Media effects research has often viewed popular culture as being responsible for passivising audiences. In what circumstances could this be said to be true and how do you think television programming may be able to challenge such assumptions? Use examples of television shows from your own viewing experience to explain and illustrate your answer.
Mass media tend to passivising the audience, when mass media overload the audience with information, leaving little room for debate. In fact, the audience is exposed to the impact of mass media almost all the time. As a result, people just receive the information from mass media with little time for critical thinking and re-evaluation of messages from mass media. In such a way, mass media make the audience the consumer of the information and messages which the audience has little, if any options to dispute.
However, contemporary television programming may challenge the passivising effect of mass media. For instance, contemporary interactive television programmes allow the audience not just to perceive the information from mass media but also to participate in the debate, for instance, online or direct calls. In such a way, the interactive television programming allows the audience to participate in the interaction with mass media.
In actuality, the problem of passivising the audience is very important and dangerous in regard to the development of the contemporary culture and social norms and standards. In fact, the audience passivising leads to the degradation of the audience. Taking into consideration the overwhelming impact of the contemporary mass media, their passivising effect on the audience becomes particularly dangerous. Passivising makes people mere consumers of mass media products, while people should be able to perceive the information critically. Moreover, they should have an opportunity to participate in the debate concerning arguable issues, such as the enhancement of internet censorship in Australia, for instance. The audience cannot be the mere consumer deprived of the right of speech. Otherwise, people would just learn the information from mass media and take it for granted. Thus, mass media will turn into tools of propaganda, instead of tools of the freedom of speech and public control.
In such a situation, the interactive television becomes very important in terms of de-passivising the audience. The interactive television does allow turning the audience from passive viewers into active participants. For instance, when an arguable issue is discussed in a TV programme, a person should have an opportunity to call to the studio and to express his/her opinion publicly; or, alternatively, the person should have an opportunity to send a text or online message, which other people may see on the screen, while watching the TV programme. Such interactivity will stimulate the critical thinking of the audience. More important, such interactivity may help to make television an effective tool to the resolution of important social problems since the mass audience can work on the resolution of these problems in the air as long as the TV programme runs.
QUESTION FOUR (10 marks):
Investigative journalism is said to be in crisis. Why is this the case? New, online organisations, such as WikiLeaks, see themselves as a viable alternative in the provision of quality, public service journalism. They come, however, with considerable ethical and legal challenges. Outline what some of these challenges are. Why do you think it is important to try to revive investigative journalism?
Today, investigative journalism is in crisis because the public grows disenchanted in the investigative journalism, while people get larger opportunities to share information fast. In this regard, the spread of social networks opens larger opportunities for sharing information between people that make the investigative journalism unnecessary. At the same time, the audience turns online to get new resources for discovery of information which is normally not available to the general public, such as Wikileaks, for instance. However, often such online organizations raise legal issues because their activities are questionable from the legal standpoint. For instance, they may spread top secret information which is protected by the government and national legislation. As a result, operations of online organizations is essential for the maintenance of the circulation of important information and transparency in the national and international politics but their operations need the clear and accurate regulation at the legal level.
The case of Wikileaks proves risks associated with the emergence of online organizations that attempt to provide the audience with secret information or information that may be important for the public but is hidden from the public eye, intentionally or not. Such online organizations can draw the public attention to burning issues which are socially significant and help the public to develop certain opinion on this issue that will force the authorities to start acting and tackle problems, if there are any. On the other hand, returning to the case of Wikileaks, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that such organizations may violate legal norms or, at the least, their actions and policies may be arguable from the legal point of view. In this regard, the lack of legal regulations concerning functioning of online organizations is one of the major causes of legal collisions involving such organizations as Wikileaks.
Nevertheless, in the time of the decline of investigative journalism, when the audience shifts online, instead of print media and television or radio, the development of online organizations that actually substitute the investigative journalism is essential because they perform the function of control over government agencies, companies and other organizations which may be dangerous for the public or national interests. Online organizations can help people to share valuable information online that will accelerate the processing and sharing information. Hence, if a socially important issue arises and is debated online, millions of people can join the debate and express their opinion concerning the issue.