The Problem of Morality in Media Policy
by: Thomas Streeter / University of Vermont
Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl XXXVIII mishap
Much of what passes for discussions of morality in media policy these days is at best silly, at worst reactionary. But it’s not enough to scoff at the shallowness and hypocrisies of moral panics like the recent Superbowl wardrobe malfunction fracas, or to elegantly chart their ideological functions. Of course, there’s little to be gained from the kind of moralizing often associated with academics who cluck their tongues at Howard Stern or Jerry Springer. Condescension of the popular, I agree, will get us nowhere. But completely dodging morality won’t get us very far, either; a rigorous post-Foucaultian moral anarchism, for all its intellectual appeals, can too easily function as an unintentional apology for the status quo or, worse, simply concede the field to naive moral absolutists. Occasionally seeking to distinguish between good and bad is, as Raymond Williams said about culture, “ordinary.” It’s an ordinary part of people’s experience, and as such, moral discourse will inevitably play a role in shaping the future. Ignore that and you write yourself out of the game. Any effort to change media for the better must have a moral component.
So how do we talk about media and morality without sounding petty or holier-than-thou? I think we need to start by getting beyond the typical bifurcation of media matters into structural and cultural issues. On the structural side are questions of law, money, procedure, and technology, stories of big corporations, gadgets, and financial schemes. On the cultural side are hot button issues like pornography, violence, and the protection of children. And too often, I think, US media and cultural studies scholars act as though we agree; we tend to divide our interests and scholarship along similar lines, policy folks over here, textual critics over there. There needs to be an approach that does not take the structure/culture bifurcation for granted. And one place to begin is by talking about the role of the subjective or cultural within classic structural media issues. Let’s do some cultural criticism of what goes on behind the screen. Rhetoric and style — the raw materials of culture — matter behind the screen as well as on it; if those of us trained in cultural and media studies are really going to act on all that’s been learned in the last thirty years, it’s not just that that culture matters, it’s that culture matters everywhere.
Take a current structural issue: the current experiments in wireless broadband, a possible candidate for the media infrastructure of the future (and a personal fascination of mine). At first glance, it seems to be all about technology standards, legal regulations, and money, stuff for self-important white guys in suits. Not what we spent all that time in graduate school deciphering Stuart Hall or Gayatri Spivak for.
But consider the following: in a recent interview, the FCC’s chief of policy development, Robert Pepper, was asked about new wireless networks. “Wireless ISPs,” he replied, “are some of the most exciting companies and developments that I’ve seen in a long time. You have a lot of little companies — we estimate somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500. They are providing broadband service in urban and also rural areas without subsidy. They are being deployed very rapidly at a low cost. They break even with relatively low penetration rates. They can operate on mountaintops. They can operate in inner cities and neighborhoods. This is very exciting.”
Notice that Pepper used the word “exciting” twice to describe Wireless ISPs. I don’t want to over interpret, but his use of the word “exciting” is significant. When someone like Pepper talks about, say, the transition from traditional to digital and high definition television, the talk is in the language of acronym-fluent technocrats: about orderly process, protecting stakeholders, striking a balance between competing interests, and so forth. All that stuff may sound important, but not “exciting.” Basically, Pepper’s description of wireless ISPs — small, fast, numerous, on mountaintops and in inner cities, and growing — follows the narrative lines of the tale of the plucky capitalist entrepreneur.
This is a moral discourse. It invokes a classic liberal narrative in which self-interested individual effort is constructed as a form of moral behavior. From Robinson Crusoe to Poor Richard’s Almanac to the novels of Ayn Rand to Little House on the Prairie, there’s a long and deep tradition of tales in which capitalist entrepreneurial behavior is celebrated as a sign of good character and a source of human progress. In the American context, these narratives have played a role in legitimating the very corporate capitalism that in the end undermines entrepreneurial possibilities. Pepper does not mention that these thousands of wonderful small businesses are eventually doomed to either be pushed aside by other technologies, or — if the technology does catch on — be swallowed up by larger corporate outfits (as has happened to the thousands of small phone-line-based ISPs that sprang up in the mid-1990s).
But it’s not all bad. Striking out on one’s own, taking a risk, making something new in a way that has integrity — these are all visions that have provided energy and support to many folks who could use it. The real question is how that discourse gets articulated. Currently, some city governments are exploring ways to build wireless broadband networks for their citizens that would operate on a non-profit basis, and the corporate world is doing everything it can to stop them, seeking to make such efforts illegal through state legislatures. How should struggles like this be framed? The traditional progressive tactic is to make it a struggle of the public good against private greed. But the “public good” can seem like a hollow phrase to many. Why not frame this another way? Isn’t this a case of local folks, through their city governments, setting out to build small and ingenious systems with which they can express themselves and connect to each other? Maybe it’s the cities that are on the side of the little guy and the experimenters, who are struggling against special interests who are using government to restrict the freedom to communicate. Competition is good, but allow the notion of competition to include accountable non-profit entities, like city governments, under its umbrella. (Michael Curtin has argued we need to support more and more diverse forms of public broadcasting; maybe the argument should focus on something like structural diversity; not just “public” channels or more channels, but more freedom in building channels.)
It’s now becoming routine in Hollywood to say that the media will change more in the next three to five years than it has in the last fifty. A struggle is now afoot over the future organization of media, a struggle that encompasses news, entertainment, and infrastructure. Up to this point, progressive activists are entering the struggle with a pretty narrow range of rhetorical tools, mostly focusing on the charge of media monopoly and a weak call to the “public good.” Let’s see if we can’t add a few more arrows, like structural diversity or nonprofit entrepreneurialism, to the activist quiver.
Raymond Williams, “Culture is Ordinary.” In Ann Gray and Jim McGuigan (Eds.), Studies in Culture: An Introductory Reader. London: Arnold, 1997 , pp. 5-14.
1. Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl XXXVIII mishap
WISPA-Cut the Wires!
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Home Page
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Pingback: FlowTV | This week on FLOW (April 29, 2005)
One of the great things about being involved with Flow has been getting to see a serious consideration of media reform unfold on these pages. Streeter’s current article, along with his pervious pieces, and those by Michael Curtin and Frederick Wasser consistently have presented provocative ideas to steer the discourse and strategies of media reformers. Streeter’s column this week in a lot of ways echoes Wasser’s of last: it challenges us to rethink the rhetorical strategies of media reform efforts.
One thing I am curious about is the benefits and disadvantages of talking about “media” reform, as though wireless broadband, satellite radio, and high-definition television are part-and-parcel the same thing. Certainly from a regulatory perspective and from the view of corporate ownership, the lines between different “media” have blurred considerably. But can we–and should we– have different expectations about the cultural place of these technologies in our lives? Is “media” reform too broad a category?
“Media” reform is a large issue to tackle, and it will take large steps in the next 3-5 years, but more so in the next 10-15 years. Already, television has different and nonconforming shows that feature a more liberal lifestyle, and I hope that more are to come. Fortunately, or unfortunately for some, times are changing and media needs to react to that change. The line that is being crossed (morality line) is much bigger to many different kinds of people. Certain stations cannot have, or should not have, certain morality issues presented in a controversial matter, but others that target different audiences can. THe image of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake was both a bad and good idea for television. Picking out the most watched tv network event and displaying a controversial statement like they did shocked so many, but also gave many a wake-up call. Television advertising in the US is hardly controversial to that overseas. Those with issues concerning morality on television need to put their thoughts into perspective and take a look at what the rest of the world is experiencing.
Morality in and of itself is a very interesting and difficult word to define. It is a word that is thrown around in order to give someone a seemingly upper hand because when one speaks on behalf of morality they are obviously speaking for the common good. But, most of what is presented as the common good or moral is something that has been presented by whom? The question of morality in the media is a sticky question, but it is an issue that is indefinable. Most would tell you that immoral material in media would be those of violence, bad language, nudity, sexual, or drug-related. However, these are moral values that have been set in place by whatever values one is brought up with. If one is brought up in a very strongly religious household than they usually will conform to the morals that most of American television choose to align itself with. Media around the world is constantly changing and is so varied that it is unbelievable. With these different nations and outlooks come different ideals and morals. In some countries much of the programs that are shown in the American TV would be deemed blasphemous and would not be given airtime, or even too violent for their television programs. While this is the case, much of the TV seen in foreign nations would not be shown on American TV for its sexual content. Morality, in my opinion, is something that one should not use in order to judge what kind of programming is being brought into our homes. I do not believe it should be an issue of morality but rather an issue of quality and relevance. The media should be run in such a manner in an ideal, and whenever something is on that the parents do not want their kids to see: change the channel. In a world that is becoming so radically globalized, media should become more accepting and relevant to what we as a society are quickly moving toward.
Defining the Public Interest
Just as delving into a concrete definition of morality brings many torturous relativist arguments, so does examining the Public Good, or more aptly the Public Interest. Perhaps if policy and textual criticism find a way to articulate a unified platform that advocates a balanced public interest, we’d have a place to begin in satisfying both liberal and conservative notions of morality and then media representations.
The urgency of media reform
Janet Jackson’s “breast revelation” was another opportunity for people to insist on reforming media. TV seems to want to break free of its regulatory constraints, and network television is taking full advantage of every opportunity to push the “moral” envelope. Comedy central uses the safe harbor block to it’s fullest by playing explicit stand up comedy and movies like south park. But is this a problem? Does there need to be more regulation? not really. The V-Chip and ratings systems are pretty solid and allow kids to stay away from potentially harmful programming. As far as the moral degradation of television that some people like to talk about, it’s a very relative term. I agree with Jacob that morality is in the eye of the beholder.
While I think the idea of a unified morality to call upon is tricky at best, I also think that shifting media usage regimes (for want of a better term) may effectively trump whatever morality is called upon. Centralized “broad”-casting is steadily giving way to a variety of “narrower” forms that seemingly play by different rules, primary among them being the effectual privatization of previously public fields of government regulation. Whether on cable, via the web, or via a ripped file, content (and usage) continues to migrate *away* from the old models. Isn’t it interesting how some of the pie-in-the-sky predictions of a decade ago actually seem to be taking hold today?
Accordingly, in such an environment, cultural conservative’s current obsession with content regulation is even less likely to amount to anything than its earlier iterations. I’m guessing that, in this Congress, the “morality” of the market (take that as you will) still trumps the shameful tsk-tsking of the content police, no matter who’s chairing the FCC.
Moreover, in such a climate, the call to “public enterpreneurialism” via Wi-Fi networks seems like a winning strategy for ensuring the kind of structural diversity Tom calls for. The struggle will be, as it was in 2003, in dragging this issue out in front of the public, and forging broad alliances. Really, nobody outside of Washington is a fan of the Telcos, so this issue *should* be an easy public win.
The issue and discussion hold a considerable cultural weight. The mass access to information gateways has only been a legitimate issue in the last fifty years. Even so we can take the broader context of media technology all the way back to the printing press as business technologies. Innovation exists within a cultural and political sphere with many forces effecting access. Wireless ISPs are a new technology and the shape of its future market is undeterminable. Since the drastic change in telecommunication policy of 1992, we have little or no reference on how the market will change in the future. It may continue the current trend or swing back to public investment. When wireless isps catch on in this cycle, will affect its future image. Also, we are looking at the issue as and intellectual and ephemeral concept. The capitalist market follows few of our preconceived beliefs. The events of the Next five years may correlate into a corporate domination and comodification of the market. Or the liberal idea prevails and free public communication revolutionizes the life of the common man.
Morality is a glittering generality used by preachers and philosophers to fit human progress into a set of rules. The truth is that there is no morality. It’s all relative to the cultural conditions of the period. The capitalist corporations see no self-interest in the moral concerns of liberal academia. They are concerned with the profit proportion per investment capital. To them the wireless isp technology could be a juicy tomato that bleeds green, or a wasted investment. If it reaches that point the public good may have a chance to latch on, but without corporate development the public good usually craps out.
I am sorry
If one applies the ideas of cultural criticism to everything, one will realize that reforming content is considerably easier than reforming strucure. I realize that just b/c something is hard doesn’t mean its not worth doing, and I don’t want to sound defeatist. But if there’s an easier way to change things, and one chooses a harder way that isn’t very realistic and fails to change anything (and one also fails to accept any definition of “positive change” or reform other than the one he or she strives for), then that’s not productive to the cause. I think the goal of media reform has to be clearly articulated, and then we must ask “is this a realistic goals?”
To argue in extremis: the English language developed the way it did due to a concentration of political/economic power, and in its finiteness, it limits discourse. But would it be worthwhile to try to make the English language infinite, rather than work within the confines of that structure to achieve equality? Just b/c some power-shaped structure limits discourse doesn’t make it a feasible target for reform.
There might be a mre fundamental law at work – reform will occur along the path of least resistance – audience interpretation (oppositional/negotiated readings) and content. Perhaps the concentration on changing content and reception doesn’t come from an ignorance of structural issues, but simply out of inevitable pragmatism. There are just so many other ways for people to feel satisfied w/ media (especially w/ narrowcasting and migration away from older models as Derek notes), that I can’t imagine a large # of people giving the movement for structural reform the momentum it needs to succeed.
It is interesting to speculate what the media censorship finds more offensive, violence or sexual content. The Janet Jackson “incident” at the Super Bowl proves that violence is a more accepted medium than sexual content, because of the fact that the Super Bowl is a family event. Football is a violent sport yet we consider it family entertainment and allow children to watch it. If football does incite aggressiveness and violence among youth, imagine what Mr. Timberlake’s behavior might incite. The fact that Mr. Timberlake is tearing off a distraught Janet’s clothing isn’t useful as it might promote male-female sexual harassment. An increase in violent and sexual behavior in today’s media is inevitable with the increase in media exposure of news violence and war, as well as the increase in adult content in America cinema; TV is drawing more and more on films for show inspiration and “time filler.” Change is inevitable as the rule framework of our media can allow “stretches.” But what kind of change will occur and will it result in a more beneficial disposition? Some aspects of how our society treats women are improving by reflection of our media. With shows like Queen for a Day and I Love Lucy, women were treated as inferior and were treated as household objects. Today, however, women have become independent of their husbands and have become more authoritative on sitcoms, broadcasts, and films (both on and off the screen). There are still new problems arising with television misconceptions, as women are treated more like sexual objects than they have before (e.g. Janet Jackson’s dress malfunction). For instance, a woman tends to be depicted aggressively in “man’s world” through commercials and ads as a scantily dressed woman, mocking her male counterpart in a flirtatious manner. The independence is apparent in these ads as the woman is seen in a business office or setting, yet the objectivity is still apparent because the woman’s purpose is not clarified; it is difficult to see whether or not the man respects the woman for her smarts or if he’s simply intimidated by her beauty. The misconception of women being treated as a sexual object or a household object might go hand in hand. From the mom in Father Knows Best to the women in The L Word, women are more or less stereotypical in the sense that they solely exist for the amusement of the male.
My take on Morality in Media
I must admit that I find using the word ‘exciting’ quoted from someone as being a sign of corporate capitalism propaganda a little too far-fetched. In his use of such a word, Pepper may be showing enthusiasm over solely technological advances rather than the way in which it will be managed. It would seem rather strange if an FCC official wasn’t ‘excited’ over the cellphone or even a phone (if the FCC was established at the time). This is not to mean they are looking forward to a monopolized industry, or assume that only a few companies will swallow up all the small helpless ones. Is this to say anyone who was excited about the automobile expressed their enthusiasm for both the car and the fact that GM and Ford would rule over all? It just seems like someone reading too far into something. It is however, an interesting point to be taken. The moral issues concerning what happens behind the scenes is rather important yet generally overlooked. The way in which large companies are steadily overcoming their small competitors and creating one large mono/oligopoly through mergers directly effects the content shown on screen. Through the elimination of a variety of media agents, the diverse moral values expressed by such companies vanish. However, this makes me wonder, would our moral values help aid the content of these shows, or do the networks themselves generate what we as a society hold as right or wrong? As years and decades have gone by, and more explicit material has been shown on television, the ‘moral values’ seem to have become less strict as time goes by. The amount of skin a woman can show, the language used, or the amount of violence that escalates on TV have all seemed to be given leverage as audiences are slowly accustomed to accepting these things. What has changed in the world other than media that could affect society this way? Movies and Television allow access to all the sex, foul language, violence, gore, racism and atrocity one can think of. These mediums dumb down the restrictions that our ‘morals’ place on us. The fact that one day only one company could rule everything we watch and hear in media makes me worried. In one extreme they could censor to the extreme of calling any nudity exploitation of the human figure. Or they could show any violence and sex they could show and slowly accustom the world to accept it. Although I may be completely rambling with paranoia, it’s something to think about.
Structure and Morals
Streeter takes an interesting approach to the issue of morality in the media by focusing on the structure of the media, which is most often overlooked in favor of media content. However, as he points out, the structure can often be just as important as the content in terms of morality. Streeter’s article brings up an intriguing approach to discussion of media morality, but I feel it needs more emphasis ont he popular masses. Most of the population doesn’t even connect the ideas of morality and structure in their minds, they only really understand morality in terms of content. It seems to me that many of the issues of media structure are not even discussed at all, and that simply presenting people with the situations affecting the media structure would widen the discourse on morality.
The people who work for major media industries have a conservative way of portraying morality since many of them are middle-aged, white males with conservative backgrounds. These men force viewers to abide by what they think is moral or not because they control the content in television. They produce shows staring white characters who sometimes face difficult moral issues that are resolved with rather simplistic answers. I believe that two factors could lead to better moral portrayals in television and they are diversification and complexity. When other men and women with diverse backgrounds begin controlling television content, new morality perspectives will arise. Also, when television shows are written with more complex characters who actually dissect moral issues instead of ignoring them. Although it is possible for diversification to occur amongst major industries, I doubt many people would watch a TV show that focuses on morality for entertainment.
Response to Carlos’ Take on Morality in Media
Carlos makes a valid point here…The simple use of a word more than once doesn’t mean anything to anyone who isn’t already looking for a certain meaning. It does seem that there could be some catering-the-experiment-results-to-confirm-the-hypothesis going on.
As for the second point of corporations affecting what is shown and how it is shown, this is a concern of mine as well, and definitely not a new issue. In her article (as well as many other sources) Jane Akre tells the story of how Fox network shut down her partner’s and her story and fired them. One quote from the story is especially chilling: Dave Boylan, the general manager of Fox News Tampa is said to have exclaimed: “We just paid $3 billion for these television stations…The news is what we say it is!” This is precisely the kind of thing we don’t want to be having in any society.
The question then moves to “is it our morals that are reflected by the media, or is it the media that shapes what are our morals?” One guess is as good as any and arguments can be made for both sides.
I say that the fact that the growing leaniency in regards to what can be shown on broadcast networks says something only about how the world works. Something that is not profitable, that people aren’t interested in seeing, won’t be on a network for long. This is very simple. But this does not mean that everything that is shown is widely accepted and liked by the masses, just as the masses aren’t necessarily brainwashed into assimilating what is shown. Put another way, networks aren’t always going to be able to predict and produce all hit shows, and at the same time, just because something is constantly shoved in one’s face, it doesn’t mean he’ll eventually want to eat it up.
What we can say from experience, and where the fear part comes in, is in a creation of new “norms.” I believe it was Max Planck, “father of modern physics” (and Nobel Prize winner in 1903), who said it best: “An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents; it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning.” This has in general been a great thing for science. Had this not happened, doctors might still not be washing their hands because belief in “spooks” is ludicrous.
But from a media standpoint, there is an ongoing battle. With science there are theories, which are then many times proven true or false with advancements in technology. The fact and fiction, correct/incorrect characteristics of this world of test tubes and microscopes don’t necessarily apply to our media culture. There is no real way to know what images and ideas presented are “good” or “bad” and the affect they will necessarily have on individuals, society, and the future of both. I think this is where concerns like that of Streeter as well as the Noam Chomsky’s and Edward Herman’s are important and must be acknowledged.
Whether or not more skin and violence is a good or bad thing is up for grabs, but for me, a single company-run media world is utterly and definitely bad.
What is Moral?
Morality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If you asked ten different people the definition of morality, you may get loosely the same definition, but ask them their opinion on a certain occurrence, for instance the “wardrobe malfunction”, and you’re bound to get different opinions on the subject. Essentially, the idea of morality is not what’s in question. It’s what qualifies as moral and what falls short of morally right. Deciding what qualifies as moral is simply a perception of the person deciding, and therefore, may and in all likelihood will not be the same from one person to the next.Therefore, it is important to establish a set of characteristics that cross the line as immoral. Nudity in regular television that’s accessible to children is immoral; cussing in CDs without the proper parental advisory label is immoral; establishing rules like these are beneficial in classifying media-related things as moral or immoral. In doing this, we as a society can turn each of our individual definitions of morality into a unified group idea of what is moral. Of course, you will always have some who disagree, like those who are opposed to the parental advisory labels on CDs. Not everyone can be pleased, but with a unified idea of morality we can please the general population.The post concerning Southpark (1) brought to my mind the movie Southpark: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. This entire movied played on morality, and in particular, censorship. The title itself pushes moral envelope, referencing with a perverted play of words to pornographic films as well as censorship. The movie’s main conflict was the questioning of foul language in a movie made in Canada that is to be viewed by children. Southpark itself is a cartoon/movie meant to be viewed by youth, but not necessarily younger children as is the norm for cartoons. Throughout the movie, the parents say that it is wrong for foul language in films, and they go on to start a war against Canada with the statement something along the lines of “It’s ok to resort to violence and killing, as long as nobody uses foul language.” Cartman, a main character, even gets a V-chip put in his brain that shocks him when he cusses. This is Southpark’s producer’s way of telling people that they are going overboard with language censorship and overlooking other more immoral concerns such as real violence on television and in film.We must be sure not to be overly tough on certain things and overlook others. With that in mind, the concern at hand is whether or not it is moral to allow non-profitable, free wireless internet access into the wireless network competition. If free internet is allowed, more people will surely rather get it free than pay through a company. This will not necessarily be a monopoly, but rather phase out competition all together because you can’t compete with free. After all, who would pay for something you can get for free, right? Sound like a familiar battle? I am sure Metallica can see the argument of the profitable wireless internet providers. The battle beginning with wireless internet is very similar to that of Metallica’s against Napster for violating music copyright laws by the worldwide sharing of music. Is it moral to give everyone access to music that they are supposed to pay for, and that someone actually did pay for in order them to access it? Is it moral to let someone’s work and effort be given away free, not paying dues to the person who created it and is relying on the money from their work to survive and pay bills? Is it moral to purchase an all-you-can-eat buffet and let your friend have some of your food even though they did not pay for any of their own? The answers to these questions are all depending on the perception of the person answering. I believe that the creators of music should get credit for their work, and should reap the benefits of their work. I think many music artists are getting shorthanded because of people not wanting to pay for music they want when they can just download it. Will wireless providers be shorthanded with free access being offered? Yes, because they set up businesses and put money into providing people with internet access and expect to get the money back in profit. Do wireless providers have property over the internet? No. They did not create the internet, they are just profiting off of it. Music artists create their songs, and they have a right to profit off of it. Finally, is it moral to freely provide the public with something that they themselves created, even though it will put rich companies out of business because they will no longer be able to take money from people for accessing the internet created by the people for the people? If people can get free internet, let them have it.
(1) referencing post:The urgency of media reformby Bryan Canatella
I have to agree with what someone else stated above in saying that before media reform is thoroughly considered, we must ask if the reforming strategies to be used are realistic goals and attempts. Reform is a tough shell to crack because of the fact that the reform has to come from the inside, and changes in the structure of media are hard to come by. As someone stated above, “content” rather than “structure” of media would be easier to tackle. Why is this? If there are certain media experts who don’t see a problem between media and morality or view it as simply “petty” media critics and consumers crticizing mediums as “immoral” based on their own personal standards, then the problem will continue to exist. As long as media producers are making a profit or gaining popularity in a particular medium, then why would they desire to change the “structure” of media just to please a few offended individuals? The reforming of media and morality has to first come from the inside—individuals controlling the media must want to change it–and the start of media reform has to first begin with the “content” of various mediums.Individuals working on the inside–behind the scenes–who are involved with the creating,displaying,controlling,distributing,and producing of media must come to the realization that morality must have a role in how various mediums are presented. The benefits and the consequences of media reform must be weighed and calculated, because no media expert wants to take that risk of having reform fall flat on its face.
Although, I do believe that reform is attainable over time and with the efforts of many individuals, there is still the main issue at hand–morality. This issue will continue to limit media reform, I think.The problem with morality in media is that many individuals vary in their definition of the term, which affects how the term is presented within the media. It is hard to say if there will ever be a clear definition to the term. A television viewer, offended after watching the Janet Jackson Superbowl incident, and a media producer of a violent television show might view the situation in a extremely different light in terms of moral standards, just as a investigative journalist and a magazine editor might have varying viewpoints on morality. Once an agreement is made between media expert and their views on morality in the media, then reform can begin at the heart of the content. It is then possible for content to influence morality, and then for morality to influence the structure. Thus, reform can be attained, but not without some changes from the inside and the weighing of some realistic goals.
Morality on television, yeah, this is a good one. Why? Well, no genius needs to see that television has definitley changed. For instance, as I read the L word article, that itself was a shock to me, not because I wouldnt watchh the show but because it’s another show that has been added to the big issue of what’s morally right in terms of what should be shown on television. Today, nothing can surprise me on television because media has changed. The way audiences are seen as active consumershas changed the way media presnts certain material. Its all about ratings, money, and politics now. Everything gets shown on televison. Sure, we may not have caught up with countries outside o the U.S. with their way of presentation on tv, but were getting pretty darn close. The U.S. has been known for its conservatism when it comes to commercials and shows that are allowed to be aired, but know with the Reality New Wave, Talk shows like Jerry Springer, and the race for media to cover stories, with the so called ” if it bleed it leads” persona, the issue of morality in terms of television in the U.S. is definitley going to continue to dwindle.
Media and morality
What is moral to some may not be moral to others. So what exactly is morality? Why does the media have so much affect on it?
The media has the power to claim what can or cannot be shown on television. That was the case for the wardrobe malfunction experienced by Janet Jackson. It was made into a bigger deal than what it actually was. Today, it is difficult to define what is moral when talking about television because many shows, particularly reality television, have pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable, and what is just degradable. In this article, it was mentioned that the media would change within the next 3-5 years, but even if that were true, what would be the significance of that? The media will still have control over what should or should not be shown. The limits may expand to where there is more nudity or foul language, but what good would come out of this change? I personally think nothing. Television is one medium that constantly changes with time and trends. Most people like to watch things that in some way, reflect the lives they are living. Which is why the media does its best to make decisions based on the majority of the public. However, just because everybody decide that they would prefer to push sexuality further like other countries do, does not mean that that sort of trend will pick up here in the U.S. The debate about what is moral and what is immoral will continue and have different opinions on what it is exactly.
Streeter discusses the role of corporations in monopolizing and limiting the potential growth and diversification of media in America. The thought of a few giant corporations controlling all of the media in our society troubles me greatly. If a few large companies dominate the industry, they control the messages sent to all American citizens. America is a democracy, and in accordance with democratic principles and ideals every group should access the public media equally. Local, non-profit organizations must have the chance to produce and broadcast their material to the American audience. Our country ceases to be a democracy when the dominant ideology is the only one present within the public discourse. Media influences Americans as much or more than educational and religious institutions ever dreamed to. The ever changing position of ‘morality’ in American media arises as the biggest topic of discussion amongst media scholars and critics. I agree with a remark made in one of the comments above, media producers should focus on relevance and social responsibility rather than morality. Everyone defines morality differently, and individuals and families should make decisions about a program’s morality themselves. I believe the most important change should be a move toward diversity and pluralism in the production and broadcasting of American media.
I think the topic of this article may have been less about traditional measurements of ‘morality’, and more a debate about access, or as Thomas Streeter put it ‘structural’ morality, which asks questions of ethics such as ‘Who is calling the shots in the media?’, ‘Who has a voice?’, ‘Who has access to what’s being offered in the media?’, ‘Is it right that corporate interests should outweigh the non-profits or the general public?’…..In my mind this is, as Streeter also mentioned, separated from the more traditional questions of morality such as the content of tv, and whether that content should include sex and violence or the two together, when it can be viewed by any audience including small children. If the media will be changing more in the next 3-5 years than it has in the last 50, perhaps the way in which we conceive morality is going to need to evolve as well, to grow to encompass power structures and corporate interests as the basis of the content we find in our programming. I don’t know if that’s something the average non-media-scholar is prone to consider. But in order to keep with these changing times, maybe our morality and our need for public representation and power are becoming/should become a joint consideration.
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Mon amie m’en parlé il y a quelques jours, on peut dire que cela tombe bien. Merci 1000 fois ! Bonne journée