Television's assault on Canadian taxpayers

(Photo courtesy of Brigham Young University.)

This week Brigham Young University released a new study showing that reality TV is exposing viewers to even higher levels of aggression than that of scripted TV. The study found that reality television shows contained an average of 52 acts of aggression per hour, compared with 33 acts an hour for non-reality programs. Soap operas, the most aggressive non-reality shows, had around 48 acts an hour.

Acts of aggression were categorized as physical, verbal or relational, and the kind of act (hitting, yelling, gossiping, insulting, back-stabbing and name-calling) was recorded. The Apprentice topped the list at 85 acts of aggression per hour, while American Idol had 57 aggressive acts per hour. And, according to researchers, verbal violence impacts viewers as much as if they were watching explosions or fist fights.

Also this week, in an aggressive waste of Canadian taxpayer dollars, provincial and federal governments announced that $1-million would be spent to bring Live! with Regis and Kelly to Prince Edward Island. The New-York based talk show, with a viewership of over three million a day, will be broadcast from Charlottetown’s Confederation Landing Park July 12-15.

Squandering public money on television celebrities as a way to boost tourism is not unprecedented. In 2004, the federal and Ontario governments spent $1-million to bring late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien to Toronto in the wake of the SARS outbreak. Last year, PEI spent an equal amount to land the Golf Network reality show Golf: Big Break, and the provincial government claims it generated a return of $12-million in increased tourism.

Proponents believe that Live! will help PEI “build its overall brand” with a highly coveted demographic (wealthy American couples over 45) and that Canadians will get their money back in tourist revenue. Opponents think the money should be better spent, particularly in light of cutbacks facing charitable organizations across the country, who risk losing federal funding as Ottawa tackles its budget deficit.

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