Miller (2010) suggests that television is not directly selling anything to the audience and the audience is not buying anything but then why is an audience so important for a show’s survival?
I believe the audience plays a huge role in defining media on a daily basis. As Gitelman (2008) stated in Always, Already New. Audiences have power when it comes to shaping what is seen through the television. A lot of the TV serials or movies made in society today have to do with the world we live in today; perhaps we have some sort of connection with these characters and have a vested interest in their success. I think television plays such a large part in our lives as much as we don’t want to admit it. I know with my friends circle we make it a point to call each other after a particular episode has screened; and it’s not only one show. I have different friends that I discuss different shows with. Not only is it a good sign that people are talking about a good (or bad) episode, but it deepens the relationship between friends, peers, and co-workers. It gives you something different to talk about and gives a bridge to the relationship (Miller, 2010).
One of my classmates earlier this week made reference to a Ted Talk by Chimamanda Adichie (2009) which I thought was fascinating (I didn’t know much about TED talks at all before this!). She stated that when we see or hear a story we as an audience become so vulnerable to the characters without even realizing that we feel a connection. I started to think about the shows that I watch – and my favorite characters in those shows. When characters go through turmoil in an episode, I actually care for their well being. Why are they my favorite character out of all of the characters? Is it because I may have a connection with them? Maybe I want to be them? Maybe I understand what they are going through.
Chimamanda Adichie (2009) also mentions the human tendency to generalize things we hear or see through shows or readings because it is the only side of the ‘story’ we know. These one sided stories that are presented to the audiences through television can be enlightening, and misrepresented at times. Television allows one lens but it does not account every angle of the issue. These issues are televised depending on the audiences wants. TV doesn’t make us smarter, but it can make us knowledgeable (Gitelman, 2008). Audiences can watch and learn from the television about many different subjects, genres, cultures, and so on, but they must be aware of single stories; you cannot show people as only one thing, because that is all that they become (Adichie, 2009). Chimamanda advocates that these generalizations can rob people of dignity. They emphasize how we are different, as opposed to being similar. A poor man might not have a lot of money but he could have a lot of knowledge and talent in what he has a vested interest in.
In a TED talk by Zalaznick (2011) it was presented that television also has a conscious. The speaker defended the television from being called ‘the idiot box’. Zalaznick (2011) didn’t believe in their being good television or bad television because television was created essentially by its audience. She believed that television reflected the moral, political, and social needs of our nation.
Zalaznick (2011) conducted a study in the US of the top 20 TV shows (Neilsen Ratings) over the last 50 years from 1960-2010 with participants between the ages of 18-70. The researchers to the study wanted to see how these top shows reflected the audience conscious over the last 50 years of broadcasting (Zalaznick, 2011). Their findings showed how TV evolved over the years as society progressed. The most interesting finding was when TV started it was more used to inspire its audience (60s) and by the late 60s moral ambiguity took and people were watching shows not knowing what was morally ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
As we saw a rise in negative world events we saw moral ambiguity climb. Some events for example were, the Cuban Missile Crisis, civil rights movement, JFK getting shot shot, Watergate scandal, race riots, and Bobby Kennedy getting shot. Why wouldn’t television be getting a little more feisty? The audience was probably sick of pretending to be ‘happy’.
Zalaznick (2011) and her colleagues saw a trend in what was popular on TV and how they reflected world events. After going from being inspired, to not knowing what was right and wrong the audience the 90s took to humour filled sitcoms. After 911 the trend of TV changed from the audience wanting humour to the audience wanting people to be held accountable while being judged through reality television. Some people continue to view television as a passive recipient of the message, others as a commodity; some see the audience as an active participant interacting with the broadcaster and the message (Jackson, Nielson, & Hsu., 2011).
Television does not define people, individuals define it. Television continues to provide both measures of, and stimuli to, social change in its dual function as an index and an incarnation of the social world (Miller, 2010 p 115). We as humans go through many different emotions and television is one way to project our feelings forward so others can connect.
Adichie, C. (2009, October) The danger of a single story. Retrieved from
Giltelman, L. (2008 (2006)). New Media Users. In Always Already New: Media, History and the Data of Culture. (pp. 59-86, 167-171) Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Jackson, J. D., Nielsen, G., & Hsu, Y. (2011). Mediated Society: a Critical Sociology of Media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Miller, T. (2010). Audiences. In Television Studies: the basics. (pp.110-144). New York: Routledge.
Stokes, C. (2012, November) How movies teach manhood. Retrieved from
Zalaznick. L. (2011): The conscience of television. Retrieved from