Media Essays & Paper Examples

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Book Report On Defining The Cultural Forum

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Defining the Cultural Forum Defining the cultural forum, Newcomb and Hirsch explain that television serves as a medium whereby "contemporary cultures examine themselves through their arts." Examining current television programming, an argument can be made that the medium has and continues to benefit society in providing responsible and informative information. In addition, television programs have provided an effective vehicle to address important social issues affecting various sectors of society including women, minorities, and children. In today s television programming, several programming formats and themes are available to viewers. Traditional genres such as news, soap operas, situation comedies, and dramas have been supplemented by an assortment of talk shows, cable programming, made for television movies, sports programming, and a host of other subjects. The primary objective of each program is to provide entertainment or information. The structure of news programming has advanced significantly over time. Satellite technology has allowed news coverage to reach virtually everywhere in the world in real time. This has brought extraordinary events and information direct to viewer s homes from the area of the planet news breaks. CNN s coverage of the Kosovo conflict provides an example of how the medium of television can provide consumers with immediate and powerful images and stories occurring in today s society. In this way, utilizing the medium as a powerful information-gathering device enriches consumers. Information provided by television news is often the most current available, allowing consumers to maintain perspective of where different aspects of society, of importance to them, are heading. For example, when John Salvi assaulted two abortion clinics, television news organizations initially brought the story to viewer households on a local and national level. This provided an outlet for viewers to gain information on the actual event. If the event affected consumers in some way, the televised reports may provide a stimulus to seek out additional information or initiate a response, such as forming an action committee, on the subject. A forum for discussion is created, in part, because television brought the situation to light. A multitude of programming on television is classified as entertainment programming. Many programs have proved influential in addressing and advancing societal issues. All In The Family provides an example of a program that turned America s conscious tide. Viewers were introduced to controversial issues via entertainment programming. Topical barriers within society and the television industry were broken. Sensitive subject matter such as race and sexual preference entered homes during prime time, thus entering mainstream society put together within an accepted, humorous program vehicle. Other programs such as the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda portrayed women as strong, independent contributors to society working in higher level job roles. The Carroll Burnett Show, while a comedy sketch program, proved a female could hold a comedy based prime time rating slot position and succeed. These programs paved the way for programs such as Cagney & Lacey, and more recently, Ellen. The latter program has attempted to bring programming content to another level by implying throughout the season that the lead character may reveal herself to be gay. Without the strong foundation built by previous programs featuring female leads, the producers of Ellen may have considered addressing the theme of homosexuality even more of a risk. The Phil Donahue Show was one of the pioneering programs in the television talk show genre. The demographic of hosts has progressed concurrently with the demographic of producers, actors and actresses within other genres. Current talk shows include The Oprah Winfrey Show, Rolanda, Montel Williams, Sally Jesse Raphael, Jenny Jones, and Rikki Lake. Given the increasing diversity of television talk show hosts and producers, the potential for addressing concerns of, and gaining new perspectives from minority or ethnically diverse guests also increases. Television, then, becomes more reflective of America. Additionally, the talk show format allows consumers to hear stories of real people, rather than fictional characters. Viewers experiencing similar life situations as guests may derive comfort and support from the program, especially if professionals are integrated to advise guests and viewers on different courses of remedy or action toward problem resolution. Talk shows also positively influence their audience through special topic programs. Oprah Winfrey recently developed a monthly segment promoting reading by featuring authors and previewing new books on the market. The move may not increase market share, but follows Oprah s philosophy of moving toward "more responsible programming." Prime time programs have also contributed positively to various demographic groups in society. The Cosby Show portrayed African Americans as an upper class family, breaking through societal stereotypes. This program not only consistently captured a top five ratings share, but also set the stage for NBC s successful Must See TV campaign. Other current popular programs including The Practice, Homicide, and NYPD Blue portray women and minorities in positions of power and influence. Further, these characters are strong lead roles, rather than token characters that may succumb to various ethical or violent situations within plots. Televisions version of government check and balance system seems to have evolved into investigative reporting programs. Dateline NBC, 60 Minutes, Prime Time Live, 20/20, and Turning Point provide examples of programs that benefit society by bringing pertinent stories within culture to the front line. For example, when some veterans of the Gulf War began showing identical problems with their nervous system, lungs, and heart, 60 Minutes, followed by Date Line NBC, provided a forum for these veterans to bring the situation to national attention. Additionally, the producers and reporters within these programs are, too, reflective of mainstream America. With the exception of 60 Minutes, who has only one female correspondent, all programs are well represented by female and minority reporters and producers. Analyzing television program choices offered to consumers reveals not all programming to be educative or informative. Many talk show programs intended to enlighten viewers on societal problems may actually dissuade viewers from tuning in. Sally Jessee Raphael, for example, aired back-to-back programs highlighting under age children desiring to have babies. During the course of the show these youths, the youngest just twelve years old, confessed to having sex on numerous occasions with men over eighteen. Program themes such as this should carefully review their intended purpose of programming. Will the guest and audience benefit in some manner or is the subject matter conducive to higher ratings - resulting in a more exploitive program? In many cases, a fine line can be drawn between the two distinctions. News programs, too, must monitor producer behavior in order to ensure accurate reporting. During the recent election several news programs were giving poll results with no reliable basis, thus creating assumption to who was in the lead. Should NBC or CNN be able to give information without accurate and reliable information? These programs can sometimes exploit a situation to get the best rating, rather than to providing truthful statistics. Lastly, many forms of entertainment programming do not serve its consumers at the same level as All In The Family. The show Friends provides a good reflection of today s Generation X crowd. For me, this type of program provides an outlet for laughing at our society and culture. Many parents label the program as humorless and a waste of time, preferring to watch programs that are more a reflection of their lives and generation. Many aspects of television programming in society does not progressively contribute to society. The inclusion of violent and sexual content within programs is obvious front-runner arguments that television has contributed negatively to society. Analyzing television programming as a whole, however, reveals a greater contribution to consumers in providing accurate and timely information via news, a forum for discussing topics popular within society by means of talk shows and investigative programming, and advancing the cause of various ethnic and gender roles within society through entertainment programs. Bibliography Donahue, J. Christopher. "What s Right With Television" America October 8 ---. "Rating Wars." Time December 23, 1996: bestof1996/nation.rating_ wars.html "Violence on TV: The Desensitizing Of America." "TV Ratings." January 3. "Sociology and Philosophy: TV." Video Freedom: Chronology of Action on TV Violence." Carter, Bill. "A New Report Becomes a Weapon In Debate on Censoring TV Violence." The New York Times February 7, 1996: C11, C16.

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