No to TV

When Stroud Community TV was still starting, and Philip and Peter weren’t entirely sure what it would grow to be, Philip wrote a short piece to help pin down his thoughts. From 23 September, 2012: No to TV.

So here’s a TV Channel saying don’t watch TV? Perhaps I should explain more…

UK viewers notched up an average of four hours and two minutes a day of traditional TV [1]; the highest in Europe and behind the US whose average is nearly 5 hours [2]! Viewers were also exposed to an average of 47 TV ads a day. Video-on-demand services such as the BBC iPlayer are not included in the figures. Meanwhile YouTube, owned by Google, is ranked fourth in terms of traffic, ahead of both Bing and Yahoo. An astonishing 50% of all internet traffic after 5pm is on YouTube. By 2015, Cisco predict that 90% of all internet traffic will be video [3]. Three percent of the nation don’t have a TV [4] and 10.2m adults in the UK have never used the internet.

Perhaps strangely, the two of us who initially established Stroud Community TV don’t have a TV. I’m not against TV; there are many reasons why people watch. I for one love a good film and will watch an iPlayer crime drama regularly, but I am aware how much time can be spent watching television when I could be doing other stuff [5].

We know Stroud Community TV is still ‘TV’, but we hope Stroud Community TV will be a little different. Our project is about supporting and building our local economy, creativity and community. It’s about more people being creators rather than just consumers, it’s about inspiring us all to take a bigger role in our communities and telling stories that aren’t being told in other places … those community projects, that local band, that bit of history, protests and more.

Help make SCTV different. We aren’t after huge viewing figures, but we welcome feedback; star rate the films, add comments, tweet, retweet and Facebook us.

Is TV a harmful addiction?

Watching TV for an average of six hours a day could shorten the viewer’s life expectancy by almost five years, indicates research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine [6]. They concluded that “every single hour of TV viewed may shorten life by as much as 22 minutes”. People who watch a lot of TV suffer more from insomnia, headache and indigestion. In children, heavy TV watching causes obesity and can impair language development.

Eating while watching television is bad for us. The School of Public Health Project EAT researchers found that children in families who watched TV while eating meals together had a lower-quality diet than the children of families who ate together, but turned the TV off. Yet 72% of people eat at least one meal in front of the TV each day [7].

It is hard to prove a connection between television and materialism, fear and discontentment. But surely images coming at us from the TV can play a part in making but make us unhappy with ourselves, physically and materially? At Arizona State University experiments found that women shown repeated images of models become less happy and married men shown the same images become less content with their wives. As The Ecologist writes, “TV means that we compare ourselves to the rich and famous, rather than our neighbours.” [8]

Best-selling TV programmes are often about friends or families who hang around together. Is TV selling back to us the kind of friends it broke us away from in the first place?

“Nothing – not low education, not full-time work, not long commutes in urban agglomerations, not poverty or financial distress – is more broadly associated with civic disengagement and social disconnection than is dependence on television for entertainment.” Robert Putnam [9]

Putman found in his study on social involvement that irrespective of education, income, age, race, health, place of residence, work status and gender, heavy TV viewers had less friends, attended less social engagements, belonged to fewer community and religious organisations and were more distrustful of other people than non-TV-dependent individuals.

A study by Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi [10] showed that people who watched TV actually felt more wound up and tense after watching TV than before they sat down. TV creates a “passive spillover effect” that leaves viewers feeling lethargic and unable to concentrate for hours after watching. While other research shows heavy viewers watch more TV but find it less rewarding. As we watch more our attention span drops and there is a need for a faster and faster rush of images. In every minute of watching our metabolic rate drops thus reducing our will power to switch our sets off.

So as a US bumper sticker says: “Turn Off The TV. Live Your Life Not Theirs.”


[1] Report by commercial TV marketing body Thinkbox quoted in The Guardian. Mark Sweney, TV viewing “peaks at four hours a day”, The Guardian, 24 January 2012.

[2] The Nielsen Company (US), Cross-platform report: How we watch from screen to screen, 3 May 2012.

[3] Stats from Ryan Deiss, YouTube Google hack, The Digital Marketer, February, 2012.

[4] BBC News, TV viewing time “underestimated”, 5 March 2011.

[5] Rob Hopkins, Why should admitting to not having a TV be “dangerous”? 13 April 2015.

[6] Grant Lawrence-Bodhi Thunder, Research finds average TV viewing cuts nearly 5 years from life span, Crisisboom, 16 August 2011.

[7] University of Minnesota, Turn off the TV during family meals, ScienceDaily, 15 October 2007.

[8] The Ecologist, May 2003.

[9] Robert D. Putnam, Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community, Simon & Schuster, 2000.

[10] Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Television addiction is no mere metaphor, Scientific American, March 2002.