Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Television Entertains You, Is That It?

Is television more than it's cracked up to be? Neil Postman in his work, "Amusing Ourselves to Death," claims that television offers entertainment value and not much else. He identifies television as a communication platform that offers a variety of types of information, and one that requires very few skills to comprehend. He also describes the purpose of television to be "largely aimed at emotional gratification."
While I agree with the basic tenets of Postman's claims, I do believe television is a much more sophisticated modality than he seems to purport. Like most Americans, television is popular in my household. We enjoy our rectangle screens for their ability to entertain us, provide information, and for the ease and convenience with which it can be consumed. Favorite shows at our house include "Good Luck Charlie," "Twilight Zone," "Orange is the New Black," and "Saturday Night Live." Though the majority of TV time spent viewing is dedicated to news:  we tend to start our day and end our day checking in on news headlines.

Postman goes on to say that "technology becomes a medium as it employs a particular symbolic code, as it finds its place in a particular social setting, as it insinuates itself into economic and political contexts."

Now Postman's ideology is getting somewhere. While there is indeed a demand made of television to provide entertainment, I believe television is an industry that generates so much more.

Local and community television captures local culture and offers opportunities for communities to display various skill sets. At Southern Utah LIVE Television Network based in St. George, Utah, I served as executive producer for a gem of a show, "Southern Utah Chef."

Each episode is designed to be entertaining – not to Postman – and also to showcase skills of the region's most popular chefs. Guests represented top chefs at restaurants including Painted Pony, Cliffside Restaurant, Benja's Thai and Sushi, and River Rock Grill. Also appearing were tope chefs from Springdale find dining establishments. The show captures community culture and offers a cook-at-home demonstration and recipe for some of the chef's favorite dishes.
Southern Utah Chef audience members sample recipes
prepared by Benja following a studio taping. 

I use this example to illustrate a point:  From a small community cooking show to CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," television is a communication industry that operates at many levels. As a whole, it has the ability to educate, encapsulate culture, drive economies, and unite communities and sub cultures.

When Postman claims, "American television, in other words, is devoted entirely to supplying its audience with entertainment," I disagree. Such a position minimalizes a complex modality and clearly underrates its potential.

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