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'TV's Next Act to Clean Up'

October 07, 1987

The article about the potential evils of TV recalled a personal experience.

I am an employer in a service profession, who has conducted job interviews with recent graduates for many years. About 10 years ago, I began to notice a change in the focus of questions from these graduates. Until 1975, among the first questions asked were almost invariably those dealing with the type of work the graduate would be doing, the responsibility he or she would be given and the degree of autonomy involved; starting salary and opportunities for advancement would normally come up later in the course of the interview.

Starting in the mid-1970s, however, a shift in emphasis occurred which continues to this day. Among the first questions now usually asked by prospective employees are: What's my starting salary? How much vacation will I get? What benefits do you offer? How long before I have to start work?

While none of these questions are themselves unreasonable, the discernible shift in their priority and emphasis led me to reflect on something: television.

It was during the period of 1950-1955 that TV became generally available to consumers; by 1955 the majority of U.S. households had a TV. Studies show that in the average household the TV is turned on five hours a day. Even if there are only two commercials every half hour, that still means four per hour, 20 per day, 140 per week and at least 7,280 commercials bombarding that household each year.

What's the message from these TV commercials? "You've arrived when you drive a BMW." "You're a better person if you wear Calvin Klein jeans." "It's great to fly United to beautiful Hawaii." All materialism; all creating a desire to have; never extolling substance; never mentioning that in order to have these things one must go to school and then work to get them.

My mid-1970s-and-following graduates now represent the first generation in the work force which has been raised from infancy in a household with a television.

J.C. GARRETT

Costa Mesa

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