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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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While I was away from the box...

4 December 2014

I read a very interesting and eye-opening story on the news wires this morning.

Apparently, Americans spend over four and a half hours of every day watching TV. Seriously -- that's almost a full fifth of their life and over a quarter of their waking hours vegetating in a comfy chair in front of the box.

As someone who hasn't actually watched broadcast television for something like five years or so, I would be loathe to lose such a large chunk of my day to something so utterly unproductive and passive. I'm someone who is on the go from the minute I rise (usually about 5:30am) until I crash into the sack at 9:30pm or so.

The loss of four and a half hours would be a crippling handicap to me -- so why do the vast majority of folk seem to accept it. In fact, they would almost certainly scream blue murder if you took their TV away.

I guess you'd have to ask just what the great unwashed masses would do if you turned off their TV sets and left them with 4.5 hours of extra time in a day.

With that thought in mind, you can see why media companies have so much clout and why governments bend over backwards to accommodate their every whim and desire.

I've regularly complained about the lethargy and indifference that now pervades our world and it's not hard to join the dots that connect a very unhealthy addiction to television with that malaise.

No doubt every government in the Western world is acutely aware that if it weren't for television, their citizens would be taking far more interest in the activities of their elected representatives and the way they abuse the power given them. That's obviously something that must be avoided at all costs -- hence we see no moves at all to wean folk off this "opiate of the masses", despite the massive benefits that would be experienced by communities and economies thus freed from the addiction.

I've written columns before in which I have quantified the value of all that "lost time" spent in front of the TV set but now that the actual number of hours has been reported, the waste is even greater than I'd imagined.

It is probably safe to assume that (at least during the winter months) NZers spend the same 4.5 hours passively absorbing TV content as the Americans do. Now imagine if we slashed that figure in half -- giving every Kiwi an extra two hours per day with which to do something positive, productive or philanthropic. What a stunning impact that would have on our society, our economy and our country.

Given the huge benefits that would flow, it beggars belief that instead of taking such a positive step, we prefer to continue wasting away such a huge percentage of our lives living vicariously through the dross that's dished up to us on the TV.

I wonder how many other Aardvark readers are non-TV watchers and amongst those who are addicted to this opiate, what is the average number of hours you watch per day?

Come on, just fill in the template: "Hello, my name is xxxx and I'm a TV-o-holic who watches xx hours of TV a day".

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem :-)

Related story: Americans watch less TV - stream more

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