Have you watched TV this week? If you have, you are a failure as far as the campaign group White Dot, which organised the International Television Turn-off Week, is concerned. We live in a TV obsessed culture, with most people spending half their leisure time watching the box. No wonder obesity rates are rising. We watch people living our lives for us. The hours of TV food programmes sit alongside hours of gardening and hours of sport. If only, say health advocates, people did more and watched less. The impact of TV on culture is complex. In one corner are those who argue it turns us into zombies. In the other, people argue it's liberating (always they mention the wildlife programmes!). My colleague Martin Caraher and I have just published our research on what people think of TV food programmes. Our work suggests that British people, at least, look on all the TV chefs as light entertainment, not education. For all the pizzazz of the Jamies and the failsafe recipes of the Delias, what matters is the doing. We could not find any evidence that people get up and immediately emulate the TV chef. The impact is slower. Year on year, home cooking is in decline. We eat out more and buy ready-made. Others cook for us. The food market is a battle over who is to fill the stomach. Home, the factory, the restaurant or café? The bad news for retailers is that inexorably the eating-out market is growing. Within a few years, the catering trade will be larger than food retailing, a trend not lost on those big retailers setting up instore carry-out niches. What about food advertising, I hear you cry? Ah, that's another story. In truth, TV isn't separate from culture. It is culture, in all its messiness. {{NEWS }}