Tune in, Tune Out

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 19, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Tune in, Tune Out

Byline: Christian Toto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Tune in, tune out

Far be it from Tuning In to deny the pleasures of television viewing, but Frank Vespe wants us all to think before we lunge for the remote.

Mr. Vespe, the executive director of the nonprofit group TV Turnoff Network, thinks we could all be doing something better than channel surfing.

The group celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with its annual TV Turnoff Week, beginning today.

"A lot has changed in 10 years," Mr. Vespe says. "The percentage of young kids who have rules governing their TV time has gone up.

"Our message has gotten out there and people are responding to it," he says.

Not so fast. Last week nearly 28 million viewers watched Donald Trump pick his next "Apprentice" so the group shouldn't be prepping any victory speeches just yet.

Still, Mr. Vespe points to recent health findings to bolster his group's rallying cry.

"Ten years ago, nobody was thinking there was this obesity crisis and TV was right in the middle of that," he says.

The television landscape has grown dramatically since his group first took flight.

"There are more channels available to us then ever before," Mr. Vespe says. "If you're looking for an excuse to watch TV, you have more excuses than ever before ... there's also more stuff that offends people than ever before."

The head of TV Turnoff Network doesn't sound like the radical some might think.

He admits to watching television as a child and even turns on the tube himself now and again.

"Five years ago when I took this job, I asked my mother [what shows I watched]. She said I was much more likely to be playing sports, but the stuff I did watch was cartoon stuff. I was always more inclined to run around outside or play with my friends."

Today, "I probably only watch a half-hour of TV a week," he says. "It tends to be either bits of sports or sitcoms. For me, when I watch TV, it's when I want to turn my brain off."

Shocking TV

Howard Stern and Jerry Springer don't have the market cornered on shock TV - at least not this week.

The National Geographic Channel begins "Culture Shock Week" with the world premiere of "Are We Cannibals?" at 9 tonight.

The programs promise to explore aspects of sexuality, beauty, and violence that some consider either taboo or extreme.

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Tune in, Tune Out


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