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TVBGone - was our treatment "fair?"

TVBGone - was our treatment "fair?"

Related entries: Criticism

As I mentioned here last week, I will pick one of stories each week that I think is worthy of further discussion -- one that raises questions in my own mind.

I was troubled this week by our story on National Turnoff TV week and the TVBgone device. I thought this piece was annoyingly and predictably anti-television (what a surprise – radio people who are anti-TV!), with not even an attempt to balance the treatment. The TVBgone device is controversial, but we rather childishly avoided even considering whether the device and the “practical joke” of going into a bar and stealthily turning off TV’s … infringes anybody’s rights. I’m curious what you think? Is anyone else troubled by this?

Jim Russell
Executive Producer

Posted by Jim Russell on April 23, 2005

The piece on TVBGone fit perfectly into recent developments in my life. The local cable company inconvenienced me tremendously when I asked to have service restored after a recent outage. Without going into the details, their arrogance and insensitivity to the inconvenience they caused me prompted me to do what I've been thinking about for a couple of years -- cancel my cable subscription. I did this with some trepedation, fearful of withdrawal pangs and how I would feel about missing some favorite broadcasts on cable channels. But I reasoned that I grew up without TV and I have a house full of books to read. I'm into many other activities, including teaching college courses on line, so I decided that there is nothing on TV that would alter my life for the worse if I miss it. I've been without cable TV for only a couple of weeks but I know it was the right decision.

Posted by: Gail Moeller on April 23, 2005 12:02 PM

strange to see how a tv-disabling device is legal while a cell phone jammer isn't. oh yeah, I get it, 911. always important to have them call you in the theater.

alas, I have no problem with a little advocacy during the show as long as it's clearly marked as a personal opinion. the tv-b-gone piece did this adequately.

"You must be 13 or older to submit any information to American Public Media."
this is NPR. you don't have listeners under 65.

Posted by: 7/4 on April 24, 2005 9:17 AM

Don't be so hard on yourself. I thought your story was great! It made me think about all the times that I've been out with friends and felt the magnetic pull of the TV in the corner. Invariably there wasn't actually anything good on, but nevertheless my eyes would drift. Your story also compelled me to engage my wife in a discussion about our viewing habits and we have decided to take the week off. My prediction is that we won't miss it that much and will be amazed (and ashamed) by how much more time there is for reality, not reality TV.

Posted by: Denis on April 24, 2005 5:16 PM

I have to say, I thought with six and a half minutes, the piece could have gotten past the "I turned them off and people started talking" stage. It didn't necessarily need to be a "fair and balanced" piece of journalism because you are indeed preaching to the choir, but I didn't learn anything new from it...except where I might buy the TV-B-Gone. TV Guide asked its readers awhile back if they'd give up TV forever for a million dollars. Unsurprisingly, the majority said "no." Anyone can give up TV for a week; what are some unusual ways people choose to watch TV so it fits into their lives, rather than planning their lives around the TV schedule (and I'm not talking about TiVo)? Love the show - thanks for asking the question!

Posted by: Donna on April 25, 2005 9:36 AM

While I think it is always a very good thing for us to step back and take a look at the too often unexamined role that television plays in our lives-- and appreciate TV Turn Off Week and TVBGone for encouraging such activity--I was more than a little uncomfortable with the tone of the Weekend America segment. The dismissal of television seemed too easy and the dismissal of television viewers at times seemed condescending and smug.

What really set me off, though, was the juxtaposition of that story with one that followed just a few minutes later. Television was dismissed for, among other things, supplanting our experiences with reality (watching Friends rather than having friends, watching nature programs rather than experiencing nature). A few minutes later, though, this ability of cultural products to be "more real than reality" was unabashedly celebrated rather than treated as a cause for alarm or contempt. The reason for the difference? The new story wasn't about the easy target of dismissal, television, but rather literature and poetry.

I'm sure the two stories weren't meant to be seen in relation to one another-- but I couldn't help but be frustrated by the too easy dismissal of one medium and the too easy celebration of the other.

Helping to set me off on all of this was just having read Steven Johnson's defense of tv in this week's NYT magazine (and then, after getting frustrated with WA's treatment of TV Turn Off week, finding a similar critique from him [not directed at WA but at the underlying issues] on his blog, stevenberlinjohnson.com.

Despite, having said all of this (which I also babble on about at my blog moloney.blogspot.com), I also want to say that I've been enjoying listening to Weekend America (which I discovered via podcasting).

Posted by: Molly Moloney on April 25, 2005 9:46 PM

"infinges anybody's rights"? Gimme a break. Is there an inalienable right to watch TV somewhere in the constitution?

If you are so snotty about radio, why don't you go work for Clear Channel? Or better yet, Fox News? Yes -- we listen to public radio because it's not TV, and it's better than most TV. What's the problem?

Posted by: Henry on May 2, 2005 11:03 AM

The piece could not have been more appropriately times. Not two days before, I received in the mail my very own personl TV-B-Gone key-fob. Somewhat surprisingly, the reactions of folks to a TV turning off was similar for me as in the piece... most did not notice it, and started talking amongst themselves. I now view it as a great "family saver" in restaurants with TVs. In an unnamed sports bar, I "saved" three families from a quiet meal of "no-talk and all-watch-TV", and essentially gave them a nice conversation-filled dinner where they were able to truly be a family at a family-dinner.

Posted by: Andy in Suburbiaville, N.C. on May 5, 2005 12:11 PM

I purchased a TVBGONE device today after fighting the television at the gym for five years. The people who run the place feel that if individuals want to sit on the equipment to watch tv, go ahead, as long as they pay their membership. I go their to workout, if they want to sit on their butt and watch tv, stay at home.....

Posted by: steve on May 30, 2005 11:13 AM

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