Tuesday, January 04, 2011

television as priority

I just read an article in The New York Times. It seems,
Americans watched more television than ever in 2010, according to the Nielsen Company. Total viewing of broadcast networks and basic cable channels rose about 1 percent for the year, to an average of 34 hours per person per week. source
34 hours per person per week! The focus of the article wasn’t even about that insanely huge number or the annual increase in viewing but mostly just covered what shows Americans were actually watching in 2010. It skipped right past that huge number and started talking about cable news and Jersey Shore. So I thought I’d do some math.

34 Hours X 307,000,000 Americans = 10,438,000,000 Hours of TV viewing nationally per week. Yes, almost 10 and a half Billion hours each week.

How many work weeks is that?

10,438,000,000 Hours / 40 Hours in a Work Week = 260,950,000 Work Week Equivalents

In other words if Americans weren’t busy watching mindless crap on television we could harness the equivalent of almost 261 million Americans WORKING FULL TIME EACH WEEK to do something useful.

This is what I'm really thinking when I hear people tell me they don’t have enough time to garden or prepare meals from scratch for their families. This is what I'm really hearing when I’m pretending to listen to someone at a party bitch about some problem that person will never get up off the couch and try to really understand or address through actual civic participation.

Everyone needs some down time to relax, I get that. And sure, not everyone likes to read or play with their kids. But 34 hours? That’s ridiculous.

It’s also a huge potential labor force for addressing the pressing issues that face our nation but my guess is that this national habit of ours won’t change just because I bitch about it. In fact I bet it gets worse as the social fabric of our society is further strained and people have an increasing need to escape reality.


urbanworkbench said...

If thats the average... are there professional tv watchers?

The aging popupation probably doesn't help either.

Kate said...

Another thing about that average - there are people who watch NO tv at all. Perhaps a very small percentage of the population. But that means that if you look at only that portion of the population that DOES watch television, they're watching *more* than that 34 hours per week on average. Basically, that's as much as a full time job.

Like you, this is what I think about when people say they have no time to cook. I'd find it more plausible if they said they have no *energy* to cook. A cubicle job can seriously suck the life out of people - far more so than putting in 8 hours of moderate exertion in the garden. Being physically tired just isn't the same as being burnt out. Sadly, most people don't have any option.

I think most tv watching is done by those with soul-sucking jobs, as a form of after-hours anaesthetization. I don't really know how much I can blame those people.

Chile said...

What? You think watching an average of 5 hours per day of television is a waste of time? You just haven't looked at the superb programming out there.

I mean, there'd have to be something really good on, right? Why else would people give up doing fun stuff to sit on their butts and zone out.

I must be out of touch since we don't even own a television.

Anonymous said...

T.V. free since 2005. =)

Anonymous said...

The NYT source did not provide Neilsen demographics. Many of the watchers may not be people who would otherwise be playing with kids or doing work. My mother is 82, slowly being disabled by dementia, and watches about 15 hours, every day. The population is aging, led by that huge block of boomers. People live longer, in worse health, than ever before. We warehouse our elderly and there are not enough caregivers to provide one-on-one stimulation. I would guess that the "average" hours of watching per week will rise as the boomers age - many older people are chair-bound , bed-bound, or house-bound.

Anonymous said...


Neilsen data here.

I haven't watched TV since Reagan was on it every day.

ddu said...

It would be interesting to chart the 30-year rise in obesity, particularly among children, with these TV statistics. In addition to calculating the squandered man hours, it would also be fascinating to compute how much money Americans spend annually on cable subscriptions, satellite hardware, etc. to fund their TV viewing. When our children were small, we confronted the choice of having TV or having a life. We chose life, pocketed our cash, and never looked back. Best wishes, Donna

Margaret said...

It might, possibly, be better if people were actually be watching the TV. One of my hates is having the TV on as a background noise paying only half attention to it. I remember going to remonstrate with a mother about her children's behaviour once and having to ask her to switch it off. Another pet hate is having it on in hospital. If people are actually watching, fine, but the background noise when perhaps we want people to be resting just contributes to a level of tension and agitation. One of the first things I do when I start my night shift in hospital is turn them off. I always say that the most important thing about a TV is the off button.

Margaret in Wales

Wendy said...

If the numbers are a result of an aging population with nothing to do other than watching television, I think that's even more sad than assuming that the numbers are due to people needing an "escape." How very sad to think that my golden years will be spent vegetating in front of the idiot box?

We have no television. Right now my three homeschooled daughters are: doing a puzzle, eating granola and yogurt while doing math, and learning about lowering her footprint on a PBS web game called "Ecoworld."

But it is insidious. We used to watch a great deal of tv, and it's so easy to get sucked into it without paying attention. I used to spent hours channel surfing, always telling myself, "just to the end of *this* program" only to get sucked into another. It's easy to lose three or four hours that way.

The computer is almost as bad, though :).

Anonymous said...

..and that 'work' would be???Looks to be about time for you to meaningfully address 'meaningful work'...'right livlihood'...the almost complete lack of is probably at the heart of this malaise...tn