Television: The Hidden Picture

Rixon Stewart – 2001

The old line about British television being the best in the world is a debateable one. What is beyond dispute though is the fact that Britons are a nation of TV addicts and with the advent of cable and satellite TV that trend is likely to continue. Whether or not that is a good thing is another matter entirely. For its influence could literally be described as deadening, as a growing amount of scientific evidence would seem to indicate. But don’t expect to hear that from the mainstream media, particularly television; there is simply too much at stake here, politically and economically, for what follows to become more widely known.

According to Daniel Reid, writing in the Tao of Health Sex and Longevity, the rays from a TV flicker erratically, causing uneven and irregular stimulation of the retina. “This choppy stimulus is transferred directly into the brain via the optic nerve, which in turn irritates the hypothalamus. In scientific experiments conducted in the US but ignored by both the government and the television industry, rats exposed to colour TV for six hours a day became hyperactive and extremely aggressive for about a week. Thereafter they suddenly became totally lethargic and stopped breeding entirely.” In effect their endocrine systems had been ‘burnt out;’ equally significant was the fact that during the experiment the TV screens were kept covered in thick black paper so that only the invisible rays came through. Thus the damage was done, not by the visible rays, but by the invisible radiation.

These findings were echoed by Dr H.D. Youmans of the U.S. Bureau of Radiological Health, quoted by Associated Press in 1970: “We found rays escaping from the vacuum tubes to be harder and of higher average energy than we expected. They penetrated the first few inches of the body as deeply as 100-kilowatt diagnostic X-rays. You get a uniform dose to the eyes, testes and bone marrow.”

The same year Dr Robert Elder, director of the BRH, testified before Congress that even very minute doses of radiation, which fall below the legal limit cause damage and that the damage is cumulative.

In fact the evidence is beginning to mount to the point where it can no longer be ignored, unless you happen to watch a lot of TV, in which case you may not have noticed the results of a study by Sally Ward. One of Britain’s leading authority’s on children’s speech development, she completed a ten year study which showed that the background noise in the average two year olds day can delay his or her acquisition of a language by up to a year. Almost invariably the background noise came from television. Amongst other things she found that:

· Children learn to speak from their parents and parents don’t play or talk enough with their children when the TV is on.
· Background noise from TV or radio, confuses infants. In response they learn to ignore all noise and then they ignore speech.
· Children of two years or older should not be exposed to more than two hours of TV a day.
· Children of one year old or younger should not be exposed to television at all..

Sally Ward is currently preparing to focus on television and the way it affects our attention. In particular she will be looking at Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
“. . . a lot of people think it’s chemical,” she says, but in her view . . . “it’s very peculiar that at the onset of children’s television it got a lot more prevalent, and at the onset of children’s video’s it got a lot more prevalent.”

Her concern is being reiterated in America where child psychologist John Rosemond has stirred some controversy by suggesting that ADHD is environmentally created; a suggestion that is completely at odds with the pharmaceutical industry, which maintains that the disorder is genetically inherited and makes considerable profit as a result.

“Ritalin may work, temporarily,” says Rosemond, “But pharmaceutical intervention won’t change behavioural and motivational problems.” And these he blames on television – “the endlessly changing images, flickering like the attention spans of ADHD children.”

Interestingly, Rosemond began questioning the role of TV after his own son began displaying symptoms of ADHD. In response he got rid of his television and within six weeks the boy’s behaviour was transformed. Today he is a commercial airline pilot, a job which requires some concentration.

Still, there may well be a place for television in modern society: in our prisons. No seriously. At a time when its budget is being cut by over 15% you may ask why the prisons service is spending an estimated £5 million on television sets for a third of its inmates? Why? Well, according to David Roddan, general secretary of the prison governors association: “It’s the best control mechanism you can think of.”

Extracts from The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity, Simon & Schuster and GET A LIFE! David Burke and Jean Lotus (Bloomsbury ISBN 0-7475-3689-9)