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T.V. Turnoff



How many times has this happened to you? You get home from work and turn on the television to relax for a few minutes before getting to your evening chores – dinner and a load of laundry that’s been piling up since October. You watch the last 20 minutes of Oprah, and afterwards, since you’re already sitting comfortably, you channel surf a little to see what else is on. After 30 minutes of mindless flicking, occasionally going back to MuchMusic to see whether the new Britney Spears video is on, you happen upon an episode of Crocodile Hunter and for the next 40 minutes it’s Steve Irwin wrestling crocs and getting bitten by snakes. Then it’s onto The Simpsons, Third Rock From the Sun, Simpsons, Third Rock marathon, followed by Friends and more Friends. You watch police chases until 9 o’clock, a network drama like ER until 10, then back-to-back episodes of Seinfeld. You alternate between the news and The Daly Show until 11:30, then divide your time between Letterman and the late movie on TBS.

Suddenly it’s 2 a.m. You come out your reverie like a coma, confused, weak at the knees, and severely dehydrated. Your eyes can’t seem to focus as you kick off the crumbs of your peanut butter and jelly dinner, stumble to your bedroom and collapse in a heap. You want to sleep, but when you close your eyes, all you see is a big blue rectangle. The last nine hours passed by in a blur, like you were kidnapped by aliens or under anaesthetic. In a sense you were.

Don’t feel too badly, however, because TV is supposed to be addictive. Flashing lights, sound, action and carefully orchestrated cliffhangers keep you hanging on – even if there’s nothing on, there will be in another half hour! While you may be the one holding the remote, you’re definitely not the power in control.

To help you clean up your "mental environment" AdBusters is sponsoring TV Turnoff Week from April 22 to 28 – "Watching TV is a passive, brain-emptying experience – not even network executives deny it… The point is to think for a moment about what it means to spend hours every day somewhere in between living and dead."

While TV viewership is actually down among Canadians, the time saved is generally being squandered on video games and the Internet.

According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian watches 22.7 hours of television a week (25 hours in the winter and 20 in the summer) – that’s more than three hours every single day! Although men tend to watch television longer – a baseball game runs more than four hours – women actually watch about five more hours more of television each week than men.

During the course of a year, the average viewer will watch about 22,000, or approximately 184 hours (seven days and 16 hours worth) of commercials. That’s a whole week of ads every year, which is about one week too much.

A 30-minute sitcom runs 22 minutes minus commercials and promos, which means roughly one quarter of our television viewing time is spent watching ads and network promos.

If it wasn’t for hockey playoffs, I’d probably be an active participant in TV Turnoff Week. When playoffs wrap up in June I promise to voice my righteous indignation and turn off the boob tube for at least a week.

Read all about the TV Turnoff Week campaign, and the different anti-commercialism and pro-living forces influencing the movement. Adbusters has also posted a list of Action ideas that groups can use to break the TV habit, from going bowling to buying used televisions and hosting a good old-fashioned smash-in. Visit the Media Carta section, which protests the idea that the global information superstructure is just a puppet in the hands of a handful of international mega-corporations . You may never watch television the same way again.

This page, assembled by the Media Awareness Network, contains the bulk of statistics and reports prepared by Statistics Canada concerning Canadians and television. If you’re going to get righteous about turning the television off, you’re probably going to butt heads with roommates and/or family members – it’s a good idea to have some hard statistics to back you up.

If your children are watching too much TV – or the wrong TV – Media Awareness also offers ideas for parents to help modify and manage their children’s viewing practices, in terms of both quantity and quality. There are articles on the effects of TV violence on children, and ways to manage their exposure to adult content.

The Media Awareness stuff is slightly less – how to put it? – fear-mongering than the information provided on the Canadian Horizon Corporation site, but every parent and cable addict owes it to themselves to give it a read. Here’s what you can expect: "The typical American child will witness 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of televised violence in his lifetime." And "Body metabolism (and calorie burning) is an average of 14.5 per cent lower when watching TV than when simply lying in bed."

If you’re at a loss at what to do when the idiot box is silenced, Mango Mama can help. While most of the ideas are obvious, I never would have though to dress up in a costume or learn herbology. The important thing to remember is that there are a thousand better and more productive things to do at any given time than turn the television on.