Media affects our society in several ways and controls the direction of society. Television is a source of media that has a strong effect on society today. It is important to look at the influence of television because an average American who subscribes to cable TV watches over 8 hours of TV a day. (Harris, 22) There are both positive and negative impacts media has on society.
During the 1991-92 season, the show Murphy Brown received criticism from Vice President Dan Quayle because Murphy decided to be a single and highly successful mother. He said, “if a single mother raising her children in the ghetto has to worry about drive-by shootings, drug-deals, or whether her children will join gangs and die violently, her already difficult task becomes impossible. It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown – a character who supposedly epitomize today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman – mocking the importance of fathers – by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another ‘Lifestyle Choice’. I know it is not fashionable to talk about moral values, but we need to do it.” Since then television has brought up other issues which have helped influence how we define both “American culture” and the “American family”. At one time television shows couldn’t even show two married people in the same bed; they had to have separate beds but into today’s shows immorality is reinforced in shows that are similar to soap operas but air in the evening such as Fox’s Beverly Hills 90210. These shows portray characters cheating on their spouses and openly brought up issues about sex that were taboo twenty years ago. Since Murphy Brown we are seeing divorce on the rise, more people are cheating on their spouses, and we are seeing a country that was founded under God being transformed into a society where promiscuous sex and violence dominate today’s television shows. According to The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation, sex and pregnancy are the number one concern girls aged 12-17 face today. Girls who were interviewed in the poll acknowledged that sexual pressure comes from boys, other girls, friends, and the media. This report was released September 15, 1999.
The TV news inaccurately covers its communities by having most of its stories about violence. A University of Miami study of local television news found that the time devoted to crime varied between 23 to 50 percent even though violent crime in the city remained constant, involving less than one tenth of one percent of the population. (Gerbner, 14)
The study also found that news reports covered violent stories on a regular basis even if they had to have stories outside their coverage area. More stories in the media should focus on other aspects of society such as business, education, health, investigative reporting, etc.
Media says that the public likes violence and that’s why there are so many violent shows on TV. The truth is that in polls the majority says that there is too much violence on TV shows but the violence continues because people do not see how they are personally part of the mass communication process. Television shows attempt to have certain demographic audiences and networks are realizing the potential of the audience who wants family-oriented programming and they are offering shows to these viewers.
One of the newest shows that support family values and the traditional family is WB’s 7th Heaven. 7th Heaven does well in its ratings and is the WB’s highest-rated show and is a big hit with teenage girls. 7th Heaven depicts a family with moral values, the husband being a minister with seven kids. The three older kids; Matt, Mary and Lucy are teenagers dealing with realistic issues of American teenagers today. There is always a lesson to be learned in every episode similar to that of TV shows made back in the 60’s. Subjects such as teen suicide, dating crises, gang violence, and eating disorders are brought up. The show also shows its viewers how to solve problems in a peaceful way without using violence.
Other shows which focus on morals and ethics include two CBS shows, Promised Land and Touched By An Angel. Promised Land is a show about a family on the road with three kids and they deal with many subjects like 7th Heaven. Touched By An Angel is a show about angels who help people with their problems and shows viewers that miracles do happen. Both of these shows do well in the ratings and Touched By An Angel almost always is in the Top 10 shows of the week when
The newest television network PAX TV is a network created with ethics and morals in mind. The network promises that you will not see unnecessary violence and sex on their program lineup. Their lineup includes reruns of shows such as The Big Valley, The Hogan Family, and Touched By An Angel. It also includes original programming like Chicken Soup for the Soul, It’s A Miracle, a variety of children’s cartoons on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as religious programming during the early morning hours.