Thesis: Reality Television and Big Brother

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CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION

A. Background of the Study

Globalization of Television
Papua New Guineans and Norwegians are familiar with Dawson and his creek, Rachel and her friends, Oprah and Dr. Phil, in the same vein that Americans are now avid fans of ugly Betty and worshipers of their own American Idols. This phenomenon has been possible over the past few decades because of globalization. Jonathan Bignell (2004) defines globalization as “the process whereby ownership of television institutions in different nations and regions is concentrated in the hands of international corporations, and whereby programs and formats are traded between institutions around the world.” Structural and Technological changes guide the growth of this practice that directly affects economic and cultural issues. From being an isolated, national industry, television has evolved to being an open medium for a global trade of content. The television medium has been liberalized and privatized, giving way to a deregulation of local broadcasting laws and censors (Waisbord, 2004). With their programs, international media companies freely penetrate broadcasting systems around the world. Cultural borders are now flexible, blurry to some extent, because of these structural changes. Progressive and liberal shows like Will & Grace are now available for viewing in culturally far-off countries like the conservative Philippines. Technological innovations such as satellites and the internet also contribute to the promulgation of globalization. Involved and interested parties immediately and conveniently do business through an established technological network. Utilizing these innovations, foreign news networks such as BBC World, can easily transmit a live feed from its London studios to any point in the world.

Taking advantage of this evolution, Western media institutions, particularly that of the U.S.A., controls this “buy and sell” system. The “emergence of a multi-channel, liberalized environment” served as an inviting opportunity for large production outfits to benefit from the “increased demand generated by the explosion in the number of television hours” (Waisbord, 2004). Keeping an eye on earning an easy profit, Hollywood spearheaded the practice of exporting shows to various countries. The influx of American soap operas like Dallas and sitcoms like Cheers in the 1980s marked a lasting command of the trade that also propagated the American system of programming in most countries that it reached (Bignell, 2000).

However, as commercial television principles grew to be more uniform and the overall industry developed, other “domestic industries” have begun producing and selling content that “catered to audience niches”. “What was good for Hollywood could, under the appropriate conditions, also be good for other production companies based in other countries as long they could master the game of commercial television.” (Waisbord 2000). Now, media companies from Australia, Japan and most notably, Western Europe, have established a stake in this market as well.

Reality TV Formats: Culturally Specific but Nationally Neutral These new players’ successful shows in the international trade are correspondingly new and different from the canned programs initially made by Hollywood. Responding to a demand administered both by local protectionist laws that require television content to be closer to a country’s native identity and values and by viewers who statistically prefer local content (Dhoest, 2004), new major production outfits started to create more room for their program’s localization. The trend started with broadcasters acquiring just a show’s script or storyline while they produce it locally, employing their own language, actors and location. Veering away from canned programs that are fully-produced and ready for immediate broadcasting, companies from the USA and Latin America are able to enter various “protected markets” like...
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