- Broadcasting visual images of stationary or moving objects
- An electronic device that receives television signals and displays them on a screen
What a great invention. The television. It allows moving images to be broadcast in colour over invisible waves, and beamed right into your living room, bedroom, or indeed any room you want. You can have cable tv, Satellite tv or Terrestrial tv. You can receive thousands of channels in many different languages. Yes, the tv is really a remarkable invention.
There’s great drama, comedy, and factual programs. You can watch movies you missed at the cinema, and you can get up to the minute breaking news from around the world. See all the sports live! All beamed directly into your living room. You don’t have to do a thing. Just sit there and let yourself be educated, informed, or entertained.
Education. Information. Entertainment
Children rush home from school to watch cartoons; you catch up on the latest soap every night; you all watch the movie at night; your partner watches the car show; you watch the home shopping channel; you both watch the latest blockbuster from hollywood; The children watch the kiddie shows; you watch the nature show; your partner catches up on the day’s news. It’s time for bed, but there’s just one more show, one you just have to watch… And soon, you drift asleep. If you wake up, there’s always something on; a commercial, a movie, or a show that’s being repeated.
You see, television never sleeps. It’s not like it used to be, where the tv station closed down at midnight. It’s all changed now. Tv is in your home, even when it’s off. You’re always receiving. And as soon as you push that button, on comes the news, the headlines, the drama, the comedy, the movies, the serials, and the commercials.
Round and round, you click that remote, until you find something that satisfies. “Ahhh, that’s better, something I can relax to.”
And that’s it isn’t it? It’s relaxing, even if it’s an interesting science program. You don’t have to think, you just open your eyes and ears, and in it comes. No effort required. Not like reading a book or studying. This is pure relaxation. It’s the one time you don’t have to think.
The most exciting new piece of television since the last most exciting new piece of television
And the tv companies know it. They know what you want, after all, they control what you see. Did you ever think about that? Who decides what you see? Who decides what you relax to? Multinational television companies broadcasting worldwide, controlled by a handful of men, as rich as you could ever imagine, these are the people who decide what you see. These are the people who are in your life 24/7. Do you know anything about these people, their values, or their ethics?
How do you know that the content on the news channel hasn’t been guided by the political bias of the tv station owner? The answer is, you don’t. You don’t know anything about them.
Let’s discuss the station owners, the ones you don’t know anything about. These are the people who decide what education your child gets from television. These are the people you leave in charge of your children, when you’re too tired to play with them. While you rest, these people are addicting your children, to the latest craze, the latest game, the latest merchandise from the most popular tv program. They’ve addicted your child, and now you have to deal with them. They know you’ll give in eventually.
“Mum I need the latest backpack it’s from…”
“Mum, can I have the new pencil case/lunch box /dvd/game/t-shirt/shoes, they have the logo from my favourite series on them. Mum Pleeeeeeease!”
“Mum, all the kids at school have them, if I don’t have them I’ll be the only one without them, and no one will talk to me, mum, pleeeeeeease!”
And so it goes on, from what seemed to be just a harmless children’s show, now becomes a major shopping expedition for you every month as soon as the latest craze appears! And if you don’t comply, you will see the face of a screaming child who hates you and never wants to talk to you again, until you buy it. Then it’s “thanks mum, I really love you mum.”
Is this addiction? Have the tv companies successfully addicted your child so young? Well, they do know psychology. They know what works. They know how to make you spend money. Are they smarter than you? After all, you are the most intelligent being on the planet. Could the tv companies have tricked you, without you knowing it? Maybe not. But they know who to get to instead. Your child. He will make you buy the products. After all, you love him and you don’t want to see him unhappy. But it’s not all just about merchandising.
I’m sure you think about limiting your children’s tv time, and making sure they only watch programs designed for their age group. But have you ever considered what watching tv is doing to your child’s brain? Sure, these programs seem harmless enough, cartoons or fairytales, in fact some children’s programs seem better than adult ones. But by watching tv they are creating addiction, a need, something they can’t do without. If your child had never had tv in the house do you think he would miss it? I doubt it.
From the age of two, to the age of sixteen, how much tv will your child watch? Imagine the healthy things you could do together in all that tv time. The one thing tv breaks down is communication between parent and child. Whenever there is a problem with a child, especially a teenager, they retreat to their room and put on the television. Teenagers need a lot of space as they grow up, but retreating to a world which just numbs the brain can’t possibly be of any help.
“Quiet mum I’m watching my favourite program!”
“Mum, leave me alone, I’m just watching tv all right? I’ll do my homework in a minute!”
Television is all encompassing, all addicting, and once you’re hooked, you can’t give it up.
Do you think it changes when you get older? Once you have a job, a routine, less physical activity, you’re tired after work… You just need to relax! And what’s good for relaxing – apart from alcohol? That’s right, tv.
It just feels nice to sit in front of the tv, to curl up on the sofa and just relaaaaxxxxx. It doesn’t really matter what’s on, although it would be nice if it was your favourite program, and so you flick through the channels on your remote control, seeking anything that takes your fancy, probably grumbling, “there’s never anything good on when I want to watch tv.” Of course, the program you like is never on when you’re in, or it’s on too early, or too late.
This is interesting. If we go into “there’s never anything good on when I want to watch tv.” what this means is that you are merely sitting down relaxing, and the tv itself is unimportant, yet we turn it on all the same, making it a substitute for human company, one we don’t have to interact with.
We want to relax, and this is the quickest method to do it. But what would you do to relax if you didn’t have a tv? There are many things which are relaxing, but you can’t really be bothered can you? You’re tired, you’ve had a hard day…
I watch tv to relax, what’s wrong with that?
So we have seen that the content is not as important as the fact that it is there and on, but I hear you saying: “I only watch the programs I am interested in, and I don’t turn it on at other times,” which is most commendable, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I’m sure all of you could come up with numerous programmes that are worth watching, but there’s always programs that grab your interest isn’t there? Especially if you are interested in documentaries and nature programs.
You can always say they’re educational, but these aren’t subjects you are deeply interested in, are they? Are you deeply interested in arctic whale watching or deadly snakes, in your spare time? Or are you interested in pre-world war air planes, or the history of world war one? Maybe, but isn’t the main reason you want to watch it is that it has been provided for you by the television companies as entertainment; something you can be interested in but at the same time relax to?
An activity that is diverting and that holds the attention
That is what tv is at its best, entertainment – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year; hundreds of channels, mind boggling brain mush.
How many of you have been motivated to really do something, really change something, really get involved with something, really help the world because of something you saw on tv? Maybe you bought that new power washer on special offer; or the food processor that was advertised as buy one get one free; or maybe you rushed down to the store to pick up the new anti-ageing cream that has just come out, and guarantees you’ll look younger.
Companies pay huge sums of money to get access to you. In fact, none but the richest can advertise on national television – it is seriously expensive. These companies also pay huge sums of money in producing the tv ads. Why would they do it? Well, even if you don’t think you watch a lot of tv you are being exposed to advertising. They make them catchy, with tunes and slogans you remember. You find yourself saying “I like this one,” but you would never admit it influenced you into buying their products, would you? But still, these companies keep on advertising their products.
They advertise shampoo, clothes, anti-everything creams for women, special offers at the supermarkets, and anything that children can convince their mum to buy. Why do you think I say mum? Because advertisers aren’t really targeting men with their anti-ageing creams, or their fancy shampoos and hair care products, are they? Who generally keeps hold of the household budget? Women. They’re the ones being targeted because advertisers know they love a bargain, and statistically speaking, love to shop.
So, if you’re a man, you may not notice advertising as much when it’s about ice cream on special, but you will notice when a new car is sexily advertised, or beer is advertised with sexy women on the screen.
If you didn’t know it already, advertising uses carefully selected psychology to win you over. They know what pushes your buttons. They know what makes you reach in your pocket and pull out the cash for their products. They know you better than you know yourself, but it all just seems like a harmless bit of advertising, doesn’t it?
Let me ask you again, do you really think that these global companies would have got to be global companies if they didn’t know how to seduce you with advertising? They don’t care if the product they’re selling is good for you or indeed anyone, but they do know one thing – they know they’ve got to sell a lot of it to pay for all that advertising, and make a big profit to keep the shareholders happy.
But why should we let them into our home? We didn’t invite them did we?
How annoyed do you get if someone phones you and says: “Hello alan, I’m calling to save you money on your phone bill,” or “good evening alan, I would like to save you money on your electricity bill” Oh how angry we get! “How did you get my phone number! I’m in the middle of my dinner! I’m not interested!” Even if they could save us money, we hate that kind of direct sales, the intrusiveness into our lives, don’t we?
What about the poor old door to door salesman? Is that a tough job or what? Because if we don’t like telephone sales, we certainly don’t like real people turning up at our door unannounced, they could be anybody, and “I’m in the middle of my dinner, I don’t care what your selling, I’m not interested. Goodbye!”
So let’s look at this shall we? We don’t like people intruding into our home, either by telephone, or in person even if it saves us money, or they want to talk to us about poverty in the third world. It’s our home, our private space of relaxation away from the outside world, and we don’t want it intruded upon, thank you very much.
So let me ask you this question. If you dislike telesales, and really dislike door to door sales, why do you feel comfortable with hundreds of companies advertising their products to you in your private space of relaxation away from the outside world, every fifteen minutes, in the middle of your favourite program, in what we have discussed, is really your relaxation time?
Please stop and think about this very carefully as it really is most important.
You are sitting relaxing, and adverts about fast food, cars, magazines, and supermarket special offers come on, and they float right into your head.
Imagine how you would feel if you received that many phone calls in the middle of your favourite program or several men turned up to sell you products in the middle of the news. I don’t need to ask you how you would feel, do I?
But with tv ads it’s different, isn’t it? For starters, they’re not “real” people, although you can see and hear them, and they are not threatening in any way. They’re not forcing you to buy their product, they just give you their short message and leave your screens for another half an hour. They’re friendly, they smile nicely, the models are attractive, and they wear colourful clothes.
Everyone in advertising looks happy. It’s fun and nice and inoffensive, unlike the unattractive door to door salesman, standing in the rain, in his grey suit and mismatching tie, using his well worn pitch, and unexciting voice. Compare this now to the glamour of tv advertising, the catchy music, the feel good voice over. What’s the difference?
One word: Entertainment
That’s right! It’s still entertainment. Remember the definition? An activity that is diverting and that holds the attention. You are being entertained, while the message subtly finds its way into your brain. Think about it the next time you are happily watching adverts and the phone rings with some commission only salesperson desperately trying to make a living!
They’re both trying to sell you something, but only the tv advert can add the glamour to make selling a mobile phone, or a car, entertainment. That’s all it is. And guess what? We buy into it.
There’s just one interesting thing though, if you, as an individual, wanted to buy some advertising space for something of importance to the world, say, for example to bring the plight of workers in the third world, or arms trading issues, or criticism of the government, to the attention of the people, and you had the money to do it, who do you think would put your advertisement on national television? The answer, a concrete, no one.
Why? Because they rely on advertising revenue, and they don’t want their advertisers to get scared. They want to keep everything running smoothly with nothing controversial to spoil the ratings.
That’s why you get the same types of programmes all the time. Nothing too challenging, just keep it middle of the road, that’s what the advertisers want. Of course, occasionally, there is some investigative journalism, expose of criminals and fraudulent companies, or an award winning report from the war front. So now, if you want to know who the people really are behind the tv companies, you’ll have to look to the global corporations. They pay the salaries of the station employees.
There’s just one more group that I’d like to discuss with you and that is the public broadcasters. Some do not broadcast advertisements as they are solely funded through the taxpayer and some countries levy a mandatory television licence fee, but this is not for the tv itself, it is to pay for the national broadcaster, whether you watch their stations or not.
National broadcasters are in a unique position to put programming in place that is not just “entertainment,” and to produce programs that challenge us, and educate us in ways we have not considered before; but they never will. Why? Because all we want is to be entertained – to relax. We don’t really want to be challenged, do we? And as a broadcaster spending taxpayers money, they have to give us what we want, and that is: Entertainment.
So why do you think we need to be constantly entertained? What is it that makes us watch television for hours on end, even when we’re tired and should go to bed? What makes us finish work and slouch in the tv chair all night, apart from relaxation and entertainment?
One word: Boredom
That’s right, you’re bored (tired of the world). You’ve lost interest in the world, and tv helps, doesn’t it? You just can’t think of anything to do, but you can’t just sit there alone in silence, can you? Television numbs the mind; it is like elevator muzak for the brain, and it gives just enough stimulation to keep you from thinking about your own life. It makes sure you don’t spend too long with your own thoughts, it gives you an escape from reality and places you firmly in fantasy land.
That’s really what entertainment is about isn’t it? Escapism from reality. That’s why we just leave the tv on, even if there’s no interesting programs we want to watch, that’s why we just leave the adverts on. The point is we just need to escape for a while, but not in quiet! That would be much too disturbing, wouldn’t it?
Have you ever watched tv with the sound down? Strange, isn’t it? On the one hand, you have the visual stimulation, but on the other, you’re missing the audio stimulation. You see, we can’t be in quiet for too long; we don’t want to be alone with ourselves, so we need to fill our mind with both visual and audio stimulation to muffle our thoughts – and to some extent, it works. Until you turn it off, and then there is an eerie silence.
So you phone someone, talk to your partner, go to the pub, go to the cinema, play a game, read, anything to stop the thoughts. Anything to stop the boredom, to stop the creeping thoughts that life is pretty pointless. “What am I doing with my life? I hate my job, I hate where I live…” When activity stops, that’s where reality comes in.
But tv is different to reading a book or chatting with someone on the phone, as a means of distracting yourself from reality, isn’t it? At least you are in control of your other distractions. With television, the companies push information at you, help you to form opinions, subtly convince you to buy their advertisers products, addict you to their programs, and tell you what is important, what you should be thinking about. All in the guise of information, education and entertainment.
Remember, you don’t decide what should be shown on tv. The advertisers and the tv executives do, and polls tell them which is the most popular of the programs they choose to show you. The ones they get the most people to watch. In the end, it’s about ratings. And ratings are about money. That’s all. It’s not about anything else.
Companies can’t exist if they don’t make money, pure and simple. So they will come up with any formula they can to get you to watch their programs as opposed to their competitors programs. It’s not about who has the most interesting, the most intelligent and most honest and varied content to educate and inform you. It’s just about how many people watch a show, and how much money they earn from advertisers.
It may be just entertainment and boredom relief for you, but to them, it’s all about money
But we could all start a tv station if we wanted to! All we have to do is raise a few million pounds for the licence and broadcasting equipment, have our content approved by the government, and off we go. But what would we show? Another crime drama, more breaking news of some terrible disaster happening right now? A religious program? A sports show? A reality show? (there’s an idea!) How about a home improvement show? A comedy show? A singing show? A nature program? A consumer investigation show? The choice is endless!
But what if we decided to break with tradition and use the medium of television, one of the most powerful forms of mass communication in the whole world, for something different. Something that made us remember we are human beings, something which attempted to bring us more together as a planet – programs whose content weren’t dictated by advertisers, government or religious agenda. Would anyone watch it? Would you? Or are you quite content being entertained?
Will you stand up to television giants and tell them you aren’t going to be dictated to anymore, that you don’t want them invading your private space 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year? There’s an easy way to do this you know. One which doesn’t involve taking over the tv stations, protesting in the streets, or writing to your members of parliament. It’s so easy, even a child can do it!
Turn off your tv
That’s right, the red button on the corner of your tv. Not on the remote. Turn it off properly at the mains and unplug your aerial. And that’s it! It won’t be long before there’s no more tv advertising, no more reality shows, no more breaking news stories every ten minutes. Could you do it, I mean really turn off your tv?
If it was sitting there could you stop yourself from turning it on, just for a minute to see if “there’s anything good on.” Could you? Could you do something different instead of watching tv? Something that is healthy for your system, something truly relaxing. Could you just sit for a moment in quiet, and let your brain and your body relax. With no noise?
It’s difficult to begin with, but once you master it, you will enjoy it so much more than the latest home improvement show. Turning off your tv is similar to giving up smoking or alcohol. It’s an addiction, and it will fight with you every day. And if you don’t think you are addicted, try turning your tv off for one week. How do you feel when you see it, aren’t you just a little bit tempted to switch it on and be entertained just for a little while?
No one wants you to unplug the tv! They’re all screaming at you: “Nooooooo. Don’t do it! You won’t be able to live if you turn it off, think of what your missing, pleeeease, don’t do it, we have families to feed, we’ll lose our jobs, how will we pay the bills?” But that’s not your problem, is it?
The advertisers don’t want you to do it, the tv companies don’t want you to do it, and the government definitely doesn’t want you to do it. Why? Because they need to keep you happy, just like entertaining the troops in the war. They don’t want you to have too much quiet time alone otherwise you might just start to think a little. They need you to work every day to keep the country moving, to get taxes paid so they can get on with the projects they want to do. But to keep you working, they need to make sure you are thoroughly entertained in your quiet time. “Don’t complain, just keep working, there’s a good chap, and why don’t you relax after work with some nice entertaining tv, that’ll make you feel better, all ready for work the next day.”
Turning off your tv will free you from another addiction, and although I know no one is about to stop watching tv, think about it, think about what tv is stopping you doing, what tv is making you become. Where would you be without tv?
I know a television set is essential to watching dvd’s or videos, but I am not discussing that, it is only the reception of television programmes we are interested in here.
You will start to have more free time, more energy, more willingness to go outside after work, even if it’s cold. The tv no longer controls how you live your life. Without you watching it, the media giants will start to crumble, their power over you becomes weaker and weaker. You can always get your information from other sources.
The internet, for one, has more information, entertainment and education than you could ever imagine, and most of it’s free, but one word of warning: Don’t substitute one addiction for another; it’s very easy to do.
What will become of television is in our hands. Do you really think you still need a service which chooses what you will see every night? I’m sure the tv companies are thinking hard too, trying to come up with new ideas to “put you in control,” but it’s still their choice of programmes.
You don’t need that now. You are free from their addiction, the moment you unplug the aerial. Try it.
by alan macmillan orr
“The natural mind – waking up”