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The Lear Center: 10 GOOD Things About TV

Courtesy of the Norman Lear Center at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, a rare list of 10 GOOD things about TV — the kind of thing, frankly, that most who work in (or write about) the business could probably use as they start hunkering down for the fall season. The list, by the way, counts down in descending order.

As a UCLA grad, I only wish I could reciprocate by thinking of 10 good things about USC:

TV Can Change Policy
After an episode of ER was shown to Congressmembers, the Patient Navigator Act was passed. And an episode of Law & Order: SVU that shed light on pesticide testing prompted an official response from the EPA.

ER

TV Can Keep You Company
As humans, we crave connectedness. Studies have shown that those who suffer from loneliness find comfort in parasocial relationships with favored TV programs and TV characters.
The Simpsons

TV Can Tap Into Our Better Selves

Fonzie got a library card and requests for library cards increased over 500% nationwide. When Hollywood, Health & Society worked with the CBS show Numb3rs on an organ donation storyline, a study found that viewers of the episode were more likely to become registered organ donors.

Numb3rs

TV Can Make Us Smarter

Over the years, popular television has grown in complexity from simple narratives (Bonanza, anyone?) to multi-threaded storylines featuring 15 or more characters (Lost). In his book Everything Bad is Good for You, Steven Johnson argues that these complexities in plot, storyline and character have actually made us smarter.

As Seen On TV

TV Can Break Down Barriers

Following the 1965 Watts Riots, then CBS broadcast journalist Joe Saltzman produced Black on Black, a primetime documentary about what it meant to be black in Los Angeles.

Black on Black
TV Can Motivate Us
TV viewers are learning important civic lessons from government-themed dramas like 24 and Law & Order, according to a Lear Center study.
MCD
TV Can Bring People Together
In today’s fragmented media markets, shared televised experiences are few and far between. Televised events like the Super Bowl, the Olympics and the World Cup give us a rare opportunity to share a moment in time with the world.
shared experience
TV Can Strengthen Democracy
Seventy-two percent learn about elections and candidates from TV news. The Lear Center created The Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism in order to encourage broadcasters to do the job right.
Walter Cronkite
TV Can Empower
Entertainment-Education posits that what we watch can amuse as well as educate. When South Africa’s soap opera Soul City featured a key character as a victim of domestic abuse, it spawned the grassroots “Pots & Pans Campaign.” Soul City‘s creator received the 2009 Everett M. Rogers Award in 2009.
Soul City
TV Can Save Lives
For better or worse, viewers absorb what they see on TV, including health information. Studies indicate enormous potential for TV to serve as health educator. The Sentinel For Health Awards recognize achievements of TV storylines that inform, educate and motivate viewers to make choices for healthier and safer lives.

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