Understanding Television: the Focus of Television Programming

Implications of Differences in Television Program Policy or Focus

Television profitability depends highly on the attractiveness of the programs created. The key role of television producers is to make sure the viewers understand and enjoy what they are being shown. Viewers need to understand and be helped to distinguish what is fiction from what is true. Television producers are expected to be creative so that they can attract viewers (Caldwell 299). However, creativity has to be tempered because of cost implications and the need to remain realistic. Miami vice is a good movie. However, its production nearly failed because producers chose a very dangerous location from where the film was shot.

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Television watching has become a habit for the majority of citizens in any given country and industry players are always on toes to serve the ever changing needs and tastes of the viewers and producers are trying hard to give the audience what they expect. They don’t show films/movies that they know viewers will not enjoy watching. A single episode can’t win a place in the market. So television should be able to reach everywhere and all people through the programs being featured (Ellis 276)

The ever-changing viewer tastes and preferences require that production adopts a creative marketing approach. However, viewer sustenance and maintenance also requires helping a level of routinization and sticking to predictable formats and patterns (Ellis 277). Therefore, to achieve high profits, producers have to balance between creativity and standardization or use of familiar formats.

The audience has a role to play in program development. As they watch programs, their feedback helps the producers to know what is running fine or what needs to be changed. The audience is critical in ensuring the only right content is produced. The interplay between viewer interests and television program objectives is what should inform successful television production. This is because television programs are normally not just about entertainment but also education or informing the public. Therefore, continuous interaction between the audience and television program producers is critical. For example, the Idea for the film Miami vice is said to have been mooted at a party. Therefore, producers have to interact with the general public if they want ideas for productions. By listening to customer needs and desires, producers can infuse the necessary creativity that meets market needs in program development (Caldwell 296).

The relationship between the producer and the audience is that the producer is supposed to provide value for the audience’s money and time. Audiences rely on producers for exciting programs (Caldwell 296). The producer is required to come up with shows which are interesting to the audience and the audience can understand every part of the show. The role of the audience is to watch what is produced and see if they can understand and enjoy what is produced. The audience is supposed to pick the joke, fact, a fiction to enjoy the program produced by the producer (Caldwell 294). Producers are supposed to turn out with shows which are understood by the audience depending on the language they are using so that the audience can understand what they are trying to communicate to them. The key role of a producer is to know the standards of a program. A skilled producer can know the possible level of production budget by just looking at a television program.

Standardization helps the producer and the broadcaster to have a good relationship and even come up with creative ideas. The benefit of standardized production is that it allows for division of labor. Division of labor or specialization ensures that every producer can do what he/she knows well to produce to his/her level best.

Television programs are varied and often a viewer is more interested in some programs than others. Looking at a series like Miami Vice, it is clear that a lot of creativity was infused in its production. The interaction between producer creativity and viewer expectations leads to a production that is not only entertaining but whose plot can easily be grasped and followed by viewers.

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Different television programs produced by different players linked through cables to a network of satellites and streamed to end users have become a common phenomenon. Since the 1980s local cable companies have been owned by larger firms and have been expanding into the ownership of channels and also cable systems since then (Meehan and Byars 92). Producing or acquiring programs depends on the potential of its owners to provide or license such programs. Networks’ cooperative business has made these owners successful.

Owners of these channels have made a lot of money through the programs they present (Meehan and Byars 95). They have focused on presenting programs that attract a lot of people, this includes reality shows and a good example of such shows is the Oprah show. This show has attracted a huge audience all over the world. Surveys indicate that these shows are very entertaining and are loved by all kinds of people; the old and young. During the presentation of these programs, there are commercial breaks where an advertisement runs. And advertisers pay a lot of money for the advertisement of their products on television because through combining their advertisements with good programs they promote their products to a large number of people.

The audience is attracted or conceived through the programs the channel offers to them. Some will attract more audience, retain, or even put off the audience. When a television channel is new, it can introduce programs that will attract a new audience like in the case of CBS that has maintained its program ‘Welcome home’ (Johnson 403). The program remains the most-watched program on a television network. It is watched by both blacks and whites in America (Johnson 406). Branding appeals and the way these channels relate to their audience contributes so much to the audience attraction.

Featuring programs that are outdated does not, for example, attract young viewers so balancing the programs a channel feature is an important factor to consider for it to attract an audience. There’s another way of attracting an audience by featuring programs that attract for example women, like in the case of Lifetime, they sought and featured shows that attracted women (Meehan and Byars 94). These gave them a huge number of women viewers.

Audiences respond differently to the types of programs they watch because there are different types of people in society. There is a particular trend in larger US culture; there are those who value the standards of real community, security, safety, and solid nuclear family values. Some programs reinforce family values and television channels have several channels to choose from so audiences or viewers have a choice to watch certain programs or not (Johnson 409).

Programs being featured have the power to change traditional values to modern cultural values or preserve a culture. A good example of a program that helps shape people’s values is ‘Touched by an Angel’ which has featured heavily on CBS. This series whose plot consists of individuals meeting challenges or tough life questions but are helped by angels to find answers really can influence peoples thinking about issues in their life. Such a program’s viewers get entertained, educated, and most crucially their thinking on values is changed. People often copy much of what they see on television and adopt or adapt it in their way of life e.g. dressing and behavior.

Belief in God is also affected and programs have been created in the name of God to attract an audience. Many people believe God has power and when such programs are featured they seem to want to follow them especially when they are featuring money and how to be rich. Some programs which are featured have made people believe more in money than in God because they have found an easier way of getting rich and they believe it’s through their efforts that they gain wealth, this makes them not see any meaning in belief in God.

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Certain cultural values are reproduced by the type of programs being featured by these networks. Some programs are seen as old-fashioned, rural, or which are not meant for urban people. Some programs are friendly and can be viewed by any type of audience. So programs give rise to such cultural values where a particular group of people cannot view a particular program because it’s old fashioned or meant for rural people (Victoria 416). But programs which are friendly to all groups of people and ages are enjoyed by everyone.

Reality TV shows

Reality television shows are dramas that have a real-life storyline and there are usually audiences participating. Audiences participate in the continuing story of the issue and the people involved in the real-life experience, for example in the case of Oprah show there is always an audience.

When actions are done uniquely, they symbolize a certain action like putting a wafer in a mouth which is a sign of Holy Communion (Couldry 59). This is known as ritual actions. Late Ray Rapport says that these actions are more than we see and they may not be done by the performer (Couldry 64).

Media rituals are actions done uniquely and give rise to a belief which does not link any clear content that is believed. One of the functions of media rituals is to change an ordinary person into a media person and this is by making a ritual action seem natural television happening.

In the American Top Model show during the eviction, when a model is evicted from the house she’s told to go inside, pack her belongings, and leave the house immediately. After she has finished packing, the presenter walks live to the house and after some time, the evictee is seen coming from the house with her belongings and the presenter leads her to the studio for an interview where she shares about her experience in the house. This repeated format of evictions is a ritual of sorts.

According to anthropologist Catherine Bell, ritualization organizes our movement around space and helps us to experience created features of the environment as real (Couldry 61). Ritualization reproduces symbolic ability, which plays a role in the classification in which ritual draws.

Reality TV shows are created in a way that everything seems natural and real but it’s always more than we see. Certain actions are repeated and organized in a way that has a unique meaning. An action done in a specific environment signifies a certain act. The formality of these actions is emphasized more on the kind of values associated with these actions. Rituals are repetitive actions and they give rise to a belief that hides clear thinking. It is their ritualized form that makes them successful without them being exposed.

Voyeurism works in a way that reality TV shows have made those who watch believe that what happens on TV is the easiest way to become rich or become famous or celebrity. Reality TV shows have turned audiences into voyeurs by brainwashing their minds with what they present to them because they don’t expose the real actions.

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There is the transition of characters from an ordinary person to a media person like in the case of Big Brother show. Media self is that character who’s the value of the media, such character or person gives value to the media. Celebrification is a transitional process that changes the ordinary person to a media person controlled by the media.

Considering the case of ‘Americas Next Top Model’, ordinary girls are turned into kind of celebrities immediately or as soon as they cast in the show. Even the way they speak would make one imagine that they are celebrities or have been such for some time. Reality TV shows make ordinary people celebrities. These people are not professional actors but are used to make the show real because they feature real-life experience.

According to Couldry (88), reality TV shows are a process that takes real-life individuals and puts them under observation, analysis, and selective display for entertainment and educational purposes, and also to encourage audience participation. Its ethical dimension is that we need to know how media is transforming our social lives and how it’s being transformed in return (Couldry 72).

Direct address to the camera works in a way that reveals a lot about the character because the filmmaker is an uninvolved and unrevealed bystander. This way a character can tell a lot about his/her experience in an easy way because no one is filming him/her. Talk shows have made many people into celebrities. Fame and money have always made people want to participate in such shows. The limitation is that their private life and even that of their families are exposed because they reveal so much about themselves.

Reality TV shows are dramas that are real-life stories and there is always a possibility of emphasizing individual experience when there is a truth in what different people do and say. People want to see for themselves and believe that what they have been hearing is true. The disadvantage is that it promotes a certain type of behavior in which those who want to be popular by being involved in such created games of these shows must change and stick to. There is also penetration of a certain social reality. In the ‘Americas Next Top Model’, one senses an immersion of the girls into a culture of sophistication that is proper to the show biz or modeling world. As the pressure pile on girls to be of a certain kind in the way they carry themselves and interact so also are different people among viewers influenced to want to change their ways.

Talk Shows and Democracy in the Public Sphere

Personal authority is brought about by not being controlled but by expressing personal interests (Anderson 148). One has the freedom to control what is meaningful, acceptable, and significant. In talk shows social issues are made relevant to the viewers by showing them a reality in social life through which they can access the reality that matters to them as people.

The Oprah Winfrey Show and the Jerry Springer Show are two excellent examples of talk shows. A talk show often involves a host, guests, and an audience. While Oprah Winfrey’s show focuses on personal struggles, self-improvement, and is more attractive to women. The Jerry Springer show focuses on dysfunctionality or problems in families. The two talk shows feature real-life stories where viewers can learn from people’s experiences.

In talk shows, the role of the studio audience is to provide support to the characters and they also make the show look real and like its happening at that particular moment. Audiences contribute to the society of celebrity by for instance buying their magazines and voting for them. Focus on individualized problems, interpersonal relations, and private solutions can hinder the democratic potential of talk shows because reality TV is like a laboratory where subjects are tested.

One critical issue with talk shows is that people involved are expected to change their behavior and stick to desired media conduct; this hinders their democratic potential (Anderson 160). The audience can be exploited because they don’t know what they are watching has been organized in a manner that looks real but is far from reality. Whether stage-managed or not, it’s exciting when audiences learn from real-life experience and these reality TV shows give them a chance to meet the reality of life. Different realities of life are featured by different people.

Individual responsibility and indifference also affect the quality of talk shows. The Jerry Springer Show, unlike the Oprah Winfrey show, has been criticized for focusing on obscene and indecent topics. The show’s reputation defines the kind of guests it attracts. The guest’s focus unless well checked could derail a talk show through either not showing much enthusiasm or veering off into other areas.

It can be very catastrophic for a talk shows presenter if the guests and audience are unresponsive to the questions they are being asked. If they fail to open up or freeze in the face of cameras, the talk show is compromised. The desire to maintain a responsive guest list and audience could easily lead talk show producers into manipulating the whole production. Any manipulation effort of any sort affects the authenticity of the program. It affects the individuality of the guests and mutilates their person to make them representative of the talk show theme or characteristic.

Works Cited

Andersen, Robin. “The Television Talk Show: From Democratic Potential to Pseudotherapy.” Consumer Culture and TV Programming. Boulder: Westview Press, (1995): 146-173.

Caldwell J. Thornton, “Modes of Production: The Televisual Apparatus,” Television Study Reader. London: Routledge, (2004): 293-310.

Couldry, Nick. “Teaching Us to Fake It: Ritualized Norms of Television’s ‘Reality’ Games,” Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture, Susan Murray and Laurie Ouellette. Eds. New York: NYU Press, (2004), 57-74.

Ellis, John. “Television Production.” The Television Studies Reader. Ed.

Robert Allen and Annette Hill. New York: Routledge, 2004. 275-292.

Johnson, Victoria E. “Welcome Home? CBS, PAX-TV, and “Heartland” Values in a Neo- Network Era.” Television Study Reader. New York: Routledge, (2000): 404-417.

Meehan Eileen R. and Byars Jackie, “Telefeminsism: How Lifetime got its Grove, 1984- 1997,” Television Study Reader. New York: Sage Publishers, (2000): 92-104.

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