Whether you agree that Catholics should actually Unplug their Televisions, we need to understand that this is a dangerous medium

You may remember that a month or two ago, I wrote about an engaging organisation called CUT, which stands for Catholics Unplug your Televisions. Though I had reservations about CUT, to do with the fact that TV’s capacity to produce wholesome programming would be undermined if we just withdrew from involvement in this medium (what would happen to EWTN?), and that the Pope’s idea that we should use the media to fight the good fight would be gravely impaired. Not only that: I asked an obvious question: how does CUT know about the programmes it rightly has a go at in its newsletter and on its website if it doesn’t watch them? I concluded that in the middle of any war, especially the war against secularism that the Pope continually calls on us to wage, you have to know what the enemy is up to. If you simply unplug your televisions, they can do anything, unchallenged.

All the same, we all know that CUT is basically right about the extreme dangers of this particular medium, and they are currently waging a campaign that we should all support, against the dangers of television to our children. This is how they list them on their website:

What the TV can do to your children:

Stunts a child’s brain development

Delays child language acquisition

Encourages passivity

Reduces concentration

Sexualises children

Increases child sleep disorders

TV violence and child aggression

Obesity leading to type 2 diabetes

High Blood pressure in Children

Even in some cases ADHD

So, CUT have instigated an e-petition. The motion is that “TV programmes directed at children should carry a government health warning”. The responsible department is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. For those who don’t know about e-petitions (I think this was one of Tony Blair’s big ideas, and unlike some, was quite a good one), the following explains how you set one up (the government does it if they accept it in the first place):

“Search published e-petitions;
Click the “info” icon to find out more about each step;
Search existing e-petitions before creating a new one;
Create your e-petition;
It will be checked by a government department;
An e-petition can be open for up to 1 year info;
the public can sign it;
If you collect 100,000 signatures, your e-petition could be debated in the House of Commons”.

But then again, it might not be: and if it is, what then? But it’s all a lot better than doing nothing: it can get the public debate under way, and this particular one is very timely. There is a climate of disquiet over our media, and over our children’s moral formation. Over the summer, we had the riots: and those of us who have been going on for years about the dangers of the premature sexualisation of children (being consistently slagged off as Right-wing bigots) have noted with some satisfaction that the NSPCC and even some politicians have noted that this phenomenon actually exists. Last year, David Cameron was reported as saying (before the election) all this:

David Cameron warned advertisers, magazines and broadcasters today that they faced tough action from a Conservative government to protect children from sexual and violent images.

The Tory leader, who has a five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son, protested that young children were subjected to “premature sexualisation” and “arbitrary violence” in the media.

He has previously condemned the sale of padded bras and sexy knickers aimed at under-10s in the high street. Today he went further, warning that Tory ministers would be prepared to ban raunchy and violent images likely to be seen by youngsters. Retailers could also be told to take inappropriate products off their shelves.

Mr Cameron said: “It’s high time the children’s market and advertisers show much more restraint in the way they operate.

“We don’t want to resort to regulation. But we will make it clear that if business doesn’t exercise some corporate responsibility, we will not be afraid to impose it.

Well, he hasn’t done much since coming to power. So maybe a good response to CUT’s e-petition might give him a bit of a prod:

We petition that all television programmes directed at children should carry a government health warning. There have been many studies on the effects of the television on children. Most have come to the conclusion that it is better not to expose young children to the TV at all. Some national governments like the French have issued warnings about children and TV exposure. Researchers have found that watching television undermines the development of children under three, encouraged passivity, delayed language acquisition, increased agitation, reduced concentration and increased the incidence of sleep disorders. The French broadcasting authority Conseil Superior Audiovisuel (CSA) actually banned TV channels from marketing shows aimed at toddlers. With the recent riots in London and other cities involving many children there is strong evidence that television violence can cause violence in society.

Well, I have signed it, and I think as many of us as possible should do so. Whether or not you agree with CUT that we shouldn’t even possess a television licence or a television set, CUT is definitely on the side of the angels and the archangels (and particularly of the archangel Michael, who figures on their splendid logo, spearing Satan as he emerges from a large flat-screen TV) and they ought to be supported in this. Click on to it here.