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The Social Impact Of Free TV Shows

Nov 14th 2010 at 6:19 AM

 

Through the years, the myriad variety of free TV shows had somehow generated around the same number of studies focusing mostly on the positive or negative influence of these shows on the viewers. So far, the results had been a fuzzy stalemate.

Today, the viewing interest of people had not waned after all these years. This is true, even after the explosive emergence of the Internet and its domination of everything in media nowadays. The Internet’s dominance and popularity is felt, no doubt, by everyone but it had not displaced the old habits of people.

People still watch free TV shows for their news content (newscasts), for their entertainment value (drama series, fashion, talk shows) and some education (science and human-interest features).

One reason could be that even if the Internet also brings in information into the home, it lacks the drama of TV. On a smaller note, watching TV is simply clicking “ON” in the remote, while a computer takes time to load up.

One expert proposed that the attraction to watch TV might also be attributed to the dramatic nature of the medium. Television has the habit of portraying the ordinary or routine as exciting and compelling, which never fails to interest people. (A critic, of course, termed it as “sensationalizing”.)

Other aspects that had been advanced is TV’s inherent “ability to transmit personality” across to the viewers through its shows, whether fictional or not. Viewers – as human beings themselves – are basically “insatiable in their interest about other human beings.” Free TV shows delve on all of these every day, and in all the usual categories (news, fiction series, entertainment and educational features).

One noted psychologist has forwarded two more theories on people’s interest in watching television, most especially celebrities. One is called the “fairy tale factor” and the other is the “Schadenfreude effect”.

The “fairy tale factor” posits the theory that people are interested in the lives of celebrities because they are like old fairy tales. Their stories are replete with the familiar (and affecting) human elements of love, hatred, and redemption. Modern celebrities have their “rags to riches tales” compared to the happy-ever-after fairy tale endings.

The “Schadenfreude effect” is roughly described as people taking pleasure in the suffering of celebrities. This could partly explain the popularity of entertainment and celebrity news features which mostly carry celebrity scandals, indiscretions, divorces, and other sordid news.

The day’s office talks (“water cooler” conversations) are often all about the previous night’s free TV show. Opinions are kicked around, jokes abound, and some disputes are born and resolved based on these shows.

Propaganda, politics, gender issues

TV shows do have some social or political agenda, and these are pushed to the viewers whether consciously or otherwise. It had been noted that some viewers sometimes repeat or use fictitious information coming from TV shows as if they were factual.

During U.S. elections, candidates freely ride out on many free TV shows to advance their political causes, aside from the usual political ads. In the recent events of conflict with other nations, the government did not hesitate in using television in pushing its own agenda.

Women issues, notably the feminist movement, had been helped by TV via its shows. Gender equality had been pushed and continually stoked by television, erasing the old stereotypes of men and women and their roles in society.

Free TV shows, as we know them, had helped integrate and globalize the people around the world. They have shown stimulating audio-visual information on other people, their behavior, their habits, and their culture. Slowly, some cultural aspects (language, music, the arts, and many others) had begun to be homogenized and are already enjoyed by many people, regardless of race, creed, or religion.

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