If you are a South African then do you remember how excited we all were in 1975 when we had an hour or so each day of television? It was thrilling to actually see the multi coloured tuning pattern on the screen, even if there was nothing else to view! We were catching up at long last with the rest of the world. Crazy that the Nationalist government had managed to prevent South Africans from being able to see what was going on in the rest of the world for so long. As a child in the U.K. I remember watching Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, Muffin the Mule, Children’s Hour and so many more kiddies’ programmes (albeit in black and white) in the 1950’s. We were all told by our parents that we couldn’t watch too much tv or we would all end up with square eyeballs! In the 1960’s we suddenly saw the advent of ITV with its regular advert breaks. Now mum had time to dash to the kitchen to make a brew of that British necessity – tea! By the early 1970’s colour televisions were the norm and no-one seemed to be walking around with square eye balls!
Arriving in South Africa in the early 1960’s was a real culture shock which included the lack of television. People moving down to South Africa from Northern Rhodesia, as it was then called, brought their television sets down with them, to no avail! At least nowadays we are able to keep in touch with world affairs and because of that, the world would seem to be a far smaller place. Could be due in part to the size of the people who inhabit it these days, as well as a worldwide overpopulation problem!
From the tiny black and white sets, to the cabinet model, and now to the huge flat and curved screen, smart state of the art tv’s, which are operated by remote control – television has most certainly changed its look from its humble beginnings. Now it is very often a statement purchase. The bigger the screen, the wealthier or more of a trend follower one is perceived to be. Furniture has to be purchased taking into account the position and size of the tv! Houses need to have enough windowless walls to enable families to have television sets in rooms other than the lounge. No-one wants to be left out of being able to view favourite programmes just because it’s time to cook dinner. So most homes have a smallish set suspended on a bracket in the kitchen. Useful too if you don’t know how to cook, as there are loads of so-called experts showing off their culinary expertise. Not all of these lessons take place in a traditional kitchen setting. Now you can even learn to prepare a gourmet meal on the banks of a river with elephants and giraffe wandering around in the background! After watching that, you dare not dish up fish fingers and chips without feeling guilty.
There are those people who have decided, for whatever reason, not to own a television set. I once met a very educated health worker who refused to have either a television or even a radio, and never read the newspapers at all as she was afraid of being the recipient of potentially negative information. I somehow think that this ostrich-like head in the sand attitude to life is quite inadvisable when one has an occupation which involves people interaction on a permanent basis. It really is important to be up to date with world affairs to a certain degree or run the risk of coming across as an absolute dinosaur with no current general knowledge whatsoever. Yes, try to avoid stress in your life if that’s the most important factor but, there really are limits!
Owning a tv can be an expensive item especially when one is almost forced to pay a monthly fee to have cable tv because of poor local content. However, if one is circumspect about what one watches, television can be a form of relaxation, as well as often proving to be extremely informative. One may not be able to afford to take costly overseas trips, but by tuning into a geographic channel it is almost as good as the real thing. Armchair travel can take you wherever your heart desires, at the click of a button! No waiting at airports, no fear of airline crashes, or Isis attacks, just a totally stress-free experience!
It is also a wonderful way for children to learn about the world by having televised lessons. Instead of sitting through boring geography lessons, with a possibly disinterested teacher droning on and on, how much more fun is it to go on a visual exploration and to almost lose oneself in the journey. As far as the old-style classroom learning is concerned, does one really ever need to know where sugar beet is grown, or the names of all the lakes in Canada just to regurgitate such facts at exam time. (Deviating slightly, I just wonder, as an example, how many of us have used Pythagoras’ theorem since leaving school? Engineers or architects maybe? It certainly doesn’t seem to apply when buying a home or raising children).
Since the introduction of music videos there have been studies which would seem to indicate that, if one uses more than one sense whilst receiving any form of information, there is a much better chance of such information being retained. Therefore, visual school lessons seem to make a lot of sense. By all accounts there are many classrooms around the world which rely on televised programmes in combination, in most cases, with the traditional teacher in the classroom scenario. This is obviously linked to the availability of connectivity as well as the occurrence being mainly in the more affluent areas (when one is talking about developing countries). I would like to investigate the schooling scenario which is in place nowadays in remote places such as in the outback of Australia. Could make for an interesting future article perhaps? I am pleased to have read several articles recently, written by experts in the educational arena, stating that the teaching methods will have to change drastically in the next 10 to 20 years to prepare children for a constantly changing world.
Hospital stays may be made less traumatic if, when a patient is recovering from illness, they are able to watch a televised programme whilst lying in bed. By using the mandatory headphones this could be a way to avoid constant chitchat with the patient in the next bed, if that is the choice. Watching tv might also prove to be less exhausting than trying to read the books or magazines brought in by well-meaning relatives.
Even standing in a long queue at the bank, or reclining in the dentist’s chair, are occasions where it is no longer unusual to see a television set suspended on the wall, or above your head (in the case of the dentist) showing wild life videos, or a live cricket match. In the case of the dentist, it is always rather nerve wracking when the practitioner appears to be more involved with the action on the screen than with what is going on inside your mouth! What is meant, with all the best intentions, to relax the patient may have the opposite effect entirely!
However, when all is said and done, that good old goggle box may have its critics, but it has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings. The benefits, when viewing time is limited and programmes chosen with care, (especially in the case of young children and the kind of content to which they are exposed), can certainly outweigh the negatives. For those who live alone or those confined to their homes due to illness or lack of mobility, the difference a television set can make may be immeasurable and life without out it would indeed be pretty dull and lonely.
“Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained
in your living room by people you wouldn’t
have in your home”
– Late David Frost (British Television Host)