The Culture and Media Institute (CMI) has published a report called "The Media Assault on American Values", which is yet another sign of the growing disconnection between the elite mass media and the mainstream general population in the United States. A report on the OneNewsNow website led me to this resource. Pictured at left, the phlegmatic Murray Rothstein (better known as Sumner Redstone), the Viacom mogul who symbolizes media misconduct in the United States. Along with CBS mogul Les Moonves, threw Don Imus to the wolves to deflect attention and scrutiny from even more egregious abuses.
Click HERE to view the 32-page report in PDF format. Here are some highlights from the executive summary on pp 5-7 of the report:
1). Seventy-four percent of Americans believe the nation's moral values have declined over the past 20 years, and large majorities hold the media responsible for contributing to that decline.
- Sixty-four percent believe the media (as a whole) are important in shaping moral values.
- Sixty-eight percent believe the media (entertainment and news combined) have a negative impact on moral values.
- Seventy-three percent believe the entertainment industry has a negative impact on moral values.
- Fifty-four percent of Americans believe the news media have a negative impact on moral values.
2). The media are undermining America's sense of personal responsibility. The more a person watches television, the less likely that person will be to accept personal responsibility for his own life and for his obligations to the people around him (Ed. Note: "Heavy" TV viewers are defined in this report as those who watch an average of four hours or more per day, "light" TV viewers watch one hour or less.).
- Sixty-four percent of heavy TV viewers believe government should be primarily responsible for individual retirement security vs. only 43 percent of light TV viewers. Likewise, 63 percent of heavy TV viewers believe government should be primarily responsible for individual health care vs. 43 percent of light TV viewers.
- Fifty-six percent of heavy TV viewers volunteered no time to charitable causes last year vs. 27 percent of light TV viewers.
- Thirty-one percent of heavy TV viewers said they would cheat a restaurant by paying a bill that omitted some items vs. only 19 percent of light TV viewers.
- Only 37 percent of heavy TV viewers described themselves as "pro-life" vs. 51 percent of light TV viewers.
3). The media are undermining commitment to religion. The more a person watches television, the less likely the person is to value religious principles and obedience to God. Only 28 percent of heavy TV viewers attend church or religious services at least once per week vs. 47 percent of light TV viewers (Ed. Note: Since most people possess a "need to worship", this means heavy TV viewers become more vulnerable to secular humanism and the secular "religions" of diversity, multiculturalism, feminism, and environmentalism.).
4). The media have a seductive effect. The more a person watches TV, the less likely that person is to believe the media are influencing the nation's moral values. While only 58 percent of heavy TV viewers believe the media are harming American moral values, 78 percent of light TV viewers believe this to be the case.
Conclusion of study: This study tends to justify the widespread American belief that the news and entertainment media are damaging the nation's moral values. The most significant finding is the correlation or inverse relationship between TV viewing and acceptance of personal responsibility. This should be no surprise; people who are heavy TV viewers tend to be passive and want to be entertained rather than exercise initiative and create and participate in their own entertainment. They become accustomed to tailoring the lives and viewpoints around those of celebrities and other prominent people rather than think and reason for themselves.
The Culture and Media Institute is a subdivision of the Media Research Center, which was established in 1987 and is currently headed up by longtime media decency and reform advocate L. Brent Bozell III. While Bozell does come across as pompous and arrogant at times, he nevertheless renders an effective service to society through his pro-family advocacy.
Analysis: This trend is beginning to show up somewhat in the Nielsen ratings for various programs. While summer TV viewing in 2006 grew to a record 57 hours and 39 minutes per capita per week, Nielsen ratings for various shows are skidding. The Tony Awards on CBS dropped from a 5.2 share in 2006 to a 4.2 share in 2007, a loss of 19 percent. Ratings for the final show of American Idol were down. Ratings for the recent NHL Stanley Cup finals were also down. So while people continue to tune in, they are less likely to turn on and more likely to drop out in search of something different. They sense something is amiss. As a matter of fact, the discontinuity between the elite media and the mainstream population is becoming so great that one watchdog organization, the National Alliance, even goes so far as to describe the phenomenom as an "alien grip" on the mass media and to postulate on the one group exercising that grip.
However, like the gun, the television itself is not the enemy. It is the misuse of television that creates the problem. The Boystownpediatrics.org website further describes the negative impact of television on kids and offers sensible, constructive suggestions on how parents can successfully isolate and extract the benefits that television can offer:
1). Television violence may be the number one negative impact of television today on our children. Excessive viewing of violence may:
- Numb a child's sympathy toward victims of violence
- Cause a child to be excessively apprehensive about personal safety or his or her future
- Cause a young child to play more aggressively after viewing violence on television
It is a parent's responsibility to prevent their children from the negative consequences of television by using tactics parents to prevent television addiction, including:
2). Alternative activities - Encourage participation in sports, games, hobbies, and music.
- Reading. Start reading to your child as an infant. When he or she gets older, encourage reading instead of television.
- Limit viewing. Set a limit of 2 hours or less per day. Allow extra time for occasional educational programs.
- Don't use as a distraction. Although it is easy for parents to use television to distract or "baby-sit" preschool age children, viewing should be limited to programs and videos specifically written for this age group. Preschoolers typically cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality. As a result, regular shows can cause fears.
- Use the TV program guide. Instead of "surfing" for a program of interest, teach your children to search the TV guide to find shows that interest them before turning on the television.
- Forbid violent shows. Pay attention to what shows your child watches. Many of the shows designed for children and teens contain violence, sex, drugs, and alcohol. Often parents must actually watch a show their child is interested in to discover these topics are being addressed. Be clear which shows are okay to watch and turn off the TV when you don't approve.
- Talk about the violence - If your older child does watch shows with violence, point out how it can hurt the victim and their families. It is better to discuss these things with your child, than to ignore them.
Excessive amounts of television viewing can be harmful to a child. It decreases active time that could be spent playing with peers, daydreaming, thinking, participating in sports, music and other activities. Heavy viewing can reduce school performance by interfering with studying and reading. [Ed. Note: Excessive TV viewing can also make a child too materialistic. Advertisers deliberately target vulnerable kids with seductive advertising - many cartoons are thinly-disguised infomercials for toys.]
On the other hand, appropriate television viewing can educate children about different lifestyles and cultures, teach humanity toward others, instruct on hobbies such as cooking and crafts, and so on.
And to that counsel I would add use of the Internet. Children introduced to the Internet early in life become more computer-literate and acquire skills which may command considerable compensation during adult life. However, children's use of the Internet likewise must be supervised according to the same principles as outlined for TV viewing above. But the Internet offers more choice and is less passive.