The television is a wonderful device.
Despite the fact that it has paved the way for massive public broadcasting of information, and led the way for the interenet, emergency broadcasting, educational programming, historcal records, and feature movies (which were available before TV- but for a price per view) still Television is sometimes used for poor purposes.
While I agree that sitcoms, sports shows, and the like are not productive by any means, you have to admit that television as an invention has helped society, not hurt it.
The discovery channel, history channel, and even the sesame street style children's shows can help increase intelligence and knowledge, often presented in a way more interesting than classrooms. This paved the way for the internet- the most massive information site in world history.
But let's not blame the hammer because some people build guillotines. It's the Stupid shows that cause the problems- the "Friends" and 90210, and Scrubs, and House, and Survivor and American Idol that dumb down the nation. We need more news reports, more discovery channel, more culture and history, and less meaningless comedy.
At least if our values are to maintain productivity.
You're showing the statistics for how much television is watched. But it's the content of the media to blame, not the way it's transmitted.
As you said there are several other sources of media available. Magazines for instance. Popular Science is a magaizine- so is Playboy. One is good for kids, one is not. But I wouldn't say that magazines are bad for kids because SOME are.
Likewise I wouldn't say that all TV is bad for kids because some of the programming is.
Besides you're obesity findings would be just as true if kids were reading- as those dont' require any more physical activity. Only exercise can curb obesiety, with proper diet. While people do "veg out" watching TV- that's an issue with programming. There are also fat "computer geeks" who play world of warcraft all day who might never watch TV.
And if you really want to go into television causing deaths- there are very few deaths that can be directly attributed to TV (as opposed to programming). Everyone who was murdered like in a movie, or who tried something stupid and was killed was imitating a CHARACTER on TV, never a documentary.
People will only thin down if they diet and exercise. Newspapers won't help with that. Very little will. Unfortunately we live in an information age where communcation can be done without much movement, and there are foods that tase so great but aren't healthy at all. That does more to weight. We can't walk to work- everything's too far away. Many of us work in offices on the phone or computer all day. This has much more to do with our weight problem than TV.
And as for advertisers- we all know that the commercials fit the programming. We don't see commercials for kids toys during South Park or commercials for sex lines during saturday morning cartoons. If our programmign was more geared to the educational we would find more educationally bent advertisement. And advertisement isn't bad in it's own sake either- without it none of us would have jobs. It's all about the product offered.
Besides, kids have no buying power. If advertisers target kids and it works, it's because we have a parenting problem. No 7 year old I know could afford his toys. When I was a kid I didn't get all the cool toys on TV. My parents were smarter than that.