Why we should not make education the main purpose of television.
And why it being pure entertainment is fine
“Netflix”, “HBO”, and “Disney+”. These are but a few of the paid subscription-based media providers in the world today. Together, they allow millions of people worldwide to stream their favourite television shows anytime, anywhere as long as they have paid the monthly subscription fee. With the fee unaffected by the amount of media streamed, many, in a bid to ‘make their money’s worth’, start to binge watch and end up spending hours upon hours staring at screens watching television shows. Even apart from these providers, millions of others stream their television shows from free online sources while others continue to watch their shows on their trusty television. Be it Korean dramas, American sitcoms or Japanese anime, it can definitely be said that the world spends a large duration of time watching television shows. With so many hours spent watching television, some have begun to question if the main purpose of television should be to educate the public instead of simply entertaining us.
Many who believe that the main purpose of television should be for education argue that only watching non-educational television shows leads to depravity and addiction in viewers. They believe that when the main purpose of television is to entertain, the time spent watching television is wasted and would only lead to a feeling of ennui after a short period of time. For these individuals, they maintain the argument that television shows that serve only as entertainment provides no real benefits to those that watch them and might instead, impart certain negative values to viewers by portraying certain behaviours such as violence or promiscuity as normal. As such, they contend that television should focus on being educational and impart useful and beneficial knowledge to all those that watch these shows. Only then, would all the time spent on watching shows be utilised well and not wasted.
However, many others disagree with them and argue that the intention of making television shows should not be for education only. Of course, for shows like the news and documentaries, education is far more important than entertainment as they have an important role to deliver the facts to the public. As such, they cannot focus on entertainment and forgo the important job of reporting the truth. However, they argue that the other television shows can be purely for entertainment as they can be used by the public to unwind and relax or simply bond with others. After a long day of working or studying, friends and family can gather to watch entertaining television shows together and enjoy themselves. At the same time, it is simply not pragmatic for television shows to educate. Television channels are also businesses that are profit-driven (earning money through channels such as ad revenue). If they only produced shows that focused on education and forgo entertainment, those shows might become too dry, leading to low viewership and low profits. As such, it is simply not practical for the main purpose of all television shows to be education.
Personally, I believe that education and entertainment on television should not be viewed as fully dichotomous. While it is more practical for the main purpose of most television shows to be entertainment, it is also possible to educate at the same time. In fact, many shows that are seemingly “only to entertain” have different lessons that viewers can pick up on. For example, shows like “MythBusters” are well known for being entertaining and informative at the same time. Children’s cartoons can be entertaining for children and contain pedagogic elements at the same time. “Black Mirror” is another entertaining show that uses satire to force viewers to reflect and learn something about society.