MacDonald has shown us, in two chapters of his informative book One Nation Under Television: The Rise and Decline of Network TV, a resemblance between early radio and early TV in terms of governmental and corporate interests in controlling TV through their exploitative policies, which made monopoly inevitable (MacDonald, 1994, p.37). This monopoly still affects the U.S. media not just through the economic aspects, but also through agenda setting and manipulation of the truth. For example, when we saw the corporate media went to war in 2003 before the military! Likewise, the last few weeks when they started to hit the war’s drums to the level that one of the Fox News pundits–Ralph Peters–on Hannity Show complained that there were not enough U.S. bombs even though he understood that they kill innocent civilians. He literally said, “innocent civilians die [and we all should] get over it.’’ In addition, another of Hannity’s guests–Phil Robertson—suggested that the U.S. should give ISIS one choice–to be convert to Christianity or being killed!
J. P. Telotte’s The Mouse Machine reminds us that developing a clear, specific transition plan, and effective communication among staff about the new changes—technically and technologically–play a greater role in the success of the integration between Disney and Pixar (Telotte, 2008, p.16). No wonder that Pixar took more than a year to produce its early films with modest computing capabilities at the time.
Throughout the past four decades, the American working class family did not represent accurately in TV, according to Butsch (Butsch, p.576). He argues that many TV shows portrayed the blue collar as “a buffoon.” He might be right about the 80s and 90s TV, but the last few years TV has changed significantly, representatively and quality wise, thanks to the fierce competition with new media. Let us take, for example, the Middle series on ABC. It is more realistic, though funny, middle class–in the middle of the country–family differs than the buffoonish presentation.
The quality television has become a phenomena in the last few years, paved by the modern networking technologies and the new shifts in viewing behaviors, patterns, and styles. HBO, Showtime, and Netflix, to name a few, are in a race to captivate the modern–fragmented and distracted–viewers’ imagination. The distracted viewer is one of the most serious obstacles that threatens the future of the television industry, in general, and the most difficult to rate and measure. Many viewers nowadays build their own TV by recording favorite shows as queues or by cutting the cord completely and limit their exposure to TV shows through the online and over the top (OTT) streaming materials.
It is, in a way, the fault of the TV, as Eileen R. Meehan says (Meehan, 2005, p.121). Periodic fees of cable television reach an unreasonable level, which deserves to be described already as a bubble. Distributors force viewers to subscribe to channels they do not like simply because they are within the package or to pass the gains to other channels. This is an ugly choice made by networks that might lead viewers to get even one way or another. Between the years 2002 and 2008, in the Middle East region, a famous Saudi company called ART has been able to obtain most international sport tournament broadcasting rights in the region, including the Soccer World Cup. It filed high charges and forced viewers to subscribe and pay for other packages which include many unpopular channels. The company suffered heavy criticism by the media and observers for its monopolistic practices. At the same time, the company came under fierce campaigns from hackers who managed to break the company encryption service and put the breaking instruction free of charge via the Internet. This incident eventually led the company to withdraw entirely from the distribution market and sold all of its rights to Al Jazeera Sports Channel in 2009.
To conclude, providing a high quality TV content in reasonable cost, and across many platforms, could help future television and give it a greater chance of being exposed to viewers.
Meehan, Eileen R. Why TV Is Not Our Fault : Television Programming, Viewers, And Who’s Really In Control / Eileen R. Meehan. n.p.: Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield, c2005.
In Main street & Disneyland, the author discusses how Disney land put emphasis on the appearance of the park to create a structure for visitors and guests that emulates the cartoonish look. It is a technological way of designing and making the park look like it works with magic. The author argues that Disney has always been invested in the technological aspect and make it seem like the natural part of our world. I think it is a smart way for Disney to be different than other places that people visit for a couple of reasons that the author didn’t mention. First, Disney land is a theme park and like every other theme park there must be a theme to their park that would make people want to come back other than mazes and rides. Downtown Disney on the other hand is a shopping center that relies on different stores to attract people which is more like a shopping mall or a shopping center with a theme.
In Ralph, Fred, Archie, and Homer, The author takes a look at the persistent representations of the white male working class buffoon through television for over four decades. The article places emphasis on how three factors could have contributed to these representations such as network domination, the organization of decisions within the networks, and the creative personnel. He also analyzes how stereotyping have become dominant in these sitcoms and how such dominant representations need to change but are restricted because of advertisers and abandoning stereotypes after securing a contract with a network becomes very difficult for producers as the opportunities to do so shrink because the network wants the usual that makes money.
I enjoyed the readings from this week although some of them did not directly connect with my research interest; I find the Ralph, Fred, Archie, and Homer article useful to my research of whiteness studies and representations in films. It is a perspective and a way of conducting research that I can use or at least consider for my topic. Drawing parallels between characters of different sitcoms, I can draw parallels between characters of different movies directed by Bay.
Television; how it came to be, the dirty behind-the-scenes network fights, the role of the FCC, televisions program’s influence on the youth and how we ended up with shows that reproduce stereotypes are just some of the themes this week. Although I do not have much interest in television except for television advertising studies, I enjoyed three (MacDonald, 1994; Bodroghkozy, 2001; Butsch, 2003) of this week’s readings.
Using class representation, Butsch (2003) analyzes television shows paying attention on how and why it is that these shows in network television perpetuated the same stereotypes about men. The author’s main interest is in assessing the “underrepresentation of working-class occupations and an overrepresentation of professional and managerial occupations” (p.575). One of the author’s main findings is that producers and networks are unwilling to try new storylines (they avoid risk) unless their current shows are not doing well and they adopt a ‘what’s there to lose’ attitude. The other finding with which I am not too unfamiliar is the pre-occupation with attracting advertisers. In general, media organizations not just television do not want to drive away existing and potential advertisers. So, they go for programming that is predictable and “avoid that which will offend or dissatisfy advertisers” (p.578). Butsch (2003) aptly states “an advertiser’s preferred program is one that allows full use of the products being advertised (p579). In addition, even decisions about what viewers are likely to enjoy are also made by network executives and are “not based on actual research of audiences” (p.579). Things have largely remained the same, although there are some changes at least with storylines.
The article by Bodroghkozy (2001) brings to mind Miami Vice. South Africa was introduced to television much later than the US. I grew up watching Miami Vice in the 1980s. While Bodroghkozy (2001) focuses on how the television programs influenced the baby boomers (taking care to define the concept), I think her article fits in nicely with the scholarship that focuses on the cultivation theory. This is because the author shows just how watching television can plant images or ideas in one’s head, ideas that are later acted out as the article shows. Separately, this article is relevant for me because of its focus on the underground press and for its attention however brief to how women were silenced and represented when they were featured in the pamphlets/papers.
There is some nice overlap among the articles. For instance, Butsch (2003) and Macdonald (1994) discuss the role of advertisers in program decisions. Macdonald (1994) sketches out much like Dallas Smythe did – how audiences labor for advertisers and how audience numbers influence prices that television stations charge to broadcast commercials (see Macdonald, 1994, p. 27).
I also note the shift discussed about television starting out playing an influential role even ‘babysitting’ kids and influencing their “dressing and politics” (Bodroghkozy, 2001, p.2). But, later the youth audience turned against and reject what they were being shown on television. The author paints a picture of how activists during this era even advised about how the television use could be subverted.
What strikes me about these readings is that the same hopes that came with the advent of television are no different from the aspirations Americans had about radio. Might we find the same about films? I cannot wait to find out.
I found J. Fred MacDonald’s ‘One Nation Under Television: The Rise and Decline of Network Television,’ to be a good discussion of the rise of big network television and the tension between politics, the public, and commercialism. At times, I thought the way MacDonald tackled the writing of history to be a bit boring at times. I found the discussion of the tensions between commercial broadcasting and regulations by the FCC to be fascinating, however, I felt MacDonald’s writing lacked a few crucial aspects (at least within this chapter). MacDonald spends a great deal of the history addressing the complaints of the idealist for what TV could have been as a primarily educational outlet, MacDonald solely addresses commercial stations in the United States and briefly the BBC, but s/he never addresses the creation and history of PBS. This would probably require an additional chapter, and MacDonald may very well address it later in the book, but I felt with the topic MacDonald was addressing at least a nod to PBS would have been appropriate.
The introduction to ‘The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology’ was easily my favorite reading. I liked the way J.P. Telotte wrote the history and I was intrigued by the interplay between history and visual culture. Disney’s ability to homogenize and control the very act of seeing is fascinating and could have widespread implications. Disney has long utilized technology to stay ahead creatively and to commercially exploit. For a paper I am working on for a conference, I talk a lot about Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ being his critical demise within critical/intellectual circles, but I have not yet considered the technology involved in Fantasia’s creation, nor Disney’s abandonment of that technology after the negative reviews. As a major film studio, Disney has been (love them or hate them) a major innovator in technology.
Telotte’s historical writing was less straight narrative and facts, like MacDonald’s. I didn’t feel that MacDonald included as much analysis within the history, why it mattered, and what it meant. Telotte’s approach and writing integrates theory, approach, and historical narrative into one and I think is a good example of how to write a piece of visual culture.
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