Friday, June 29, 2007

the power of tv

My observations of living in this village on the power of TV amongst my neighbors. I don't have electricity yet so I don't have a TV but I am sure the first thing the staff will want once I get electricity is a TV.

Like I said, one of my neighbors got an electricity connection two months ago, the first thing they did was to go to Abans and buy a flat screen TV (not LCD) on which they have to make monthly payments for 36 months.

Prior to TV those especially in villages were immune from the outside world and appeared to live in a more contented life. I do not advocate a return to that time. Once TV arrived, many people who were not aware of how others lived, reasoned that they are poor. So their perception was that they are poor and that was something not good and someone should try and improve their situation. They could not afford the soap on the TV or the other gadgets advertised as must have items so they were poor.

Along with TV came the travelling salesman from the electronics companies. They sold refrigerators to the villages based on the low payment plans, but for extended periods, not really explaining the APR on the hire purchase plan. One of my neighbors has a double door fridge. They have to make monthly payments of about Rs 1500/-. The head of household is a small farmer who finds it hard to make ends meet. His wife cooks all three meals fresh with a large helping of rice. The fridge is only used to cool water, and otherwise it is empty. He complained that his electricity bill rose by over Rs 700/- a month as a result. I told him to fill the fridge with bottles of water to reduce power consumption.

I digress from the point I was trying to illustrate. With little entertainment in the village, and a lack of books to read, watching tv is the pastime in the evenings till bed time. It is fair to say that soaps are the most popular and many of them are canned Indian soaps that are dubbed to Sinhala. The life style of the soaps are those that are admired. They involve a lot of liberal lifestyles that are alien to the village and now seen as acceptable. There is no rational evaluation that this is just a foreign soap, and therefore the benefit of the entertainment aspect is outweighed by the examples of living that draw people from villages to cities.

I believe that a code of ethics be set up after a study of the problem, to give a better content that is more in keeping with a sense of values that are more appropriate to the culture of the country. France restricts the foreign content of TV why can't we.I know there are certain taxes on programming from overseas ostensibly to help with local productions. It is a step in the right direction but the objectives seem more to be fundraising not regulation of content.

I am not advocating censorship, just a level of responsible content reflecting core values we would like people to adopt bearing in mind the incredible power of TV on the viewer who is not sceptical, sophisticated and very malleable.

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