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Television Causes More Harm to Society Than it Does Good

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/15/2012 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,781 times Debate No: 20409
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
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This is my first time debating on this site though I guess I have to start somewhere :)
First of all I would like to point out that I am pro/for the notion that television causes more harm to society than it does good, i.e. I believe that television is a form of media that does have positives, although I also believe that these positive aspects are outweighed by the negative ones.

I would like to think that the individual who wishes to debate this point is articulate, coherent and capable of forming a good 'con' argument. Although I would obviously like to win this debate, it would not be a victory I hold in any regard if the opponent forfeits or cannot formulate a reasonable counter argument. I have set the restrictions to 5 rounds and 8,000 characters per round in order to allow the fullest potential debate. I wish my opponent the best of luck and anticipate a good old fashioned debate :D

Firstly, I would like to state my case. I believe that television is a medium that has an impact on almost every person's life in the western world. It has become a national norm for people to watch it and it has become a form of mass entertainment. This in itself is not an intrinsically bad thing, in fact it could be argued to be far from it. However, when the tendrils of media giants are allowed into people's homes, it could be argued they are unknowingly/unwillingly exposing themselves to the influence of whoever it is creating the things they watch.

Now I would like to present my argument. I will go through each point with as concise an explanation as possible as the character limit may well run out. When I use quotes or reference theories links will be provided, I would like the 'con' participant to also include sources to add credibility to the opposing argument.

AP 1: Television is a medium that is easily open to influence. Whether 'pro' or 'con' the notion that television is harmful, this point is undeniable. If a media giant, such as News Corporation, choose to screen something, they have unlimited power to manipulate it. The reason they would do this is simply to reflect their own interests. Before I make my point, ask yourself a question: do you believe that television news should be objective? Having objectivity allows for professionalism and allows for people to make their own judgements on the stories reported. That is what having a 'free-press' SHOULD be about. Now I'd like you to watch this video (Fox News) Let's look at this. It's a report about a student sit in. The student's views are diametrically opposed to those of News Corporation. So what do Mr Murdoch's spin-doctors do? Report the story to make it look like the people who were attacked by police deserved it. This quite coincidentally ties in with conservative sentiments of the station.

This is not the only case where television is biased. Due to the fact that, in the USA certainly, news stations are owned by large media conglomerates, the news is what they say. If a story that criticises or otherwise tarnishes the reputation of one of these, then they can simply choose to not run it. This is what you may otherwise know as lying by omission.

AP 2: Television advertising deliberately targets impressionable people. Now, I accept that television advertising is necessary to fund independent television stations and also to encourage sales of products. However, I find certain advertising techniques to be questionable at best. Allow me to explain.

In the UK, there is a station called ITV (Independent Television) that relies on advertising to stay on air. This has been the case since it's beginning. This is not where my problem is. My problem is that during the afternoon there is a slot specifically for children named CITV. During this, normal advertising is dropped and the advertising is almost completely focused at selling products to children. Now, the business minded of you will realise that this makes economic sense. But is it ethical? I would say not. If you watched this advertising you would quickly see that the adverts are etching consumerism/materialism into the minds of impressionable children. They show that children are happy when they have the products they are selling, which in turn makes the children want the product. They are then happy when they have it, but their happiness is short lived because they are only to be bombarded with a whole set of new adverts advertising something else.

This also provides some parents with the obligation to buy expensive things for their children. Those without the finances to buy the things their children want may feel inadequate to other parents and the children themselves may feel deprived in comparison to their peers. You may hear older people talk about how they used to make their own fun and entertained themselves because their parents didn't have the money to buy them things. Does this mean that children these days do not have the capacity to entertain themselves or is it due to invasive advertising dictating to them what should make them happy?

AP 3: Television can be used as a propaganda machine. This point relates to AP 1 in that influence can be exerted over the masses. Although the influence in this sense is a lot more sinister. Allow me to explain my point. Now, regrettably I could not find statistics for how many people watched TV news during the first Gulf War, but the PBS website suggests that 57% of Americans watch TV news (now) and the total amount of Americans getting news (any form) is down 10% from 1994. So it would be fair to estimate that roughly around 60% of Americans watched TV news. Now have a look at these videos (CNN) (Truth blackout)

One is a fake report and the other is a report that didn't get screened. One talks of a supposed Iraqi attack (that didn't actually happen because the whole thing is completely bogus) and the other shows the aftermath of attacks on Iraqi civilians at the hands of US forces. The latter was obviously not aired because it damages the image of the military. So as the examples show, the media can easily be manipulated to get support for war and minimise the damage done to that support by damning footage.

While also on this point, it is worth noting the role of television in stirring up fear in the hearts of average people. Fear is a very powerful emotion, it causes people to act or think in ways that they wouldn't normally. For example, if someone asked you for your car keys you would simply say no (or most people would). But if someone put a loaded gun to your head then made the same request, the outcome would most likely be a lot different. A similar sort of process goes on in the media in order to gain support for war. News agencies report on how 'terrorists' are attacking 'our freedom'. The use of the word terrorist itself conjures up images of evildoers intent on nothing but mindless violence and bringing death to innocent people. But the image of 'the terrorist' is a construct of the media, designed to highlight differences and give a face to the enemy. Once people have an enemy in their mind to direct the hate at, hate caused by emotive/selective reports, then the support for war increases. This in turn means that in the west, people who appear to be of middle-eastern descent are looked at with suspicion. The media can also be attributed to the growth of Islamophobia.

AP 4: Television is addictive. Television viewing can be shown to be a behavioural addiction that displays similar symptoms to other, better documented addictions, such as gambling. I will have to give this point more explanation in the next round as my character limit has almost been reached.


First off, let it be known that the burden of proof is shared and equal.

I am look forward to an interesting and engaging debate on this matter.

1: This "manipulation of facts" argument is very similar to number 3, so go to number 3 to read my refutation.

The video you posted was of Bill O'Reilly, a well-known political commentator, on the set of the O'Reilly Factor, conducting an interview. Yes, he is a political commentator. He has the right to form his own opinions and state his own interpretations of the news. He was not "reporting" the news; he was doing his job as a commentator. If an actual reporter had made these statements, your evidence would be valid.

2: The opponent states that advertisements attempt to "sell products to children." However, children are almost always not the ones with the money. And if children were the ones buying items from advertisements, then unhappy parents would have the right to void the contract the seller made with the child (as allowed by US law.) [1] This is not what happens, though. The children convince their parents, typically able-minded adults, to purchase these items. Ultimately, advertisements do not cause children to buy the product; rather, they oftentimes indirectly convince the children to convince their parents (adult consumers) but it is solely the parents' right to form a permanent contract to purchase (or to choose to not purchase) said items.

It is certainly the right of companies to openly market their products to attract consumers. And adult consumers are given, by the law, the right to purchase legal items at their own will.

3: As my opponent's video shows, there have been instances in the past in which news was manipulated. At its core, television is a means of communicating information. In the past, television has been used as a means of deceiving the public (such as in the USSR, due to extreme Soviet censorship. [2]) However, in the end, television does what it is meant to do: to communicate information. In modern society, news hoaxes are uncommon (hence why the video the opponent provided was old, from 1990) because the discovery of such an act would put the credibility of a television program in very serious jeopardy; most programs are not willing to risk this and put heavy emphasis on sharing the truth.

Without the media, we would be far more oblivious to the world around us... To the horrors of 9/11, the presidential election, and the wars that US soldiers are sent to in the Middle East. Many of the issues covered in television news programs affect a large number of people in the United States. Despite some of the misconceptions (such as Islamophobia) that may arise from it, television news is necessary, since people have the right to be informed about issues that directly affect them, their friends, and their family.

4: Indeed, some people are susceptible to becoming addicted to watching television. There are also people who show addictive behavior related to sex, food, exercise, and shopping. [3] In moderation, all of the listed things are beneficial (and oftentimes necessary.) Just because some people have the potential of being addicted to something does not make it harmful. Television viewing, in moderation, allows someone to be informed about current events that may affect him or her. I await my opponent's extension of this argument.


Thank you.

Debate Round No. 1


Thank your for your reply, InVinoVeritas. However, I have some points with which to contradict your con argument.

1) Bill O'Reilly may be a political commentator, though is it coincidence that he is a commentator for Fox News? It seems as though he and Rupert Murdoch's organisation share the same beliefs. I think that if he produces shows like that he should clearly state his views at the start of the show so that people who are politically unaware, such people do exist, do not just take his words as truth.

But besides, the anchor of the show holds the same views! So regardless of what O'Reilly actually says, Megyn Kelly shares his views. And she is the reporter.

2) As for advertising targeting children I do not believe the con argument is particularly relevant. I did not say that children have the money, the obviously don't have the money, I said that they place pressure on their parents to buy them things. I think that pressured with their child's unhappiness and pestering, a parent would feel almost unable not to buy whatever their child wanted. This is because in our western society affection can be shown by purchasing expensive material items, though I need to avoid this topic so as to not go off on a tangent. However this phenomenon is nurtured by the media because it ties in nicely with manufacturer's money making.

[1] "Today's kids have more autonomy and decision-making power within the family than in previous generations, so it follows that kids are vocal about what they want their parents to buy. "Pester power" refers to children's ability to nag their parents into purchasing items they may not otherwise buy. Marketing to children is all about creating pester power, because advertisers know what a powerful force it can be." I think this explains how advertising targets children.

Besides, how would my opponent like to explain crazes that appear amongst children? When a product comes onto the market and flies off the shelves, are the parents the ones who the products are designed for? Remember Pokemon, Digimon, Beyblades, Yu Gi Oh, Bratz dolls etc? All of these products have films, TV shows and heavy advertising which is all a big marketing initiative directly targeting children. They come and go, stay in trend for a bit and then the next big thing comes along to replace it. A mirror of our disposable, never satisfied society.

Here is another reason why television causes more harm to society than it does good:-

[2] "Teens, youngsters are in a stage of life where they want to be accepted by their peers, they want to be loved and be successful. The media creates the ideal image of beautiful men and women with all the ingredients of a successful person, you can see it in movies and tv. It�€™s a subliminal way to persuade the masses that if you want to be successful and look like them then you have to buy that particular brand or product. Another negative influence in teenagers, especially in the USA, that has grown over the last years is obesity. There are millions of adolescents fighting obesity, but at the same time they are exposed to thousands of advertisements of junk food, while the ideal image of a successful person is told to be thin and wealthy."

Allow me to explain. Television places a lot of emphasis on the traits listed in the above caption: beauty, success and wealth. However, in the society in which we live, it is a few who are like this and not the masses. This causes people to feel inferior to their peers and self conscious, when in actual fact they should just be pleased to be who they are and not long for shallow acceptance. However, while television reigns, people will largely behave how they are led to believe they should. For example, television shows aimed at young adults in the UK; Jersey Shore, Geordie Shore, The Only Way Is Essex etc glamourise casual sex, binge drinking and sexism. Impressionable young adults see people acting in this way then act this way themselves. You could say that they should know better, but the fact is they don't know better because unfortunately the world is not composed of intelligent individuals such as ourselves. We can see through the 'fakery' but unfortunately a lot of people cannot.

And in response to my opponent's argument that TV hoaxes are rare, this is not necessarily true. TV hoaxes can be used to dramatic effect, it's just not always apparent how powerful they can be. Allow my links to demonstrate.

[3] Link to bogus TV report regarding a Russian invasion of Georgia.
[4] Link to Goldman Sachs bogus trader
[5] Link to an Independent article on 'fake news' of the Bush administration

As these links clearly show, television as a medium is easily open to misinformation whether the motives behind it are 'good' or 'bad'. I used the video from 1990 to show how this misinformation can be used to incite an emotive response to conflict and be used to gain support for a war. In my opinion, television lends itself to much more emotive reactions than newspapers or radio due to the fact it uses moving images and sounds. This is why I think it can be manipulated in order to get a certain type of reaction from the audience.

I would also like to point out why television can be addictive:
"First of all, when you're watching television the higher brain regions (like the midbrain and the neo-cortex) are shut down, and most activity shifts to the lower brain regions (like the limbic system). The neurological processes that take place in these regions cannot accurately be called "cognitive." The lower or reptile brain simply stands poised to react to the environment using deeply embedded "fight or flight" response programs. Moreover, these lower brain regions cannot distinguish reality from fabricated images (a job performed by the neo-cortex), so they react to television content as though it were real, releasing appropriate hormones and so on. Studies have proven that, in the long run, too much activity in the lower brain leads to atrophy in the higher brain regions.

It is interesting to note that the lower/reptile/limbic brain correlates to the bio-survival circuit of the Leary /Wilson 8 Circuit Model of Consciousness. This is our primal circuit, the base "presence" that we normally associate with consciousness. This is the circuit where we receive our first neurological imprint (the oral imprint), which conditions us to advance toward anything warm, pleasurable and/or protective in the environment. The bio-survival circuit is our most infantile, our most primal way of dealing with reality."[6]

Television is therefore performing the same actions on the people that a drug would, though it is just administered through the eyes and relies on changes in your brain occurring without the introduction of a chemical substance. And this 'drug' so to speak is easily available and widely used throughout society, nearly everyone does it. This makes me believe that dependence on it will cause the decay of society as people rely more heavily on easy and simple distraction mechanisms that just hold enough of their attention. I think it's a fair assessment to say people who are overweight watch more TV on average than people who are of average weight. Obesity leads to people being lazy and looking for an easy distraction which could cause a cycle of dependency, perhaps.



1: Bill O'Reilly is a political commentator, not a reporter, and people recognize that. Megyn Kelly is a reporter, but she was not reporting; rather, he was interviewing her and asking about her opinions. Reporters give objective information when actually reporting. But when being interviewed on a political commentor's show, they have the right to state their own views on issues. Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing; people should be allowed to speak their minds, and that is what O'Reilly's show is all about, so I don't see how it can be used as evidence that television is harmful.

2: Advertisements' ability to appeal to children is clearly not the issue here. The real problem is parents' unnecessary subservience to their children. As the opponent said, "...Pressured with their child's unhappiness and pestering, a parent would feel almost unable not to buy whatever their child wanted." An adult consumer should be able to make his or her own decisions on what he or she wishes to purchase. If an adult buys something just because he or she is pressured by his or her child to purchase an item, this is rather poor parenting and inefficient use of adult consumer rights. Television should not be blamed for the irresponsibility of some parents in current society.

The opponent's claim that it is common that inappropriate content and exaggeration on television shows impact young adults' everyday behavior goes unsupported. Young adults are able to make a distinction between reality and television broadcasts.

3: The reason why these television news error are so widely published (and why they are so easy accessible, as the opponent probably knows) is because it is a relatively rare thing, since, as I stated before, the news channel's reliability and reputation would be put in jeopardy. Let us remember that without television, the average Joe would know nothing about the world and about events that directly affect him, so, despite the risk of manipulation of information, it is, all in all, beneficial to society. I have yet to see the opponent prove that the informative nature of television is negative.

4: Indeed, the basis of addiction is typically considered to have a neurochemical cause. There are thought to also be biopsychological causes for sex addiction [1] and gambling addiction. [2] Sex and gambling, in moderation, are not known to be harmful and in fact are often beneficial. Sex is pleasurable, physically healthy, and causes reproduction. Gambling can be a good stress-reliever when done in moderation and act as a good source of entertainment and a means for socialization. [3] We cannot say that these activities are, all in all, harmful simply because some people have the potential of becoming addicted. Television, too, in moderation can be of benefit to people in moderation, in the same way that the overconsumption of food can lead to obesity, but moderate consumption can prevent malnutrition and starvation.


Debate Round No. 2


I'd like to thank my opponent for his response and now I would like to offer my response to his claims.

1) As my opponent has said, the video I have shown is of political commentary between a news anchor and a commentator. The problem that I have with it is that the views being expressed are deliberately misguiding. If you watch the video, and I suggest you do, Megyn Kelly claims that pepper spray is a food product. This is obviously a complete understatement of what pepper spray is given that it is illegal and controlled under firearms laws in most of Europe and Asia. My point is that the video shows people who are showing civil disobedience (posing no threat and displaying no hostility to police) being sprayed with pepper spray and Kelly's justification of it may lead the audience to believe that this sort of action is acceptable, that they deserved what they got. Of course, we as civilised humans must accept that this sort of behaviour should be condemned, and I believe it should be their responsibility as TV show hosts or whatever you may call them to say responsible things on air.

Above is another video of Megyn Kelly that shows her overt bias. Freedom of speech, her opinions, the right to express her views or whatever, she's just a reflection of Fox News' interests and she shares the same values as the conglomerate at large. Let me explain what I mean. If you swap the name News Corporation with State Media, swap the name Fox News with State News and swap the right wing anchor with a left wing anchor, would you say that this hypothetical anchor would be a socialist working for the state? Would this make the news biased in the favour of the state? I think it just might.

I agree that freedom of speech is a good thing, but the problem is that people too readily believe what they see on TV and the average person watching a news channel may not differentiate between actual news and the opinions of individuals on the show. Do you see what I'm trying to say? You have to remember that not everyone is as intelligent as we are and they can be easily lied to and duped by media giants.

2) "Advertisements' ability to appeal to children is clearly not the issue here." What is the issue then? My opponent is right in saying that an adult consumer SHOULD be able to make his or her own decisions, but increasingly this is not the case. Do you really believe parents buy their children things that they themselves decide on? Of course they don't, they rely on their children telling them what they want. The below quote demonstrates the extent to which children watch television.

"The Journal of the American Medical Association has said that children between the ages of two and seventeen watch an annual average of 15,000 to 18,000 hours of television, compared with 12,000 hours spent per year in school. Children are also major targets for TV advertising, whose impact is greater than usual because there is an apparent lessening of influence by parents and others in the older generation.… According to the [Committee on Communications of the American Academy of Pediatrics], children under the age of two should not watch television at all because at that age, brain development depends heavily on real human interactions."

18,000 hours of television. 1/3 more time spent watching television than in school. This makes children massive consumers of the medium and opens them up to huge amounts of advertising.

Now my opponent claims that parents buying their children products they feel pressured to buy is bad parenting. Yes, it is bad parenting, obviously it's bad parenting. But this sort of behaviour is encouraged because the products are too expensive for children to buy > this makes the product much more appealing to children because they can't have it (anyone with any knowledge of a child's mind will know that children often want what they can't have) > they go to someone who can buy them what they want (parent) > the parent sees the cost and says no > the child is unhappy and still wants the product they have now seen advertised numerous times on television (where else would they see it? It's not like children can just independently go on shopping excursions) > the child keeps pestering and showing signs of unhappiness > the parent and child see the product in a shop and the parent gives in to the pressure.

It is worth noting that the pressure is akin to emotional blackmail, the parent is made to feel bad for not providing their child with what they want. But the child only wants the product because it has been attractively advertised and undoubtedly shown in popular children's TV shows. To the television marketers children are consumers and nothing more, but they have the added benefit of being children, therefore they are much more likely to have things bought for them by their parents for the reasons provided.

I believe that this sort of advertising, coupled with television programmes that tell kids what's cool and what's not will lead to a generation of fickle, shallow and materialistic individuals. I believe that this has already happened with early 90's children but I think it is more likely that the 2000's children will be much more effected. How is this not massively detrimental to society?

3) This is not about television news errors. My point was about deliberate lies on television. Do you genuinely believe that the news we receive via the television hasn't been censored, reworded and repackaged as info-tainment? The sort of thing average Joe would watch would be the glossy, bright, attention grabbing news that has bold headings and an attractive woman sat behind a desk. Average Joe would believe every word that came out of her mouth, but what the heck, the news anchor can't lie! That's illegal... Oh wait...

Besides, what ever happened to people getting their news from a newspaper? Or even reading a newspaper online? Newspapers have well established biases that the purchaser knows (or should know) upon buying the paper. But besides, I'd say the average Joes of the world watch the news but don't really understand it or care that much. The potential to package a fat pack of lies at these average Joes is tremendous, this is surely a huge risk to society. Even my opponent must realise that wholly untrue stories COULD be aired and who would know any different?

4) Just because other types of behavioural addiction exist does not make addiction to television better. That's a non-point. Cocaine is an addictive drug, so is heroin, guess that's OK then? Yes television CAN be beneficial in moderation but the fact of the matter is a lot more people watch too much TV than none at all. It is because television is a simple and easy distraction as I may have mentioned in my argument of the previous round. People's brains also shut down to an extent while watching television as they enter a hypnotic state. The following quote was taken from "Hypnosis - The Simple Truth Revealed By Alan B. Densky, CH"

Hypnosis is a state of hyper-suggestibility where the conscious and subconscious (unconscious) minds dissociate. It is a state of mind where the subject is more likely to accept the operator's suggestions.

You have been in hypnosis many times without even realizing it. If you have ever watched a sad T.V. show and reacted with a tear in your eye, you have been hypnotized by the television. You entered a state of increased suggestibility where you uncritically accepted the suggestion of sadness on the TV screen and reacted with a sad emotion, your tear. In other words your reasoning ability, which is contained in your conscious mind, was bypassed. You did not reason that the show was just a play; you accepted the action as being real. So you reacted with real emotion."


InVinoVeritas forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Franq_W forfeited this round.


InVinoVeritas forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


Franq_W forfeited this round.


InVinoVeritas forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by DrDoom 6 years ago
Buddy, I'm impressed. You're doing a pretty good job in this debate. i'm jealous of your skills, Best of luck for you.

Dr. Doom
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