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Broadcast History and Criticism

Human society is not an anarchic organization; it may be presented as an extremely complex and well coordinated organism, each part of the organism is a cell that performs special functions that are necessary for harmonious functioning of the whole system. The natural question that may appear is: What ensures the successful functioning of this complex organism? The answer is evident: the set of societal norms that exist in society is the basis of peace and proper state of things in society. Macionis and Plummer (2005) define norms as “rules and expectations by which a society guides the behavior of its members” (p.113). However, society may be presented only as an animate and constantly developing organism. This is why the natural assumption will be that the societal norms are flexible and dynamic as well. The factors that influence the change of societal norms should become the subject of thorough analysis if the future well being of society matters. There exists opinion that television is one of the main factors that reflects and shapes societal norms.

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There is no denying the fact that television has occupied a significant role in contemporary society. This is why as any influential factor it provokes great amount of controversial reactions and responses. “Over the past five decades, television has been a perennial and vexing object of passionate debate” (Shanahan and Morgan, 1999, p. 1). It has been scientifically proved that television has negative influence on people’s physical state, mainly eye-sight and it is one of the factors blamed for overweight. Individual problems are important but general problems of society are far more important, for they concern everyone.

The interrelation of television and societal norms was thoroughly studied by George Gerbner, the inventor of Cultivation theory. The main thesis of the theory is that in the course of continuing watching television the audience is sure to replace the real social world with the social world presented on TV. The worst factor is that societal world of television differs much from the real world and it presents fragmentary and distorted vision of reality. G.Gerbner studied the realization of violence on TV for twenty years and found out that television variant of social world is much more violent that the real one.

We think that Gerbner’s theory has a grain of sense in it, but it is too categorical and undermines the positive influence of TV on people. In order to prove our point of view let us take into account the program “America Most Wanted” hosted by John Walsh. This television program, evidently, deals with the problem of violence. However, it is based on the real situations from everyday life that are proved by evidence. The theme of violence is not exaggerated in the program; on the contrary, the statistics vividly proves the positive influence of the program: during past twenty two years John Walsh has managed to imprison 1,050 fugitives and find many missing children (Klug, 2002, p. 36). Ernie Allen informs the audience about the efficient team of people that take care of our children saying that the team includes people from FBI, immigration security and many other influential organizations. This example proves that even television program about violence may be based on societal norms of justice, just punishment for criminals and the necessity of general care about children.

The second most controversial type of television programs are news blocks. They are often considered to be biased and there exists opinion that news channels “mesmerize” the audience in order to create their false vision of political situation and make the people less politically conscious for the politicians to control the masses. However, while watching several news blocks on ABC, there were no proofs of such point of view. Still, it is possible that greater amount of news should be studied in order to make a final conclusion. On the whole, the positive impact of the news channels should not be undervalued, as they are one of the main and the most accessible and cheap sources of information in modern society.

In conclusion, it should be stated that television is based on societal norms; consequently, television programs reflect these norms but in the course of time television makes its contribution to modification of these norms. It happens that the norms are presented in distorted or exaggerated form, but it is up to the viewer to decide if the information presented is reliable or should be refuted. The request for the audience is to adopt critical thinking in order not to be passive mass that absorbs everything suggested by TV. In this case the people will shape societal norms, and the duty of television will be to reflect societal norms in proper form.


ABC News. 2009. Web.

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America Most Wanted. 2009. Web.

Klug, Elizabeth A. “John Walsh Fights Back.” Corrections Today Apr. 2002: 36.

Macionis, J.J., and Plummer, K. (2005). Sociology: A Global introduction. Harlow: Pearson Education.

Shanahan, J., & Morgan M. (1999). Television and Its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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