In an article entitled: Hazards Lurk Between TV and Sofa by Eric Pfanner: Published in New York Times: August 21, 2011
PARIS — Once, while watching a late-night rerun of “Big Brother 17,” or maybe it was “Big Brother 7,” a nearly finished pint of Häagen-Dazs on my lap, I wondered: Is this shortening my life?
Now, thanks to a study by researchers in Australia, I know that the answer is yes. Watching television may indeed be hazardous to one’s health.
The report, published last week in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, says that every hour of television, after the age of 25, shortens the viewer’s life expectancy by 22 minutes. Adults who watch six hours a day may be cutting almost five years off their lives — almost as much as if they were lifelong smokers.
If the data are confirmed and show “a causal association, TV viewing is a public health problem comparable in size to established behavioral risk factors,” the researchers wrote.
The big problem with television watching, the researchers say, is its sedentary nature. People do not tend to watch television while running marathons. They do it from the sofa.
The data were adjusted to reflect differences in the subjects’ age, waist circumference, alcohol intake and other factors.
Yet I was left wondering: What about differences in the kinds of programming? Is reality television more or less lethal than the news, for example? If I spend my time watching “Jersey Shore,” am I more likely to die of skin cancer?
If I keep the TV tuned to Arté, the French-German cultural channel, for hours on end, am I more likely to succumb to a nasty case of ennui?
Plenty of fodder, in other words, for future studies. More at 11.
Inciting violence Television may kill, but other media are not without their hazards. Last week, two British men were sentenced to four years in prison each after being found guilty of inciting violence via Facebook. These were among the most severe punishments yet in connection with the rioting and looting in London and other British cities this month.
Never mind that neither of the men had actually succeeded in starting a riot or in carting away any loot. The only people who appear to have answered their call to hit the streets of Northwich and Warrington were the police officers who arrested them.
Four years in prison is a long time — as long as Britons convicted of manslaughter typically get, experts pointed out.
Prime Minister David Cameron has called on the courts to send a “tough message” to anyone involved in the riots. He has made social networks a particular target of his ire, saying he is looking at ways “to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
Mr. Cameron’s enthusiasm for curbs on social media could cause problems with the Liberal Democrats, partners with the prime minister’s Conservative Party in the British governing coalition. Some Liberal Democratic lawmakers said last week that they intended to call for legislation to block any new restrictions.
Yet Mr. Cameron is not without supporters. Xinhua, the state-run Chinese news agency, for example, endorsed what it called Britain’s “U-turn,” saying it made a welcome change from China’s being hectored about censorship.
“We may wonder why Western leaders, on the one hand, tend to indiscriminately accuse other nations of monitoring, but on the other take for granted their steps to monitor and control the Internet,” Xinhua said. “For the benefit of the general public, proper Web monitoring is legitimate and necessary.”
We are guessing the British measures will stop short of the approach in China, where a Google search for, say, “Tiananmen Square protests” is likely to result in a so-called 404 error. Still, the sentences handed down to the would-be Facebook rioters suggest that a considered response is not the order of the day.