The impact of television

Essay by htzhu_bj May 2004

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Anything that makes a country's government more transparent is certainly a good thing, at least in democratic countries. These societies have a great deal to gain by being able to watch their elected government officials in action. But to broadly state that the more government proceedings that are televised, the more society will benefit is to ignore the fact that sometimes, less is more. Some types of proceedings can even be adversely affected if televised, making society worse off rather than giving it a benefit. Some types of governmental proceedings should receive more televised coverage, but there are some that should probably receive less to ensure that they are properly conducted.

One example of the possible negative effects of televising all governmental proceedings was the trial in the United States of accused murderer and former National Football League superstar O.J. Simpson. The trial was televised and became a huge media spectacle, captivating the nation's attention during the entire trial.

Attorneys were well aware that the proceedings were being televised and almost behaved as if they were acting in a movie. The spotlight was so unrelenting that the circus atmosphere affected even the judge. The presence of television cameras and the effect of the intense media coverage led to a trial like no other, and adversely affected the natural progression of the trial. The participants played to the cameras rather than focusing on the task at hand. Largely because of television, many people would argue that justice was not served during this particular trial.

On the other hand, television of the day-to-day workings of government in action provides direct insight into how a government actually works. Because the television cameras are there everyday, the governmental officials become accustomed to them and are no longer greatly affected by their presence. In this...