Once considered a complete luxury for a family to own, the television has become a stable fixture in British and American households over the past few decades. In recent years, it has become unusual for a family not to own a television set and now it is just as uncommon for a family to own just one. In Britain, the years spanning from 1955 to 1969 saw an increase from 40 percent to 93 per cent of the population owning a television set (Silverstone, 1994, p.67). Television or “TV” has become a prominent source for news and entertainment for billions of people around the world. For this, among other reasons, the concept of TV and its content has been the subject of much academic discourse and controversy. A lot of this discourse focuses on the ways television affects changes in societies’ behaviour and culture. This is visible via various scholarly communities. For example, up until 1982, psychologists had conducted over 2000 studies regarding the imitation of violence in the mass media. Economists and market researchers have performed similar types of empirical studies regarding imitation and suggestion in advertising (Bollen and Phillips, 1982, p.802). This paper will combine findings of similar studies in an aim to examine the way television both mediates and contributes to cultural shifts in societies, particularly in Britain and the United States of America. 2. The Interplay of Institutions, Markets and Audiences
Television drama, news, factual programming and the transformation of public service broadcasting have all played a huge role in the development of British and American society and cultural change. These changes currently present themselves through communications held between institutions, markets, and audiences. For instance, the consideration of an audience as a market instead of as the public by all types of institutions is the source for much controversy and debate (Walter, 2000, p.67). This point will be further touched upon when discussing pubic service broadcasting and market-led broadcasting but first we must grasp a general understanding of cultural response to television as media. 3. Positive and Negative Response in Society
The communications that develop can be positive, in the case of an increase in democratic involvement or participation in the community but it can be also be negative, in the case of controversial programming, which can arguably contribute to the loss of a child’s innocence and even impair one’s ability to develop critical thinking skills. According to Bernard Berelson, a prominent American behavioural scientist, those with the greatest mass media exposure are much more likely to know a candidate’s stance on various issues (McCombs and Shaw, 1972, p.177). On the contrary, Kenneth Bollen and David Phillips reported a prime example of how news can lead to a negative change in a society. A study that was performed and then replicated for a different time period showed that suicides had increased immediately following (10 days proceeding) a news report of a suicide in the surrounding region (1982). In order to ensure that changes are beneficial and that they contribute to the greater good of people, in this case in Britain and the U.S.A, studies such as this one must be produced and analysed. The study should offer insights, convey patterns, and report facts that can be applied in a practical way. As in the aforementioned case, it is evident that those who produce media have a responsibility for what they produce, whether it is fiction or fact. If watching a news report can incite someone to act on something as extreme as the contemplation of suicide, it may very well do the same for matters of a different nature 4. Public Service Broadcasting and the Free Market
When television was invented, it altered all preceding media of news and entertainment as well as many of our institutions and forms of social relationships...