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The Revolution Will Be Televised, or Rather, Televized « from the gut

Fantastic piece by Charles Kenny on Foreign Policy on the effect of television on modernization. TV has become such an integral part of our culture in the US, but as television penetrates globally, we are seeing dramatic social consequences. Many of them good consequences.

A couple of these changes that jumped out at me.

Exposing (or Complicating) Corruption

Consider the bribes that Peruvian secret-police chief Vladimiro Montesinos had to pay to subvert competitive newsmaking during the 1990s. It cost only $300,000 per month for Montesinos to bribe most of the congressmen in Peru’s government, and about $250,000 a month to bribe the judges — a real bargain. But Montesinos had to spend about $3 million a month to subvert six of the seven available television channels to ensure friendly coverage for the government. The good news here is that competition in the electronic Fourth Estate can apparently make it more expensive to run a country corruptly.

Women’s Equality and Education

The soaps in Brazil and India provided images of women who were empowered to make decisions affecting not only childbirth, but a range of household activities. The introduction of cable or satellite services in a village, Jensen and Oster found, goes along with higher girls’ school enrollment rates and increased female autonomy. Within two years of getting cable or satellite, between 45 and 70 percent of the difference between urban and rural areas on these measures disappears.

Youth Truancy

Kids who watch TV out of school, according to a World Bank survey of young people in the shantytowns of Fortaleza in Brazil, are considerably less likely to consume drugs (or, for that matter, get pregnant). TV’s power to reduce youth drug use was two times larger than having a comparatively well-educated mother.

Youth Education

Today, more than 700,000 secondary-school students in remote Mexican villages watch the Telesecundaria program of televised classes. Although students enter the program with below-average test scores in mathematics and language, by graduation they have caught up in math and halved the language-score deficit.

Intercultural Empathy

In the United States, an additional minute of nightly news coverage of the Asian tsunami increased online donation levels to charities involved in relief efforts by 13 percent, according to research from the William Davidson Institute. And analysis of U.S. public opinion indicates that more coverage of a country on evening news shows is related to increased sympathy and support for that country.

[Source: Revolution in a Box]

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