Television or “TV” has become a prominent source for news and entertainment for billions of people around the world. For this, among other reasons, the concept of TV and its content has been the subject of much academic discourse and controversy. A lot of this discourse focuses on the ways television affects changes in societies’ behaviour and culture. This is visible via various scholarly communities. For example, up until 1982, psychologists had conducted over 2000 studies regarding the imitation of violence in the mass media.
Economists and market researchers have performed similar types of empirical studies regarding imitation and suggestion in advertising (Bollen and Phillips, 1982, p. 802). This paper will combine findings of similar studies in an aim to examine the way television both mediates and contributes to cultural shifts in societies, particularly in Britain and the United States of America. 2. The Interplay of Institutions, Markets and Audiences Television drama, news, factual programming and the transformation of public service broadcasting have all played a huge role in the development of British and American society and cultural change.
These changes currently present themselves through communications held between institutions, markets, and audiences. For instance, the consideration of an audience as a market instead of as the public by all types of institutions is the source for much controversy and debate (Walter, 2000, p. 67). This point will be further touched upon when discussing pubic service broadcasting and market-led broadcasting but first we must grasp a general understanding of cultural response to television as media. 3. Positive and Negative Response in Society
The communications that develop can be positive, in the case of an increase in democratic involvement or participation in the community but it can be also be negative, in the case of controversial programming, which can arguably contribute to the loss of a child’s innocence and even impair one’s ability to develop critical thinking skills. According to Bernard Berelson, a prominent American behavioural scientist, those with the greatest mass media exposure are much more likely to know a candidate’s stance on various issues (McCombs and Shaw, 1972, p. 77). On the contrary, Kenneth Bollen and David Phillips reported a prime example of how news can lead to a negative change in a society. A study that was performed and then replicated for a different time period showed that suicides had increased immediately following (10 days proceeding) a news report of a suicide in the surrounding region (1982). In order to ensure that changes are beneficial and that they contribute to the greater good of people, in this case in Britain and the U. S.
A, studies such as this one must be produced and analysed. The study should offer insights, convey patterns, and report facts that can be applied in a practical way. As in the aforementioned case, it is evident that those who produce media have a responsibility for what they produce, whether it is fiction or fact. If watching a news report can incite someone to act on something as extreme as the contemplation of suicide, it may very well do the same for matters of a different nature 4. Public Service Broadcasting and the Free Market
When television was invented, it altered all preceding media of news and entertainment as well as many of our institutions and forms of social relationships (Williams and Williams, 1992). In the public service broadcasting system, the consensus was that television media should be used for the good of the public and that access is guaranteed for all citizens (Walter, 2000, p. 67). Instead, private profit and gain enforced by market-led broadcasting, has compromised the idea of equality in terms of ability to receive information.
This dissipation of equality stems from the differences in the general understanding of the roles that broadcasting plays (Walter, 2000, p63). The role that public service broadcasting plays is relevant today even with the new communication technologies of cable and satellite as the former provides quality programming which aims to raise cultural standards and provide a forum for democratic discussion and debate while the latter provides choice merely through exclusion, predicated by the ability of the consumer to pay for the additional services provided (Walter, 2000, p. 4). The Protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty dated June 1997 on public service broadcasting states “the system of public service broadcasting…is directly related to the democratic, social and cultural needs of each society… to preserve media pluralism”, and it is in itself the reason why PSB is still relevant today, even for those states who did not sign on this treaty. 5. Understanding and Critiquing News Programming If one should ever listen in on a families’ after dinner conversation, one could often hear a parent commanding his or her offspring to “Turn that junk off! or questioning them as to “Why don’t you watch something educational instead? ” and other comments of similar nature. The non-junk and educational content they are often referring to is factual programming such as the news. However, even with something as objective as the news there are still a few elements that one should consider when determining its quality and contribution to the viewing audience, as the point of contact between the people, events and politics. The objectivity of a news report should always be considered, just as the bias in a study or an experiment is considered in scientific communities.
Many networks, even those provided through PSB, often have agendas and side with a political group. Furthermore, news stations are often pressured to deliver information that will grasp the attention of the viewer foremost, with the achievement of a quality report being a secondary goal. Considering factors such as the frequency and threshold of reported events can help in one’s appraisal. To exemplify the former, one can reflect on a news program dealing with the economic status of the country.
If it focuses on temporary events that will not re-occur and do not help draw a picture of the economy as a whole, it is not a quality report. As for threshold, for instance, after the murder of John Lennon, events, which would normally not be considered newsworthy, received more coverage than they should have due to the public’s demand for therapy (Hartley, 1992, p. 76). A rule of thumb for news reporters is that bad news is good news (Hartley, 1992, pg. 76). However, as mentioned in a previous section of this report, empirical evidence shows that this is definitely not he case for the audience, considering the outcome suicide reports have on the subjected audiences behavioral changes. 6. Conclusions 6. 1. The Effects of Television on Society Television has many supporters and critics alike. Some argue that it brings people closer and some maintain that it can cause a divide in a community or even in a family. The way that one comes to these conclusions is by drawing questions such as the following. Do those who are not entitled to as much information due to economic reasons going to feel excluded and unworthy?
Does media, such as television, contribute to a decrease of peoples’ participation in politics, the social environment and traditional leisure programs? Does locally produced programming strengthen the local community? These questions, among many others , should be answered in a proper analysis of television’s effect on people. Because those who are raised within a society develop and contribute that society’s culture more, it is vital to pay attention to its younger population. 6. 2. The Effects of Television on Young People
Young people, in particular, have very malleable minds and are greatly affected by the things they see on television. In Sonia Silverstone’s Young People and the New Media, this phenomenon is thoroughly examined (1994). In this article, Silverstone reports of a British team of researchers who posed these types of questions in the form of survey questionnaire and interviews. The subjects ranged in age, gender and social and educational backgrounds in hopes of correlating media usage and effect across different segments of population.
Findings showed that although television is considered an adequate source of information, it is also used to fill in the boring gaps of a child’s life. Television has the ability to shape a child’s emotions and it has effects on family life (Silverstone, 1994, p. 64, p. 68). 6. 3. The Effects of Television on the Domestic Space A crucial position in which TV has affected society can be viewed from within the domestic space. The television set has visibly transformed domestic arrangements over the years.
In prior times, only the wealthy homes had a set in the family room. In more recent years, television has overtaken individual space as well, allowing for less family communication, a pattern which is now repeating itself with personal computers. Domestic time was also affected as television-viewing time has gradually increased over the years, once again allowing for less family time and communication. An outstanding statistic shows that at one point, Europe’s highest television viewing times belonged to the British population aged 9-16 (Silverstone, 1994, p. 69).
In the same year, every age group from 10-16 years old reportedly preferred to watch TV alone as opposed to with friends, siblings, parents or anyone else (Livingstone, 1994). 6. 4. Representation of Reality Our perceptions of reality have been transformed by contemporary celebrity culture via television. The role played by television is that of reinforcement for both the state (which, today can be any figure appearing on a network) and the citizen (the audience). The validation that is provided serves as a means of centralised opinions and styles of behaviour (Williams and Williams, 1992).
This is why anxieties about ‘dumbing down’ are in fact legitimate. Let us take an actor who believes that which is not presented in his character on his daytime drama. The audience who views this actor/ actress may adopt to a notion, feeling or belief portrayed by the character, in turn validating the actor/ actress himself of a new belief system, one that he/ she had not previously considered. Should this belief system be one, deemed by professional opinions and the general public, of bad taste, it would mean that this is not quality television, and it does not produce a good quality of change for the general public as a culture.