A major issue in blogging is that of free speech, do we have a right to offend and can/should it be punished. This issue is also just as topical in television and its content.
Before 1987 a Freedom Doctrine was in place in the U.S that made it compulsory for any show to be balanced in its handling of news or controversial topics, it was also an environment that sought to protect commercial interests by not alienating any audience segments, so all shows were harmless and inoffensive like cheery sitcoms e.g. Bewitched, children’s programming e.g. Disney and entertainment variety shows e.g. The Ed Sullivan Show. Anything offensive or satirical like South Park or Jon Stewart etc was absolutely non-existent but that changed. Following 1987 and the abolition of the doctrine, news programs began to reflect political bias more strongly like the awesome Fox News which launched in 1996 and the more controversial satirical shows came in large numbers beginning with the 1989 launch of The Simpsons and continuing.
It is safe to say that following this trend we have become a society of more acceptance toward people exercising free speech for the sake of comedy or opinion, for the most part.
The reason I say for the most part is that there are varied sources who say people who are behind shows that may offend or offer sharp satire do receive backlash; one of these sources is http://mercedesmccormick.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/30-rocks-use-of-satire/ a 30 Rock-centred blog who reports that the show has a large amount of “not-so-fond critics”, “non-believers” and that series creator and writer Tina Fey has received a large amount of “grief” for the content on her show. While that blog may be correct, it also ends with an equally correct point that at the end of the day “[30 Rock] is still funny”. I agree that no show can ever be totally free of criticism, particularly one that pokes fun at society left, right and centre but at the end of the day it is quality that wins the battle and negative feedback can only remain just that; an exercise of free speech regarding a show that exercises free speech.
Although the line of what’s acceptable has been stepped over in numerous occasions on many shows, to my knowledge there has yet to be anything so bad as to warrant mass protest, censorship or cancellation. We will always appreciate quality no matter what, a pleasing illustration of this is the fact that the very satirical and forthcoming shows like 30 Rock and the Daily Show continue to be very successful in ratings and the winning of awards and many blogs that put forth strong and perhaps controversial opinion do tend to attain solid readerships; tv like blogging can enjoy a free platform for whatever expression they choose and long may it continue.
“Me at the zoo” – four seemingly innocuous words which entitled the first ever youtube video that would soon kickstart an enormous revolution in internet, society, sharing and you name it (and there’s probably a video for it too).
Youtube has really transcended above not just being a popular site (which it is stands as the 3rd most visited website1) but introducing a whole new paradigm for how we’re entertained and share information, it was arguably the flagship for web 2.0 and the new system of people creating internet content and having power over it which proved to be so vast that the Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2006 was, on the back of this web 2.0 shift, us.
However Youtube’s influence on television has always been an interesting one with a persistent debate being can television ever be rivalled or replaced by Youtube or other websites. For now it appears the answer is, other websites maybe but Youtube, no. Yes it’d be silly for me to say that Youtube hasn’t attracted a mass audience for people who want to be entertained but for a long time and currently the line-up has predominately been music videos and funny things caught on camera etc which are of course great but still alienate the many others who seek episodic, original tv content that are found on tv’s, dvd’s and other websites, as i said. Very tough copyright guidelines inhibits such content being showcased on youtube (for instance show me a clip from a Fox show on youtube and i’ll show you something that’s very soon to be taken down) but there are exceptions which do pertain to various British shows in which whole episodes can be found from variety shows and some other shows like Fawlty Towers but not a whole lot else.
Signs do show that a change in Youtube is occurring, recent moves to fund original content being created and aired exclusively on youtube in large quantities and by successful artists have taken place and may prove to grow fast as people can be tempted to conveniently make content and immediately share it and side-step the very long and difficult process of making television shows. Through this we may see a move away from the “amateur” and toward the “auteur” as far as youtube content goes and from this it’s quite possible that a new TV can be found in youtube; only time will tell but if any site can do it, it’s Youtube.
As my blog seeks to shine light on the interesting background and messages of TV shows; it is therefore simple to see how Social Media has had an enormous impact on this topic with many new shows now having social media as their background and in some cases, their content too.
Why? Well, it makes absolute logical and financial sense; current statistics indicate that 55% of women and 45% of men all tweet while watching TV and that over 40% of TV watchers in America watch TV whilst using their devices1. It’s a huge amount of eyeballs and by creating a funnel between social media and their TV shows, they’ve allowed for more of that viewership to fall upon their shows.
As channel 7 CEO said; “Viewers are changing the way they watch TV and we’re changed the way we produce shows to cater for this. Social and interactive elements aren’t an afterthought anymore, we are integrating them into the making of our shows”.2 And they have, both in Australia and other nations.
So what shows are we talking about? Well while almost everything you see on TV now has it’s own socially-driven page to stir up discussion and gain audience opinion but few television shows have so wholly integrated themselves with the social media change than the new dating show “Ready for Love” on which 3 eligible bachelors are matched-up with a woman via social media. It’s a far-cry from the old dating shows of someone picking from 3 people behind a wall, having 2 people meet in a dark room, someone choosing from a pool of 25 possible partners, selecting a date based on the dinner they serve you (boy do i watch too much TV). But anyway besides from sending the message that love can be found through social media, “Ready for love” fully capitalizes on the fact that social media can provide a useful tool for conducting social interactions and objectives as well as having a large in-built audience that can transplanted onto the particular show which indicates a new trend of more shows building their foundation on such sites and basing their content around it.
Another show that is just as adept at using social media as it as good at crashing it, is Q & A. It’s an interesting case where the show doesn’t base its content on social media nor did it arise from social media, the show started in 2008 when both Facebook and Twitter were still quite young and the show’s concept was already rock-solid; who wouldn’t want to tune in to see politicians slipping up and hot topics being very controversially commented on. No, the show was impacted by social media through it’s ability to augment the show using it; giving people at home a voice to share their view, have it displayed on the screen during the show and starting a conversation with others and engaging in fiery open debate ; it’s democracy squared. Like Robert Hassan stated, if we wanted to write for ourselves we’d do it in a notebook and keep it locked in a desk but the vast majority want to write for others and write to have it read and make an impact, through social media we can and via more and more TV shows like this, we will.
This TV blog has the thoroughness and depth of analysis that my blog seeks to undertake although mine will be perhaps more on the informative, exposition side rather than the review side. Excellent blog though.
The linked blog offers an almost peerless episode-by-episode review and commentary of Simpsons episodes, by reading it you can not only catch-up and have a laugh but really see for yourself all the cultural and social messages that the show is putting out there, assuming my post didn’t already thoroughly convince you 😛