... but backlash against the television starts here

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The backlash against television started in the Wilson household when they banished it to a corner of the attic, where it gathered dust for a decade. A few years ago they decided to be rid of it permanently, mainly because it was never used and was taking up too much space.

The family, who live in East Grinstead, Sussex, have now given their support to Turn Off TV Week, a campaign launched by the White Dot anti- television campaigners. Sarah Wilson, 44, a music teacher and mother of three teenagers, said when they chose to turn off they were rewarded with an enriched family life. "When the children were quite small my husband and I decided we didn't want them watching television, because it is habit- forming and they would have assumed it was a expected part of family life.

"I don't think we have replaced the television: we are not rushing around all the time trying to fill the gaps in our life. It is just that we live by a different, more moderate tempo."

The Wilsons are used to people thinking that life without television is somewhat odd. But they dismiss suggestions that their children are bored or in some way deprived. "Each of the children has had the time to develop a musical talent and I'm not quite sure how we would fit TV into our life now," says Mrs Wilson, whose husband, Chris, is a business communications manager in London.

"I would like to think that if people switched off their television, even for just one week, that they would see how much more there is to life beyond Neighbours. Family life is being eroded and one of the contributing factors is television."

This week was officially designated Turn Off TV Week by David Burke, a computer programmer from Hove, Sussex, and founder of White Dot, after witnessing the success of a similar crusade in the United States, where a reputed 3.5 million viewers hit the off button last year. "I think people who watch a lot of TV don't realise how much it dominates their life, because they are plugged into it all the time," he said. "They start replacing reality with escapism. For example, they think the actors in the soap Friends are in fact their friends." Christine Airey, a shop assistant and her husband, Mike, a policeman, of Brighton, have followed suit. The couple have four children, two still at home. The family disposed of the television a while ago, but their children managed to sneak it back into their living-room.

Mrs Airey, 45, said: "People think I am a little strange because I've never been keen on television, all those soaps ... I wanted to take part in the campaign because it helps knowing that there are other people ... who think like me. I am making a concerted effort this week to switch the thing off because it stops you doing family things, like eating a meal together."