FW: TV or not-TV, that's the question :> (fwd)

Kristine R. Brancolini (brancoli@indiana.edu)
Fri, 27 Aug 1999 13:40:26 -0700 (PDT)

There has a been an interesting discussion lately about the TV-Turn Off
Week and ALA's sponsorship. The response from most councilors has been
very encouraging. Most understand why many ALA members, especially those
of us who are media librarians, are uneasy with sponsorship of this event.
Mark Rosenzweig, on the other hand, represents the opposing point-of-view.
This latest message verbalizes what we all suspect many librarians believe
about libraries, that is, "libraries are about the priority of the written
word." See below.

I'm not very meticulous about voting for ALA council, but in the future I
will look for this person's name. If I see it on the ballot, I will find
other people for whom to vote.

Kristine Brancolini
Indiana University Libraries

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 14:55:53 -0500
From: "Spalding, Helen H." <SpaldingH@umkc.edu>
To: ACRL Leads <acrleads@ala1.ala.org>
Subject: FW: TV or not-TV, that's the question :>

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Rosenzweig [mailto:iskra@earthlink.net]
Sent: Friday, August 27, 1999 11:27 AM
To: ALA Council List
Subject: Re: TV or not-TV, that's the question :>

1) IMPORTANT NEWS FLASH: TV has recently, within the last months, been
examined as a serious HEALTH PROBLEM by the national association of
pediatricians, who have issued a report which, among other things, found
that early exposure to TV is positively detrimental, without respect to
content, to a toddler's mental development.They also issued guidelines for
the maximum time spent in front of a TV tube for older children, from a
health point of view.

Was the pediatricians' association involved in censorship or contributing
to a violation of intellectual freedom? Were they gratuitously
"discriminating" in terms of format with respect to the effects of the
medium? What is behind this? A group of reactionary physicians bent on
banning access to TV, or a community of concerned health care professionals
who were duty bound to alert the public to a public health problem of
increasingly importannt dimensions and consequences in the form of
children's TV addiction and its baneful consequences.

2) Television is a unique, social fact, a *sui generis* phemomenon which
defines, in an incommensurable way, the behavior and development of those
immersed in its world and addicted to its continuous consumption. It is an
industry (not a "format") which --apart from its infinitessimally small
not-for-profit sector-- very definitely, actively, infinitely consciously
does everything to get viewers immersed as totally in its web, for the sake
of immense profits through maximum exposure to its commercial content,

3)DEFINITION: Videotapes are a "format" with discrete entities, judged, by
librarians, on their merits; televison broadcasting is a business which
aims to take up as much of everyones' eye-ball time ,without regard to
content, as it possibly can, (and does so very effectively) not for your
edification, but for profit and despite the deleterious effects of TV
assuming an ever greater proportion of leisure activity.

If televison, per se, were a "format"--I ask again-- why don't we set up
banks of TVs in each library like in bus stations and encourage people to
just watch as they would at home.

For that matter, why don't we collect, as a matter of principle, all video
games--or only the best-- (which ARE a format) and encourage patrons to
play them on our VDTs to their hearts' content. There is certainly some
hypocrisy here in "discriminating" against video games as a format?

4) I venture a position here: libraries are about the priority of the
written word. This priority is not exclusive, but it remains, nonetheless,
a priority. We are the ONLY institutions which attend to this. If we lose
sight of this mission we lose our raison d'etre.

>Personally, I do understand and appreciate how this could be viewed as an
>intellectual freedom issue (though not perhaps, strictly speaking
>"censorship"). But even if intellectual freedom didn't come into it, I
>could not vote for an ALA stand that discriminated against a *format*
>without regard to content.
>When I was in junior high, I was reading Pitcairn's Island in paperback.
>I was sitting on the bus next to a friend, and I said that it was a good
>book, and asked if she had read it. Her reply was "No, I'm not
>allowed to read paperback books." Well, it turned out that her church
>believed that paperback books were evil. So much of questionable moral
>value was published in paperback, that the church forbad its members to
>read ANY paperback books.
>OK, I know that "turn-off-the-TV week" is only a *suggestion* to turn off
>the TV, not a *requirement*, but it strikes me just like Jeanne's church's
>judgement about paperback books struck me: It's not the FORMAT that we
>should be concerned about. To do anything that implies that you can judge
>information by its FORMAT is something that many of us believe that
>librarians should not do (and by extension, not something that ALA should
>support). And no matter what, support by ALA of a period in which one
>format is "given up" DOES imply a belief that information presented in
>that format is "less worthy".
>Think of it ..... virtually all the other voluntary "give up X" weeks, are
>asking people to give up things that are considered to be harmful.
>(Cigarettes, Commuting by private automobile, and so forth). Supporting
>giving up TV for a week would carry a connotation that ALA believes that
>TV is "bad". .... no matter what the INTENT of the supporters might
>actually be.
> janet swan hill
> councilor at large