Did you see the cover story of Newsweek magazine last week?
The cover story is titled, “Why TV is Good for Kids.”
What are we to expect from Newsweek next week?
Why Soda Pop is Good for Kids.
Why Sedentary Living is Good for Kids.
Why Obesity is Good for Kids.
Some things are good for kids.
Reading is good for kids.
Love and caring is good for kids.
Teaching is good for kids.
Running, playing basketball and baseball and tennis and swimming are good for kids.
But don’t try and insult us by telling us that sitting in front of a TV is good for kids.
Why, against all common sense, is Newsweek going to try and convince us that television is good for kids?
Well, one reason might be: Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post Company, which owns a sprawling cable company and six broadcast stations around the country.
Of course, nowhere in the article does Newsweek tell us this.
And how does Newsweek try and convince us that TV is good for kids?
They trot out an expert, Daniel Anderson, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, who claims that TV is good for kids.
But what Newsweek doesn’t tell us is Anderson is a paid consultant to a variety of television networks and advertising interests.
His clients include: NBC, CBS, Universal Pictures, Sony, General Mills, the Leo Burnett ad agency, Nickelodeon and the National Association of Broadcasters.
The article says that TV is a good thing because kids learn from television and parents are “looking for TV to help them do a better job of raising kids.”
But Frank Vespe, executive director of the TV TurnOff Network (), points out that the article misses a crucial issue: the average American school child spends more time in front of the television each year — about 1,023 hours — than in the classroom — about 900 hours.
“This amount of television — more than twice what anyone thinks is a healthy amount — has negative consequences for health, education, and family time,” Vespe said.
This amount of television watching actually hurts children.
Vespe points to studies documenting how kids gain weight from watching TV, and that TV reinforces sex roles and stereotyping.
Voracious TV-watching kids turn into voracious TV-watching adults. The average American watches four hours a day, 1460 hours a year, about two full months, 24 hours a day, every year.
Newsweek did run a one-page counterpoint (“No It’s Not”) to its “TV Is Good for Kids” eight pager.
The “No It’s Not” counterarticle is written by a mom who points out that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children younger than two and a maximum of two hours a day of “screen time” — TV, computers or videogames — for older kids.
We rang up the author of the “Why TV Is Good for Kids” article, Daniel McGinn.
McGinn immediately points out that at the end of his article, he did write that the expert, Anderson, advised on a handful of television shows during their conception.
“People who help create television shows get paid to do so,” McGinn tells us.
Well, yes, but Anderson gets paid to do much more.
According to his own bio, Anderson has been paid by NBC and by General Mills to consult “on television viewing behavior.”
And he’s been paid by the Leo Burnett ad agency to consult on “children’s cognitive processing of television.”
That’s a touch more than helping to “create television shows.”
We asked Newsweek’s McGinn why he didn’t inform his readers that Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post which owns a cable company and six broadcast news outlets.
“Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post,” he says. “I’m not sure what the Washington Post owns today.”
You mean you don’t know that the Washington Post Company owns television outlets?
It’s right on the company’s web site: WDIV in Detroit, KPRC in Houston, WPLG in Miami, WKMP in Orlando, KSAT in San Antonio and WJXT in Jacksonville.
The Post also owns Cable ONE, the owner and operator of cable television systems serving subscribers across the country.
Earlier, McGinn left a message on our machine saying he was willing to talk with us “at whatever length.”
At this point, though, McGinn decides the conversation has gone on long enough.
“Who do you write for?” he asks. We tell him.
“Have a great day, bud.” And he hangs up.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and co-director of Essential Action. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999.)