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The best revenge

/ 07:17 PM May 21, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Many TV people are doing lazy, shoddy, irresponsible work on the all too correctly named boob tube these days. What’s a harassed, chagrined, frustrated and hopping-mad viewer to do—just keep taking it on the chin and other vulnerable parts of our collective anatomy?

That would be adding insult—and impotence—to injury. Remember, it’s us viewers who have the all-important numbers, the ratings that everybody in the TV game—stars, producers, studio bosses and advertisers—
are prepared to sell their souls to attain. If viewers don’t watch a show in notable numbers, it quickly withers away and expires.

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But, how can enlightened viewers make the numbers work for them, when the majority of the TV audience just keeps lapping up anything and everything the tube indiscriminately disgorges?

Solution: Viewers education should be made a part of the school curriculum. Problem: Who will train the teachers to be TV-literate and demanding enough to import the same values and expectations to their students?

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Some years ago, we were tasked to teach TV-film literacy to 100 high school teachers, to train them to do precisely that. But at the end of the workshop, we felt that only 10 or 20 percent of our workshop participants had learned enough to be productively of service in that regard.

So? Do we just go with the flow, leaving irresponsible TV workers to do their worst? Again, no, that would be like hocking our children’s future prospects to the lowest bidder. What to do?

Here’s an idea: Let’s start with 10 or 20 percent of viewers who want better, who want more.

Twenty percent of the market may not sound like much, but when that market counts its business in the tens of millions of viewers, nationally, 20 percent of 10 million is two million—hey, that’s a huge figure!

Huge enough to galvanize to act in tandem and persuade TV execs to care about the growing segment of the viewing sector that wants to protect children and itself from demeaning, exploitative viewing fare.

In addition, we know (because they give us feedback) there are TV people who are unhappy and even mortified about the low level to which their industry has sunk, and are prepared to help in the rehabilitation and redemption process.

Finally, our best ally and weapon in this fight for better and more responsible television is no farther away than the length of our arm—
our trusty TV remote control device. We wield it to access our channels and programs of choice. But we can even more purposively use it to zap away programs we don’t like and don’t want to encourage.

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So let’s learn to use our TV remotes to electronically vote for the programs we want to encourage, and “vote out” (by not watching them) the irresponsible shows we want to eliminate.

From here on in, let’s learn to watch TV more selectively, and with greater purpose and resolve. Don’t unselectively keep your set on all day, because even the bad shows will benefit from good rating figures, which they don’t deserve.

If a show you like and believe in isn’t being telecast, switch off your TV set. Switch it on only when you want to support a good show that’s on. It’s as simple and as powerful as that, the more enlightened use of this “weapon” for good TV in our hand—which we should wield with greater respect to save our TV system from itself.

It’s the best revenge.

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