FROM the critic Michael Medved, writing in the Heritage Foundation's Policy Review (Winter, 1995):
Even if through some miracle TV could be instantly cleansed of all the violence and the smut, would you, then, feel very comfortable about the idea of your children spending 28 hours a week watching TV? Of course not.
The problem in the country isn't too much violence on TV, and it isn't too much promiscuous sexuality in popular culture. It's too much television, period. . . .
Years ago, when the surgeon general announced to the public that smoking might not be the best thing for all Americans, you know the first thing that people did? People didn't urge that we stop smoking. They tried to take the tar and nicotine out of cigarettes.
Now, that was a useful thing, in and of itself. It might make cigarettes a little bit less damaging. But did it solve the problem? Not at all. Eventually we had to go to the stage of actually getting people to reduce smoking.
We're in the same stage with television. The emphasis on violence and smut on TV, and their destructive impact -- that's like reducing the tar and nicotine. But the problem of the addiction remains.
The difference between good television and bad television is like the difference between good heroin and bad heroin.
Even if you spent all of your 28 hours watching C-Span -- or watching "Sneak Previews" on PBS -- that amount of sitting passively, engaged in watching flickering images on a cathode ray tube, would be bad for you. It's obviously bad for family relationships -- when you spend more time watching fictional TV characters than you do talking with your own loved ones. It's clearly destructive to any sense of community when we come to know Roseanne's TV family better than we know the real-life neighbors next door.
It's incontestably undermining to a sense of higher authority, of Godliness, when we spend such a heavy percentage of our few, precious moments on this earth in an activity that is fundamentally worthless.
The Census Bureau tells us the average American now lives for 75 years, 6 months. That means that the average American will invest 13 years of life -- that's 13 uninterrupted years of 24 hour days, seven days a week -- watching television! Do you want that on your gravestone, "Here lies our beloved husband and father who selflessly devoted 13 years of life to his TV set"?
Your TV set doesn't need your time. But your family does. Your community does. Your country does.
We need your time, we need your focus, we need your commitment to re-establish the countervailing forces of faith, patriotism and family, so that what's right with American culture can, once again, work for the benefit of this great and this noble country, which continues to be, in Lincoln's phrase, "the last, best hope of earth."