Monday, 18 January 2010

Reading this could shorten your life

Under the headline WATCHING TV FOR HOURS COULD SHORTEN YOUR LIFE, this recent article in The Press warned of the dangers of sitting in front of the TV for too long each day. It quoted a study carried out in Australia which found that people "who watched more than four hours a day had a 46 percent higher risk of death from all causes and an 80 percent increased risk for CVD-related death".

Someone wrote a letter to the editor a day or two later rightly pointing out that a) the risk of death from all causes is the same for everyone (i.e. 100%), and b) it's the lack of exercise rather than the TV watching which is the problem, and it would be just as accurate to say that reading books for hours could shorten your life.

I get a bit annoyed with people who regard television per se as some kind of evil. Yes, most of the stuff on TV is crap, but the problem lies in the way the technology is used rather than the technology itself. In other words, it's the commercial, ratings-driven model that's the problem.

Take The Wire, for example, which many people (myself included) regard as one of the best TV shows ever produced. As the show's creator, David Simon, has stated, the chances of it surviving on ratings-driven free-to-air TV were slim, so it was made for HBO, a pay-TV service. Sure enough, when the show eventually screened here in New Zealand, it was at a ridiculously late hour because Television New Zealand, despite being a state-owned broadcaster, is run according to a commercial, ratings-driven model.

I should also point out that, as I mentioned in my very first post, if it weren't for television I wouldn't have got into walking and this blog wouldn't exist, since it was after watching a documentary called The Naked Rambler on TV that the idea of walking the Nakasendo came to me.

By the way, if you're wondering what the subject of that doco is up to, well, according to this opinion piece in The Guardian (hat tip: my brother in Bhutan), he's still roaming around the UK naked and still getting arrested.

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