The Nature of Watching Television Today

(Posting on the nature of watching television today; fragment of an article; by one NEB)

Watching television today is different from that in the past. In the past there was only one station or channel. And this station was owned by the state, the consequence of which was that the programs and their showing were controlled by the government. From one side, this was positive in that the government made sure that any program shown was that which was worth watching (and was supportive of its political policy too). From the other, this underestimated the viewers in the sense that they were considered incapable of selecting only good programs to watch from a selection of programming the channel (and the government) could have made various. For the programs shown, the viewers had to contribute some money on a monthly basis. Therefore, to expect that the channel would show them quality programs was only fair.

Today, there are a number of private television stations available in addition to the still-existing national channel. Not paying any single Rupiah, the viewers have a variety of programs to choose from. To expect that those channels would show them only “quality” programs is too much. Instead, this is a good chance for the viewers to be educated, critical, and responsible in that they can choose to watch only programs worth watching, basing that still on their preference and existing norms and values. This is where television-facilitated (media) education lies. Alwasilah (2001: 66) asserts, “we are now overwhelmed by perplexing artificial creation of the mass media. To survive, we have to count on our critical thinking skills.” By definition, the viewers have to be able to tell which programs are entertainingly educational, educationally entertaining, entertainingly misleading, sexually educational, sexually influential, religiously influential, all-age safe, politically educational, etc.

“Education for all” once campaigned nationwide should now not only mean education for all citizens deserving it without exception, but it should also imply education in all that the citizens—in this case, the viewers—think, see, believe, and do. In the case of television programs, no matter how trashy some may turn out to be, they may still serve the viewers a good lesson in that the viewers can educate themselves not to watch the programs. Groucho Marx, cited in Stevenson (1987: 80), for example, boldly asserts, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set I go into the other room and read a book.”

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