On Television Medium under Consumer Culture

By Jamie Stephens,2014-01-02 14:01
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On Television Medium under Consumer Culture

    On Television Medium under Consumer Culture


    In writing this paper, I have benefited a lot from the presence of my teachers, classmates and friends. They generously helped me to collect the materials I needed and gave me many invaluable suggestions. Here, I’d like to extend my thanks to them. Without their help, the paper would not have been what it is now.

    In particular, I’m deeply indebted to my supervisor, Liping Ge, who guided me throughout the whole process in writing this thesis. She read the whole draft carefully and offered me amount of painstaking and precious criticism and suggestions. Her excellent academic standard made my revision an exciting and gratifying experience. I really admire her very much.

    My thanks would also go to my beloved parents for their affections. They always encourage me to be confident and tough. The confidence they have in me gives me great power these years. I feel much grateful and heartily to owe the achievements to them.

    Next, I would like to say thank you to my dear and lovely friend, Han Zhen, who offered me her computer to finish my paper.

    Lastly, none of this would have been possible without the help of those individuals and organizations hereafter mentioned with gratitude: our school library and its staff, the library of Henan University of Technology.



    Television medium is an important tool for people to gain knowledge and information from their surroundings and the outside world, thus, it has a significant impact on people’s daily work and life. The economic boom drives the development

    of consumer culture, under the influence of which significant changes have occurred to television medium.

    This paper first introduces the basic concepts of consumer culture and television, their features and development. And then, it deals with the analysis of the changes happened to television medium in both content and form of communication under the influence of consumer culture, such as the increase of “soft news”, the

    vulgarization of TV recreational programs and floods of television

    advertisements. And then, it will discuss the impact on people by television medium under the influence of consumer culture, and summarize the main changes, for example, the changes of people’s values and lifestyle. Based on the above

    analysis, the paper will provide several feasible suggestions to both TV medium itself and the common people. As to TV medium, it should resort to reforms to strengthen the building of its public credibility and convey healthy information to advocate green consumption. At the same time, it calls on people to build up correct outlook on values and get rid of the dependence on television medium, to participate in the variety of social practices and activities. In this article, in order to let readers avoid the negative effects of television medium and cultivate a healthy lifestyle and consumption habit, the author tries to provide a profound analysis of television medium under the influence of consumer culture.

    Key words: television medium; consumer culture; influence







1. Introduction

    In the first chapter, a brief introduction of consumer culture, television medium and the whole thesis will be given.

    1.1 Introduction to consumer culture

    Any spectator of the contemporary visual landscape readily recognizes the prominence of material goods and their consumption in the increasingly global culture. Some observers argue that the landscape is “littered” with consumption icons and that it is a product of a larger project to create and sustain consumer culture.

    In a review of historical accounts of consumption and culture, Grant McCracken remarks that “there is little consensus as to the origins of consumer culture” (165). According to the perspective of Neil McKendrick and his associates, consumer culture began in eighteenth-century England with the commercialization of fashion precipitating a mass change in taste (36). According to these historians, the

    new predilection for style fueled a demand for clothing that was mass-produced through technical innovations in the textile industry and mass-marketed through innovations in printing technologies that afforded wide-scale advertising. While, Don Slater argues that “consumer culture began with a wide penetration of consumer goods into the everyday lives of people across social strata, that consumption was ignited through a new sense of fashion and taste” (48). And finally, the culture was

    cemented through the development of infrastructures, organizations, and practices that took advantage of the new markets, namely, the rise of shopping, advertising, and marketing” (Slater 49).

    Consumer culture, which subsumes both consumerism and materialism, has been studied from the perspective of a variety of disciplines, including communication, cultural studies, theology, sociology, psychology, marketing, anthropology, and philosophy. Regardless of the disciplinary approach, a central feature of consumer culture is the relationship between people and material goods. The Principal part of


    consumer culture is people, while the core of it is consumption. Generically, consumer culture is a social arrangement in which the buying and selling of goods and services is not only a predominant activity of everyday life but also an important arbiter of social organization, significance, and meaning.

    In the authors opinion, consumer culture has three main features. First, consumer culture is popular and public. It is a kind of public cultures, which respect the masses orientation of pleasure and gives enough emphasis on the buyers

    market. That is to say, consumer culture is popular in the mode of discourse, and is moderate in the description of values, thus, it can be recognized by the mass public. Second, consumer culture is highly symbolized. In the modern society, the value of goods itself and its value in use are separated because its value in use has been replaced by its symbolic value. People in the consumer society take in the symbolic value of goods as their own orientation of values to guide their daily lives and behaviors. Third, consumer culture is visual and emotional. Consumer culture packages the symbolic meaning of goods though media, striving to seize the eye of the public to optimize the communication effect of its intrinsic value. All these features are important factors that endow consumer culture with great power and influence on other aspects of the modern society and public life.

    1.2 Introduction to television medium

     Television medium is a widely used telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images, either monochromatic or color, usually accompanied by sound. “Television” may also refer specifically to a television set,

    television programming or television transmission. The television medium conveys information to the audience through video, images, voice, subtitles, and special technologies with its audio-visual means, thus gives audience strong sense of presence and witness.

    Commercially available since the late 1930s, the television set has become a common communications receiver in homes, businesses and institutions, particularly as a source of entertainment and news. Since the 1970s the availability of video


    cassettes, laserdiscs, DVDs and now Blu-ray Discs, have resulted in the television set frequently being used for viewing recorded as well as broadcast material. In its early stages of development, television employed a combination of optical, mechanical and electronic technologies to capture, transmit and display a visual image.

    Today, television has been a necessary tool for people to gain information from the outside world and the environment they live in. Besides, watching TV has been the main entertainment of their everyday life. The information disseminated through television is more intuitive and vivid, thus is easy for common people to accept and understand without deep thinking. So, it is natural that television will have a great influence on people with its superiorities in communication.

    1.3 Introduction to the thesis

     This paper will first deal with the analysis of the changes happened to television medium in both content and form of communication under the influence of consumer culture, such as the increase of “soft news”, the vulgarization of

    recreational programs and floods of television advertisement. And then, it will discuss the impact on people by television under consumer culture, and summarize the main changes, for example, the changes of people’s values and lifestyle. Based on the

    above analysis, the paper will provide several feasible suggestions to both TV medium itself and the common people. As to TV medium, it should resort to reforms to strengthen the building of its public credibility and convey healthy information to advocate green consumption. At the same time, it calls on people to build up correct outlook on values and get rid of the dependence on television medium, to participate in the variety of social practices and activities.

    2. Changes of television medium under consumer culture

    In the first chapter, the author gives a brief introduction of consumer culture and television medium. While, how does consumer culture influence television medium and what happened to television medium under its influence? In this chapter, this issue is to be discussed. In recent years, great changes have happened to


    television medium in both the content it spreads and the way it delivers information. In an environment of consumer society, the main objective of almost every organization and institution is to make profit from the market, television medium included, of course.

    2.1 Increase of soft news and the softening of hard news

    News is the main content that TV medium broadcasts. The so-called TV news refers to a means of delivering voice and images vividly to the audience through TV screen by the modern electronic technology. Specially, the TV news is made through the process of interviewing, camera shooting, designing and film editing, writing commentaries and dubbing. It can report the whole developing process of the events vividly and systematically. One of the most important purposes that people watch TV every day is to learn the latest news of events happened surrounding them and then make judgments about the environment they live in. We can say that it is the monitor of people to judge their environment.

     However, in recent years, market-driven journalism appeared due to the strengthening of the sense of marketing and competition. The concept of marketing is fully utilized in the process of producing news. According to the concept of marketing, the key point of realizing the organizations’ target is to identify the needs and desires

    of the target market correctly. Besides, be more effective and advantageous to satisfy the expectations of the target market. Driven by the concept of marketing, the way of making news with the least cost and attracting the most target audience valuable to advertisers without offending the vital interests of other groups has become the main criterion of news producing. The TV viewing rate becomes the only standard to judge whether a TV program is successful or not. Under this circumstance, profound changes occurred to TV news.

     According to the relationship between news and the audience, news stories are basically divided into two types: hard news and soft news. Hard news generally refers to up-to-the-minute news and events that are reported immediately, while soft news is background information or human-interest stories. Politics, war, economics and crime


    used to be considered hard news, while arts, entertainment and lifestyles were considered soft news. One difference between hard and soft news is the tone of presentation. A hard news story takes a factual approach: What happened? Who was involved? Where and when did it happen? Why? A soft news story tries instead to entertain or advise the reader. You may have come across newspaper or TV stories that promise “news you can use.” Examples might be tips on how to stretch properly before exercising, or what to look for when buying a new computer.

     Under the principle of audience orientation, in order to cater to the tastes of the public, more and more soft news occurred on television screen. While, hard news are becoming less and less and even been softened. That is to say, more and more hard news are presented in soft ways by telling stories or amusing audience. The Objective of this transformation is to add the interest to news to make them more receptive to the audience. Thus, in a relaxed atmosphere, information can be conveyed to the public more easily. However, if people immerse themselves in this “soft news

    environment created by media for long time, they will lose the necessary ability to be alert to the environment unconsciously. Besides, their ability of judging will decline inevitably, which will hurt them eventually.

    2.2 Vulgarization of TV recreational programs

    Television genres include a broad range of programming types that entertain, inform, and educate viewers. The most expensive entertainment genres to produce are usually drama and dramatic miniseries. However, other genres, such as historical Western genres, may also have high production costs. Popular entertainment genres include action-oriented shows such as police, crime, detective dramas, horror, or thriller shows. As well, there are also other variants of the drama genre, such as medical dramas and daytime soap operas. Science fiction shows can fall into either the drama or action category, depending on whether they emphasize philosophical questions or high adventure. Comedy is a popular genre which includes situation comedy and animated shows for the adult demographic such as Family Guy.


    The least expensive forms of entertainment programming are game shows, talk shows, variety shows, and reality TV. Game shows show contestants answering questions and solving puzzles to win prizes. Talk shows feature interviews with film, television and music celebrities and public figures. Variety shows feature a range of musical performers and other entertainers such as comedians and magicians introduced by a host or master of ceremonies. Reality TV shows “regular’ people who

    are facing unusual challenges or experiences, ranging from arrest by police officers to weight loss.

    In recent years, under the guidance of the marketing principle, in order to improve the TV viewing rate, more and more TV channels start to focus their attention on the form of entertainment programs. The relaxing and humorously narrative style and its advantage of closing to public life make recreational programs more and more popular. However, due to the excessive pursuit of TV viewing rate, the vulgarization trend appeared among the TV recreational programs. In order to attract the attention of audience, some recreational interview programs use the lens of sexy beauties to lure people. For example, during a TV show, a beautiful woman host was asked “what’s the size of your chest?” She was very awkward at that time, but

    finally the size of her chest was still measured in the scene. There are still other recreational programs that entertain the audience by joking on them. The presenter Xie Na of Hunan Satellite TV entertainment show “Happy Camp” is well known to the general audience because of her spoof and humorous character.

    The hosts often tease each other and make fun of each other in the program in exchange for the audience’s laugh. In the modern society, according to the speeding

    pace of life and the high work pressures, many young people have no time to pay attention to their emotional life, so they still remain single even when they arrive marriage age. After learning this phenomenon, the television media, responding to the psychological needs of young people, open up a general assembly on television screen for dating. Just in this year more and more TV dating programs are produced and becoming to sweep the society. In such programs, dirty words and offending words can usually be heard. Postman argues that “television confounds serious issues with


    entertainment, demeaning and undermining political discourse by making it less about ideas and more about image” (32). He also argues that “television is not an effective

    way of providing education, as it provides only top-down information transfer, rather than the interaction that he believes is necessary to maximize learning. (Postman 33)

    2.3 Floods of television advertisement

    With the development of economy, consumer culture has also changed a lot. In the modern society, the traditional basic consumption of material goods can no longer satisfy people’s swelling lust for luxuries. What they are pursuing nowadays is just

    the symbolic meaning or the social status carried by variety kinds of products. TV advertising is an important feature of many consumer-focused markets. It can have a role in informing consumers of new products or reminding consumers about existing products. It can play a role in informing consumers about key features of particular products and be used as a way of differentiating one product from another in a particular economic market. The “ostentatious consumption” which was discussed in “Leisure Class Theory” written by Veblen is a typical sign of the process of

    consumption. He believes that “ostentatious consumption is a way of the wealthy upper-class to show off to others their property, social status and such glory, prestige and reputation that brought by the status” (32-40).

    Television channels can earn money by showing advertisements. Advertisers pay broadcasters to show adverts on their television channels. Most channels get some or all of their income from advertising. Advertising is also important to the quality of television programs. Those channels that earn most advertising revenue can afford to invest in higher quality programs, and fewer repeats. By contrast, channels that cannot earn much advertising revenue must rely more heavily on imported programs, or cheaply-made local programs, and repeat their programs more often.

     But viewers have made clear that advertising is important to them in other ways. We sometimes get complaints that there is too much advertising on TV, or that programs are interrupted by advertising too often, or both of them. However, most of


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