It is customary now to bewail the rise of television-viewing when compared with the decline of book-reading, but there are several reasons to pause over this before weeping into your cornflakes. First of all, and not to put too fine a point on the matter: it isn't true. More books are being published in English than at any time in history, and children - mainly thanks to Jacqueline Wilson, JK Rowling and their imitators - are reading more. The second point is that television - mainly thanks to the BBC - has actually served British literature very well, keeping certain books alive and creating an audience for literary work where otherwise there would have been none.
Yes, let's think about that. How many people do you know who beat it to the bookstore to buy the Lord of the Rings books after seeing that first movie? My Number Two Son, then 17 and never a great reader, was part of the stampede. And think back a few years to those Jane Austen films that seemed to pop up every week on PBS and A&E. Even before Gwenneth Paltrow got involved and became Emma, everyone was mad for Jane Austen--the books as well as the movies.
There may be a coming generation who will know the literary classics only from television's adaptation of them, but that knowledge is better than no knowledge at all. I'm a novelist, so I'm hardly going to argue against the irreplaceable conditions of prose, the pattern and rhythm and truth of good writing. But literature is also about narrative and morality; if it takes a television show to get some of that over to an audience - and possibly to send them to the original source - then there are small grounds for moaning.It's a great article. Run over there and read the whole thing.