THE military was in full swing. Motorized troops rumbled past the president’s stand while warplanes thundered overhead. Suddenly a military truck pulled up in front of the official tribune. Several armed men jumped down, threw grenades onto the dais and opened fire with automatic weapons. Within seconds Egypt lost its president, Anwar el-Sadat. And within hours the whole world was able to witness the scene, as if present. TV-news technicians had once again done a remarkable job.
On-the-Spot News Coverage
The assassination attempts on President Reagan and Pope John Paul II, even the abortive coup d’etat in the Spanish Cortes, or Parliament, were all flashed onto television screens shortly after these unforeseen dramatic events took place. Better still, TV newscasts often provide simultaneous coverage of events for audiences halfway around the world from where they are happening.
Seeing the space shuttle actually land with uncanny precision on a dry lake bed in a California desert is surely more impressive than merely hearing a radio newscaster announce that the shuttle is back safely. Similarly, when people see the damage done by a flood in India or an earthquake in Italy and actually witness the human suffering, they can manifest fellow feeling and be moved to contribute to relieve it. All of this can be put on the credit side of TV news.
An Insidious Danger
There is, however, a debit side. A report on Japanese TV, published in Paris by the International Herald Tribune, quoted social psychologist Professor Ishikawa as saying that the major commercial TV stations “sugarcoat news and “do not tell the truth. The report also quoted Tadashi Okuyama, publisher of a Japanese TV guide, as stating that television “is the most influential medium in the nation.
What is true of Japan is true, to a greater or lesser degree, of many other lands. Television has become an “influential medium in practically every country of the world, but that influence is not always good. Even when TV stations are completely independent of any government control, powerful lobbies or rich advertisers can influence news coverage in fields of religion, industry and politics. Slanted news is a subtle form of censorship.
This danger is obviously compounded in countries where radio and TV broadcasting is a State monopoly. The temptation is great for governments to use this “most influential medium for propaganda purposes. This can be done barefacedly, as in totalitarian lands, or in more subtle ways. Selfish interests can slant and distort the facts by showing only one side of a story.
So, even when watching a TV newscast, it is good to remember what television can do FOR you and TO you. In addition to shaping your thinking, TV can also affect your health.