US turns tables in anti-telly war

20th March 1998 at 00:00
After I Love Lucy, Frasier and The Simpsons comes White Dot. Britain, under siege for so long from US television culture, is now facing the opposite threat.

Campaigners in the American White Dot movement have one simple message: turn off the TV. They back this up with dire warnings that the television - seen by many as the route to global communication, never mind global shopping - is eroding democracy. It is also, they add, increasing illiteracy and making children both stressed-out and apathetic.

The campaign, started by a former punk-rock singer and mother of two, is behind next month's International TV-Turnoff Week which it hopes will involve at least 1,000 British schools.

David Burke, editor of the UK edition of White Dot magazine, argues that television makes children passive watchers who expect instant stimulation whenever they become bored, instead of learning how to amuse themselves.

"Television is manipulation - somebody takes over your brain and makes you feel or think something," the New Jersey-born Mr Burke warns. "It doesn't give people the tools they need to go off and make up their own mind."

But surely there is good TV and bad TV? That, Mr Burke says, is missing the point. "TV is designed to induce a state of lethargy that makes it almost impossible to view critically or be intellectually engaged." Worse - it does it in your own home.

He blames TV for everything from illiteracy and attention deficit disorder in children to falling election turnouts.

White Dot claims 25,000 US schools took part in last year's switch-off. One former child addict in Philadelphia said: "I really didn't like TV-Turnoff Week except I did notice that my grades went up and I was in a good mood all week."

As for Mr Burke, he stopped watching when he was asked to start the magazine and says he now views friends who watch the box as weird. He does go to the movies a lot.

For details of International TV-Turnoff week contact The White Dot at Box 2116, Hove, East Sussex BN3 3LR, or e-mail

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