity was not enough, it was a modest beginning to a revolution in television history. John Logie Baird, the Scottish inventor who first televised moving images, demonstrated silhouette motion-images in 1925. In the same year, the team at AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories was successful in transmitting halftone still images, while the genius of Charles Francis Jenkins experimented with the lensed disk scanner technology, to produce images at the rate of 16 pictures per second. However, the modern definition of technology as 'live transmission of moving images with tonal variation', makes it imperative to credit Baird with the achievement. He gave the world the first demonstration of a working television system on 26th January, 1926. The vertically scanned images were a result of an application that derived functionality from a scanning disk and double spiral of lenses. Thus began our romance with a communication device, that continues to evolve in components and public service efficiency.

Television, the scientific invention that revolutionized the world of communication, has now become a debatable issue for its alleged role in influencing child behavior and psychology. Nowadays, children discover the world of television at a very tender age. According to some studies, children under the age of 6 years watch television, video or DVD, daily for 2 hours on an average. In many instances, television can be effective, especially the educational and wildlife programs to broaden your child's knowledge and understanding about the world around him/her. It can also introduce them to different cultures and communities of the world. However, presently its negative effects seem to outweigh the positive ones.

Can Television Negatively Influence Children?

✔ The early stage of life, especially the first 2 - 3 years, are crucial for the mental development of your child. This is the age in which children learn through playing, observing, interacting, and exploring new things.

✔ Therefore, these few years are very significant for the mental and physical development. So, a habit of excessive television watching can hamper their normal physical and social activities, like playing with friends, reading, and spending quality time with family.

✔ Many television programs depict excessive violence, which can induce a lot of behavioral changes in young children. As children can easily relate to what is shown on television, they are more likely to imitate such behavior. So, such programs may induce aggressive behavior and thoughts in children.

✔ It can also cause nightmares and sleep disorders in young children by stimulating a sense of fear and anxiety. Besides this, it may create a confusion in the young minds regarding what is good or bad. This is because parents may teach their children that violence and aggression is bad, while on the other hand, the television programs may show the 'good guys' or the heroes as the perpetrators of violence.

✔ In addition to these, violence, smoking, and drinking scenes are widely depicted on television programs and commercials, without explaining the adverse consequences. The continuous and repeated exposure to such programs makes them feel that these activities are normal and quite acceptable. Therefore, children who watch these scenes regularly are more likely to imitate and develop such unhealthy habits at an early age.

✔ Obesity is a common problem in the developed world, and television is one of the important factors responsible for the growing trend of obesity among children. Excessive television watching reduces physical activities of the children, and at the same time, increases the popularity of junk foods, like snacks, soft drinks, and potato chips among them through commercials. So, together they are the major contributory factors for obesity among children.

✔ The attractive advertisements or commercials also immensely influence children. Children do not understand that the main motive behind these commercials is to sell products, irrespective of their importance and necessity.

✔ The appealing advertisements lure them to a range of products, both necessary and unnecessary. Besides these, television can also lead to poor academic performances by discouraging the habit of reading. Many believe that television watching can be an important cause of attention deficit disorder among children.

Therefore, moderation is quite important to ensure that the television is used as a source of healthy entertainment and for enhancing knowledge. So, it is better to set a time limit for watching television. Children should be encouraged to participate in activities, like playing games and reading books. Before allowing them to watch television programs, the parents should take into account the program's reviews and television ratings. They should be encouraged to watch programs that reinforce family values. As parents are the role models for their children, it is equally important for them to limit their own television watching to set an example for them.

Closed captioning refers to the display of text on a television or video screen and is created to make an audio representation of the audio and video signals. Formerly developed for the hearing-impaired, it is also used as a teaching device for those learning English. The use of the word, 'closed' is to imply the viewer's ability to make a choice of whether or not to have text display on the screen. Closed captions appear on the television screen only if the viewer chooses to decode or activate them. On the other hand, open captioning is visible to all the viewers by default.

According to some, there is no difference between subtitles and closed captioning. However, the contrary is true. Subtitles are designed for those who do not understand the language in which that movie or video is. A movie in French language can have English subtitles so that the English audiences face no problems understanding the story of the movie. Subtitles are a close translation of the dialogs between the movie characters. The dialogs translated in another language help the viewers to follow the film or television show. Closed captioning refers to the facility to turn on captions that describe the audio content of the movie. It is not merely a translation of the dialogs. It is rather a description of the entire audio and non-speech content of the film.

It has served as a boon for those hard of hearing. Those with a loss of hearing can enjoy audio-visual media by reading the captions superimposed on the screen. The captions relate the verbal information in written form. They also convey to the viewers, the information that is implied by non-verbal means. Closed captioning includes the introduction of characters as also the symbolic representation of music and sound effects used in the movie.

Spectators can choose to mute their televisions and use only the captions. In case of taking a phone or any such interruptions, one can choose to mute the television set and turn the closed captioning facility on. Closed captioning can also help those learning a non-native language and finding it difficult to understand the language pronunciation.

Captions are displayed in a roll-up or pop-up fashion. Pop-up captions are commonly seen in pre-recorded programs while roll-up captions appear in programs aired live. Special expertise is required to provide live transmissions with closed captions. Paint-on captions appear letter by letter across the screen and are used quite rarely. Closed captioning is implemented by means of a decoder circuitry, which can be turned on to make visible the captions embedded in the vertical blanking interval. The blanking interval is the 21-line portion that does not contain picture information. The captions are encoded as a part of the electronic signal and thus the captioned program can be transmitted over air or satellite. If you see the symbol 'CC' after the movie title or program name, you can be sure that the program has the closed captioning facility.

Television and other media have always been blamed about showcasing violence to a large extent. Many television shows are infamous for their violent content. Television violence is about murders, bloodshed, explosions, disaster and death. TV shows often demonstrate hitting, stabbing, screaming, thus expressing negativity. This destruction shown on television has a deep impact on the viewers, especially children. Considering the impressionable years they are in, children are most vulnerable to violence on TV.

It is a point of debate whether television reflects society or behavior of society reflects what is shown on television. But at some point it becomes a vicious circle. People follow what they see on TV and television shows are based on what is prevalent is society. Television is bound to have a deep impact on the viewers, especially children and teenagers. Children tend to follow whatever they see blindly. Television violence influences children to a great extent because they relate to characters on television.

Television violence affects children of different ages in different ways. The effect depends on their level of understanding, the way they interpret and process information and their own experiences and upbringing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids under 2 years of age should not watch television and those older than 2 should not be allowed to watch more than 1 to 2 hours a day of good TV shows. Television, or any media for that matter can shape child behavior. Audio-visual media have the potential to influence a child's mind and make the child follow what he/she sees, without much thought. It's high time the elders realize this and restrict TV exposure of children.

How Television Violence Affects Children

Infants are attracted to watching TV. For them, it's just a play of light and sound, something visual and moving they enjoy watching. They often miss the program content. They can make sense only out of characters and faces familiar to them. It is said that if behavior on television is presented to them in simpler ways, they are likely to imitate it.
When children reach an age of two and half years, they begin to pay more attention to what is shown on TV and tend to imitate it. At that age children prefer to watch fast-moving characters and are likely to get exposed to television violence. During the pre-school age, children begin to derive meaning from what they see on television. Intense scenes and sounds attract them. Cartoon violence draws in the children of that age. It is seen that preschoolers behave aggressively after watching action and violence on TV.
During their initial years of schooling, children begin to understand what's shown on the television. They are able to follow the actions of characters and the consequences of the characters' actions. But they tend to think less on what they see, which results in reactions of a superficial nature. If children identify with a villain, they may start enacting his behavior. They think of emulating that violent hero. Due to overexposure to TV violence they may become tolerant to real world violence. Studies say that watching horror movies is sometimes an attempt by children to get over their own phobias.
When adolescent, they start watching television independently. At that age, they can reason everything they see but they are not mentally involved. They start idealizing someone and are tempted to act like him. They start believing that whatever is shown on TV is real. If they are exposed to suicides and crime they may try to imitate those kinds of behavior.

Children's minds are not mature enough to understand the context of the violence they watch on television. Take an example of a psychic villain or a murderer who constantly bears a feeling of guilt about his acts. In the first scenario, a child does not perceive the psychological disorder that has made him a villain. In the second case, a child fails to understand how empty a murderer's life is. Thus they are unable to comprehend the causes and effects of evil behavior. They do not understand the nuances of the scenes on television. They wrongly interpret the wrongdoer and go the wrong way.

Primarily, children become insensitive to others' pain. They may become numb on watching something terribly violent. Secondly, children feel that people around them are all of a violent nature. They think the world around them is similar to what is portrayed on TV. Due to this, they fear people. They speculate something ill happening to them. They feel the possibility of frightening incidents taking place in their lives. Influenced by the violence shown on TV, they may tend to harm others. They might become over-aggressive and rebellious. They can disobey rules. They may become impatient and refuse to wait for things, they then leave work unfinished thus do not perform well in school. Television violence can impact children in two distinct ways. Either they develop immunity towards cruelty or an extreme fear of living in a dangerous society grips them.

Television shows portraying the 'positive' are almost history. Scenes of TV stories are no more depictions of only the good. Today's wrestling shows, violent movies and intense emotions expressed on TV, are bound to leave a long-lasting impact on television viewers. Children have to face the after effects of television violence. Today's children are the future of our society and it's important that they stay away from violence. Violence might make children timid and pessimistic. It may instill evil feelings in their minds. Television violence creates a wrong picture of society in the young minds. They make suicidal attempts or may even take to murders. Youth takes to committing crime leading to youth violence. These harmful effects of television violence need to be curbed.

Parents have an important role to play in preventing their kids from watching the violence that is showcased on television. Kids should be encouraged to watch children's programs. Parent must use their discretionary powers to decide which programs their children should watch and which ones they should not. Early exposure to violence on TV leads to abnormalities in children's behavior. Parents are advised to pay attention to the programs their kids watch and restrict the time for which their kids can watch TV. They are advised to contact other parents and collectively implement rules for television watching. Parents need to reject violence in front of their children. They should explain their kids the reality behind the scenes. It's necessary to call the 'wrong' wrong when television violence is perpetually projecting it as 'right'.

In any given evening on most of the channels, there are multiple shows depicting violence, showing suggestive scenes, and a host of other activities that most parents don't want their children to see. Many still believe there is a 'family viewing hour' or a 'prime time' hour, that is dedicated to family-friendly shows. That is not the case anymore; there is not a 'family hour'. Back in 1975, the FCC established a policy that 'each television network in the United States had a responsibility to air 'family-friendly' programming in the first hour of the prime time lineup (8 to 9 p.m. ET).

However, in 1977 the mandate was hotly contested, and due to lawsuits, the FCC backed down and removed this requirement. What is unique about the chain of events that led to the FCC creating the family hour in the first place, was that, parents were arguing over the amount of sex and violence that was being shown on television at night. This was back in 1974―30 years ago! Times certainly have changed from then-the level of violence, sexually suggestive scenes, and other morally questionable activities has definitely increased on television, and no doubt, has contributed to some of the moral decay in our country.

In 1997, the FCC and other agencies were still seeing the need for some kind of regulation and information about the appropriateness of material shown on television. So, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) came together and created the 'TV Parental Guidelines' booklet (http://www.fcc.gov/initiatives.html) The booklet was created in concert with the FCC's order to find an acceptable way to rate the programs children were watching, as well as ratings for programs for general viewing audiences. Also, at this time, the FCC created consumer electronic equipment (primarily the V-chip), so that parents could have more control over the shows their children were able to watch.

The FCC established a ratings system for shows specifically geared towards children, so that parents would know the content of the show. For example, the rating of TV-Y means a program is designed to be appropriate for all children, while a rating of TV-Y7 is for children 7 years and older. They also created categories and guidelines for the general television audience using a rating system similar to the movie system. The ratings start at TV-G for general audiences all the way to TV-MA for mature audiences.

Looking for a way to make their voices heard, The Parents Television Council (www.parentstv.org) was formed in 1995. Originally begun as a grassroots council with a few members, the council has grown to having 1 million members, whose primary goal is to advocate responsible entertainment, and to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence, and profanity on television, and in other media. The non-partisan group works with elected officials, advertising companies to help enforce and maintain decency in television. There is also a celebrity advisory board that assists the PTC in achieving their goals. Some of the more notable people on the board are Connie Selleca, Naomi Judd, Billy Ray Cyrus, Pat Boone, and Tim Conway.

The PTC designed an Entertainment Tracking System (ETS) that is used to research and track programming of shows during prime time television. The ETS also analyzes the prime time hour and the ratings system of television shows. Using this custom-designed technology, the PTC routinely compiles information to produce their 'Family Guide to Prime Time Television'. This guide looks at every sitcom on most major channels and cable channels, and highlights for parents which shows contain inappropriate subject matter for children.

Certainly, parents and other people are concerned with the quality of television today. Hopefully, within the FCC, the cooperating communications agencies, the PTC and other watchdog agencies, there may come a time when there will be a perceived family hour, and television will, once again, be safe and enjoyable to watch.

Since the dawn of the 20th century, American ingenuity and productivity have been firmly entrenched in the act of churning out mass market entertainment, the single greatest nation in the world in terms of pop culture production. Nearly every medium, from the inception of radio to film, television, and now the Internet, has thrived in our media culture, thanks to the glamorized, over-the-top showy lights of Hollywood.

But, commercialism hasn't quite killed creative output in America. Sure, it's put it on hold many times and it makes it harder each and every year to dig through the mess and find those rare gems, but it hasn't killed it.

Especially now as the new generation of mass media evolves on the internet, there are more and more outlets for decent products to reach the masses, whether it be formerly underground music like The Arcade Fire or indie films pushing their way all the way to the Oscars like Little Miss Sunshine, the buzz machine that is the internet keeps everyone in the loop.

As big as the internet is these days though, still there are two main standards by which we remain happily entertained most days. And Television has become increasingly better than film at doing so. While Hollywood has wallowed in those pits of remakes and sequels, television has started to do something interesting all on its own, spend time and money on creative new ideas.

Good Writing
Good writing on television was as rare as slot car derbies on Animal Planet only a decade ago. The idea of putting a decent concept and a full production budget on par with a major motion picture into a television show didn't occur to most executives until channels like HBO and Showtime started doing it. The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and half a dozen other shows were massive successes and they were good, solidly written shows, devoid of cliché, tired sitcom humor, or reality show excess.

While it's true the reality show craze is just now starting to die down a bit (only to be replaced by the big stakes game show craze), the effects of those genuinely intelligent programs is still felt today in shows like Lost, 24, and House. The networks saw the effects of a serialized program with a well-developed plot and tons of interesting characters.

Characters, Characters, Characters
Characters are the key to any good television show. Look at the best ones out there. They have huge ensemble casts, full of people you hate, people you love, and people you want to see sleep with other people. Part of this is the need to maintain a story arc for more than 16 hours of show throughout a season (and beyond if it's a good show), but also it creates strong attachment to the viewer who keeps coming back to see what happens with so and so, their favorite character.

Films just blow stuff up any more, and unconvincingly. If you manage to craft a strong plot in which lots of interesting ideas are floating around (Miami Vice for example) and forget the basic tenets of making me care in the slightest about who is doing what, I'm going to lose interest...and quickly.

Fearlessness to Be Different
Everything out of Hollywood these days is a rehash. Original ideas tend not to find an audience in the Hollywood offices, regardless of whether they would in a theater. One needs only look at the nominees for best picture the last couple of years to see at least half of the films on the list didn't do well at all in the box office.

It's the comic book adaptations, remakes, and 80s rehashes that bring in the big bucks these days and as long as that's what people pay to see, that's what Hollywood will make. But, on television, writers are taking chances, creating new and exciting ideas, or reworking tired stereotypes (such as Heroes) to create compelling new shows.

The idea that a television program doesn't need to be the same as another show that was on four years ago with different characters and a new house must have come as a shock to the networks, but at least they're listening to the fans and running with the idea.

Serialize without exploiting
Serialization is a great tool. It allows for a single plotline to be carried over the course of multiple episodes or seasons and still maintain an audience. Because of the massive growth of DVD, it's the reason television series that follow such a formula have been so successful. If you create a 16 hour run of a single storyline that people find compelling and offer it for sale on six discs that can be watched simultaneously, it will be successful.

But film has had a bit of trouble with the same formula. A financially successful film will be revamped and turned into a new film to be released three years later, mainly in hopes of duplicating the original success of the first film. However, the concepts are maintained.

True trilogies, films that maintained the breadth and emotion of their originals are almost always successful. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Lord of the Rings all stayed true to the source material and in most cases serialized the content. Spiderman is another good recent example of the same idea.

But genres like the horror genre start pumping out yearly incarnations of the same story but with more blood (and less plot), they only dilute the original film and the fan base. We mustn't forget the effects of milking a franchise for cash. If the third and fourth Batman films taught us anything, there can be too much, and it can be incredibly horrible.

At this point, television is better than film. It just is. There are more original ideas, bold ideas, and willingness to experiment on television these days and the film industry might just be taking notice, actually taking some of the more successful writers and producers on TV like J.J Abrams to revitalize old franchises like Star Trek. But, they've got a long way to go with people like Uwe Boll and Michael Bay on the loose.