In-Class Writing Assignment:


Profit vs. Social Responsibility

>>The following writing assignment focuses on a major issue today: the conflict between the social responsibility that many people feel TV producers should demonstrate, and today's "bottom line" pressure to maximize profits.

Another way this issue can be viewed is by asking the question: is there a conflict between giving people what interests them and giving them what's in their best interests?

Some take the view: "Let the marketplace decide." In other words, broadcasters shouldn't take a paternal role; they should give the people what they want, regardless of the perceived consequences.

At the other extreme are those who advocate a paternalistic approach, or even prior censorship of programming. They feel that television programming should be controlled so that it only presents things that are in the public's best interest. (Of course, who decides what's in the public's interest is the major issue here.)

The controversy over Howard Stern's syndicated radio show can be used to point out the basic conflict between popularity and profits. Stern's show is quite popular and this translates into profits. At the same time, the FCC has seen fit to fine at least one radio station more than $100,000 for the language used in the show. (Certain minority groups have also been regularly offended by Stern's remarks.)

Here are some other examples. Tabloid journalism is popular, as well as news that caters to specific political viewpoints. But do these things represent a socially responsible way of keeping the public informed in a democracy? There are the many commercials designed to appeal to our egos, insecurities and secret dreams. But trying to convince us that we should spend money addressing the problems of "yellow waxy buildup" and "static cling" seems ridiculous compared to real social problems such as homelessness, unemployment, AIDS, world hunger, and war.

Although horror, violence and sex are definitely related to ratings, and, therefore, profits, does the gratuitous use of these themes violate a sense of social responsibility?  Are there any negative social consequences?

And, finally, if ratings really drive the system and they reflect what the public wants, do broadcasters need to be concerned with the consequences?  

This file provides important background on this issue.

>>ESSAY QUESTION: With the above in mind, address the issue of Social Responsibility vs. Profits in broadcast television. Your task is to identify and address two separate issues in broadcasting where you see this conflict.

In formulating your answer keep in mind that you live in a nation where we must maintain a balance between constitutional freedoms and your responsibilities as a member of society. You can't suggest things that are illegal (not permitted by the Constitution or the law). You suggestions must be realistic and feasible under present conditions.

Some "don'ts."  Don't get on a soapbox and spend your time talking about what's wrong with television or why you think there is too much violence or sex on TV.  That's not the purpose of the assignment.  And don't say something like "TV producers need to be more responsible,"  or, "we need to reduce the amount of (whatever) on TV."  Such answers don't suggest any realistic approach.

Simply making producers or an entire industry "do you bidding," no matter how noble your intent, isn't an option unless you plan to take over the country and declare yourself dictator (which doesn't meet the requirement of being legal under present law). So your answer must be based on an approach that is feasible and doable. An approach might even have multiple steps that you would want to outline.

You should have four separate subheadings in your paper: Ethical Issue 1 and (once you identify that) How I Would Deal With Issue 1; and then Issue 2 and How I Would Deal With Issue 2.

Underline these subheadings. General communication skills (spelling, punctuation, grammar and general writing ability) will be important in the assignment. It is best to outline your ideas first before starting to write.

Your instructor may provide additional information.

TV Production Index

To Home Page

© 2006, All Rights Reserved