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MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC (26) The importance of television

Television is now the second most popular mass media channels in the world, and its growth is seen all over the world every day. Because of it’s transmission of speech and moving pictures, it has become one of the most viable and strong story teller.
Mass media are information channels distributing information from social actors like government, agencies and stakeholders to the public. Journalists may select, edit and comment on this information; but most information published in the media comes from powerful social actors.
Television is therefore a means for political, economic, cultural and other elites to inform, educate, entertain and influence the public.
The information flow is more or less in one direction from the actors to the mass television audience. Television is also a channel of indirect and public communication among social actors. Often political controversies are accompanied by public exchange of statements from the involved parties.
Television plays a central role in all aspects of contemporary society; from art, sports and politics to entertainment, education and marketing. An informed knowledge and critical understanding of this medium not only provides invaluable insights into ways in which we communicate, represent and reflect on ourselves and the world. It is also highly relevant to a broad range of careers in today’s highly mobile and competitive job market.
Television is often criticized for the way they report their stories. In Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service Television has often been criticized in the past for the way they present their news. A news broadcast of 30 minutes will have the President’s news for 15 minutes on regular basis. This will never give the true picture of the country when much news is available and even more important ones than some of the President’s news.
This has been undermining public confidence in the TV station and most people prefer to listen to radio or try and get alternative channel. The lack of technology and electricity also has an affect on the SLBS TV with lack of educative programmes to help educate, entertain and influence the viewers to make them spend more time watching TV.
According to popular consensus, humans never relate to a television program in the same way they relate to one another, or may be they do. Television is identical to real social relationships and to the navigation of real physical spaces. According to studies presented in the United States, it was concluded that people treat television as real people and places.
The number of hours spent by an average person watching TV in countries where electricity is a fundamental human right, not in Sierra Leone anyway is about 3000 hours annually. People are very polite to television and computers that enlarge faces on a screen, can invade a person’s body space, and that motion on the screen affects physical responses in the same way that real-life motion does.
A very startling report is that the human brain has not evoked quickly enough to assimilate 21st -century technology. This knowledge will always help us better design and evaluate television technologies, including entertainment, news, and advertising and multi media.
Television has been regularly criticized around the world for the way they present risks. They have been accused of either not warning their viewers enough, or of exaggerating and sensationalizing the risks, thus undermining public acceptance of technologies and encouraging sub-optimal individual and political decisions.
Television and internet are the most prevalent media influencing kids’ lives all over the world. In countries with maximum electricity, 75 percent of the children watch TV as a daily pastime, but in our beloved Sierra Leone, it is pathetic because electricity and children’s channel are almost not available in anyway throughout the country.
The impact TV has on viewers depends on factors like how much they watch, whether they watch alone or whether they discussed what they have seen.
To minimize the potential negative effects of television, it is important to understand what impact of television can have on people especially the children.
The last decade, so many studies have examined how violent programming on TV affects the people. A direct cause and effect link is always difficult to establish, and there is growing consensus that many children may be vulnerable to violent images and messages.
The investigation has proved that girls are the more likely to be portrayed as victims of violence on TV, and this can make them more afraid. Also the most violent TV shows are children’s cartoons, which violence portrayed as humorous and the realistic consequences of violence are seldom shown.
Also TV can affect learning and school performance because of the time kids need for activities crucial to healthy mental and physical development. It is always argued by the health authorities that children’s free time during their early formative years should be spent in activities such as playing, reading, exploring nature, learning about music and participating in different sports.
A scientific American article entitled “Television Addiction” examined why children and adults may find it hard to turn their TVs off. According to researchers, viewers feel an instant sense of relaxation when they start to watch TVbut that feeling disappears just as quickly when it is turned off. While people generally feel more energized after playing sports or engaging in hobbies, after watching TV they usually feel depleted of energy. According to the article this is the irony of TV. People watch a great deal longer than they plan to, even though prolonged viewing is less rewarding.
Even with all this criticism, television is very important to human lives. It is an inescapable part of modern culture and we depend on TV for entertainment, news, education, culture, weather, sports and advertisement. This has grown bigger because of the explosion in satellite and digital speciality channels in the developed world, they now have plethora of both good quality and inappropriate content.
Because of many channels that are available, parents are responsible to guide their children to the right programs that are children friendly whenever possible so they can enjoy them together as a family.
Companies cannot do without television as they need TV to send out the message of their products to the public.
The moving picture on the television is what makes the difference between TV and newspaper. TV is much faster and explains more through pictures and these companies believe that advertisement on TV has brought more proceeds to their businesses.
Television offers lots of benefits to people because of its ability to create powerful touchstones; TV enables young people to share cultural experiences with others. Shared viewing gives family members of all ages an opportunity to spend time together. Parents can use TV as a catalyst to get kids reading and following up programs by getting books on the same subject or reading authors whose work was adapted for the programs.
Television can also teach us important values and life lessons. Most TV programs often explore controversial or sensitive issues that can make it easier for parents and kids to discuss them.
Some educational programs can develop young people’s socialization and learning skills. News, current affairs and historical programming can help make young people more aware of other cultures and people.
TV documentaries can help develop critical thinking about society and the world at large.
Also TV can help introduce your family to classic films and stars that may not be available in a local video store. Cultural programming can open up the world of music and art for young people.
Finally we cannot do without television in this 21st century as television has impacted great education in our lives through entertainment and culture.
Although Sierra Leone is suffering from electricity and less than four TV channels in the country, I still believe that what we have had helped us in the past and will continue to do the same. I do hope that in the coming years, electricity and more TV channels will improve in the country so that Sierra Leoneans will have more time to enjoy their lives and will lessen crime rate in the country as people will have alternatives in life.

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