November 24, 2014
Off the record

Warning: TV is not good for your health

By Jim Grisso|Special to the Independent
Email Jim
Posted 2/25/09

I admit it. I watch too much TV. Most Americans are in the same boring rut.

Even our government is encouraging the addiction by constantly flashing the word digital in front of our eyeballs. Can you believe it’s all in the name of public safety? Stay with me on this one.

In 2005, Congress mandated that television stations start broadcasting with digital as opposed to analog presumably to free up the airwaves for public safety and other purposes (whatever they are). But wait! This wanton act took the rabbit ear guy right out of the picture (no pun intended). What a tragedy! Unless Mr. Rabbit took action by Feb. 17 and switched to digital TV by way of a little black box or purchased cable, his TV would go black (and white). The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Web site called this tragedy a violation (of civil rights).

Congress, in its infinite wisdom, wasn’t about to let that happen, so it dipped into our pockets and pulled out $1.34 billion for $40 coupons to help Mr. Rabbit buy his converter box and keep his analog set functioning. The fed even spent $350,000 to promote the coupons on a NASCAR race car, hoping we would be glued to the TV watching cars go ’round and ’round.

But, wouldn’t you know, the effort to convert to the converter ran out of cash. And despite an overkill of public service announcements annoyingly scrolling across our TV since time began, some people still didn’t get the message.

So now they’ve moved the digital deadline back to some time in June. The exact date doesn’t matter. It will be changed again by then. Besides, never fear, because you’ll see the date disturbing your favorite program from now till June.

OK. You with me so far? Good. Keep paying attention because it gets more intriguing. Another branch of government, the National Institutes of Health, spent more of our money to come up with a landmark report issued in December. It said (you ready for this?), after 30 years of research it was determined that as kids watch more TV, they are likely to be obese, smoke and achieve less in school.

You can put adults in that category, too.

And it’s costly. The aforementioned maladies can cost trillions, the study indicated.

Now, let me be sure I got this right. Congress has spent $1.34 billion (and still counting) to get us to further our TV addiction, and a different bunch of fed guys wants us to knock it off if we know what’s good for our health. Isn’t it comforting to know our government always looks out for our welfare — from all angles.

I thought I watched too much TV, but after seeing yet another study, I realized I’m a lightweight in the world of TV viewing. In the third quarter of 2008, Nielsen (a TV ratings watchdog) reported that we watched, on average, 142 hours of TV a month. That equates to about 4.5 hours a day.

Kids 2-11 watched more than 100 hours a month, and seniors were glued to their TV almost 200 hours a month (now I know I’m a lightweight).

In spite of this, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights insists it’s important to emphasize the importance of TV as an early warning system for natural disasters.

My position on this matter? When the TV weather guy says there’s a blizzard outside and the view through my window shows not a cloud in the sky, I get the picture perfectly:

TV is not good for your health.

Jim Grisso, a Roscommon area resident, was publisher of the Gaylord Herald Times for 40 years and has been a newspaper journalist for about 50 years. He can be contacted at jgoblue@live.com.

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