Updated: 04/25/2013

Film, Radio and TV -- 33

 

 

 

The Social Impact

of Television

Part IV

 

 

>>The last two criticisms are somewhat related: sets up false images of reality and distorts reality through omission.


6.  Sets up false images of reality Those who cite this criticism feel that TV perpetuates stereotypes, especially when to comes to minority groups. According to some stereotypes, the "bad guys" tend to be from one or two minority groups.

Here are some others: Italians are associated with the Mafia, the CEO's of major corporations would sell their own mother for a profit, and military types think in terms of "if in doubt, kill it."

Some people would paint the youth of America as being mostly juvenile delinquents, gang members, or punk rock types.

All of these stereotypes do a major disservice to the whole truth, of course.

In the old days of Westerns it seemed that the "bad guys" wore black hats and the "good guys" wore white hats. Thus, it was easy to tell them apart.

Today, many people find it easier to pigeonhole people in terms of "black and white" (typically, in terms of nationality, skin color, sex, sexual preference, etc.) rather than cope with the "shades of gray" that more realistically represent the human condition.

>>Those who cite the "sets up false images of reality" criticism, say that in order to get messages across quickly to an LCD (lowest common denominator) audience, issues are simplified, and even to a degree, "symbolized."

There is also another fact to be considered: many people have a vested interest in holding onto their beliefs (prejudices) -- they want to believe them -- and they resist or reject attempts to set the record straight. "Reject" is a word that program producers don't like to hear.

When the film, Guess Whose Coming to Dinner, starring a well-known black actor, was released several decades ago, it was shunned, especially in Southern U.S. states. The actor played the part of a good-looking, well-educated, and very likeable young man, who was brought to dinner by a while woman. This conflicted on several levels with the stereotypes that many whites held at the time. Fortunately, this type of stereotype has largely disappeared from the United States. Television and movies played a major role in changing attitudes, despite criticism from some sectors.

You may recall that the personal defense mechanisms people use to protect these belief systems are covered in the latter part of – this reading on freedom vs. values.

7. Distorts reality through omission In #6 above we are talking about what TV says; in this criticism we are talking about what television doesn't say, or omits.

Previously, we mentioned that some liberals feel that TV tends to omit alternative, non-mainstream views. They feel that because mega corporations (conglomerates) own most of the media outlets there is unspoken pressure on writers and others not to report things that would hurt the business interests of a sponsor or parent corporation.

For example, WTVT (Fox 13) in Tampa, Florida reportedly fired two news reporters for not obeying an order to allegedly "deliberately distort" news reports "revealing the widespread and virtually secret use of a synthetic hormone being injected into dairy cows throughout Florida and much of the U.S." Although the piece was reportedly factual and accurate, the station refused to air it.

This is significant because the artificial bovine growth hormone in question (rBGH) has been banned in Canada, throughout Europe, and elsewhere, due in large measure to concern about consumer health risks. Although the growth hormones cause cows to produce more milk, the milk is changed in a way that some say can promote breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

In the case of the two reporters, some people took notice.  In mid-2001 they won the Goldman Environmental Prize for putting their jobs on the line to make the story public. Each reporter was awarded $125,000. The two reporters also won a court case against the station. Even so, the success of these reporters is the exception.

Sometimes maintaining personal and professional integrity comes at a great price. But, then again, there's satisfaction in being able to look at yourself in the mirror each morning and know that you haven't "sold out" your personal or professional values by agreeing to "omit" news that the public has a right to know.

Some people see personal and moral development in a series of stages. This is covered in – "Considerations in Professional and Moral Decisions."


>>In the next module we'll conclude this topic and look at some of the positive aspects of the medium.



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