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Exposure to Private Channels’ Infotainment Programs and Viewers’ Perceptions: Exploring Uses and Gratification Model (Chapter 1)



Chapter 1

Introduction

Background

The idea that the invention of television marked a change in the social order has become a part of the accepted facts of our time (Price, 1998). The history of television is associated with the history of related technological inventions. Television has witnessed changes in news and entertainment presentation styles due many factors but mainly due to socio economic requirements.Television wasnevera static media because it has adopted many changes with innovation in technologies. Television has adopted many new trends like color presentationdistribution through cable, satellite and fiber optics). Television is not only a technical innovation rather it has completely changed life styles and even homes (Folkerts and Lacy, 2004).

            The importance of television can be noticed from the fact that people relate themselves in every sense with what it presents. Television news is imperative in the current age because it provides in itself a partner in loneliness and opens new windows to the outside world. Television programs are constantly altering the lives of the viewers. It is now creating new standards and ideals in the society to practice. It has transformed domestic cultures into a global culture by introducing new trends and innovations. It is changing the concepts of world’s financial systems. Media production is influenced by extraneous economic elements, media owners and politics (Michael &Jare 2005). Media works in two-fold manner (i) firstly since media organizations are working as subsidiaries of large businesses, they work for profit maximization for these businesses (ii) secondly media works for fulfilling the demands and requirements of general audience. It is because of this two-fold working, we need to study media from different angles and aspects (cited at: http:// www.weekly. ahram.org.eg/2005/725/bo12.htm).

            Television has become famous and widely popular across the globe. It has entered the home and has created new possibilities and problems. Television is one of the most debated medium of communication because television contents produce a long term and persistent effects on its viewers (Joshi, 2002).Television is rightly called asvirusof present era which is dramatically expanding day by day everywhere (living rooms, bedrooms, on the streets, in cafeteriasetc). It’s true that now TV is everywhere and life without television cannot be imagine, as television has transformed our world (cited at www.weekly.ahram.prg.eg). Television transfiguredour homes and also introduced new styles in news, politics and information with unique combinations. Television has made this world truly globalized. Television has become a primary source of viewers for information. TV informs us about politics, religion, economics, sports, culturesand most other areas of life. TV produces and promotes stars in all fields, fashion and modern trends (Spingel, 1992).

            Pakistan’s Television media is very sparkling. In general the role of Media in Pakistani society is threedimensional: informing the public, educating the unknowledgeable and providing entertainment for the whole society. Television has gained a very significant position in our society particularly as major source of socialization (Mahsud, 2006). In Pakistan Television   is   the   main   source   of   electronic   media.   It   is   playing   a major role in creating awareness among society. It enlightens the political, social, economic and all other issues of the country through coverage and analysis. Television   in   Pakistan   is   successfully   playing   three-   dimensional   role   of   educating, informing and entertaining the public. Except from   government   owned   PTV   there   are   other   private   channels   operating   in Pakistan. The reach along with viewer ship of private channels is increasing day by day in Pakistan and news and current affairs transmissions are significantly consumed by viewers (Wassan, 2010).

            Cable system was introduced in Pakistan’s major cities in 2004 and then prevailed all over the country. This arrangement again made an easy access to pri­vate channels. It gave the common masses a cheaper and almost free access to national and international TV channels. In a nutshell it transformed all the daily life routine of the masses in Private news channels started new and diverse programs for all age groups and thus people were glued to their TV sets almost all the day. This gave a rise in popularity, reliability and trust of these TV channels in the eyes of common masses. On the other hand, political parties, even state officials became dependent to convey and defend their policies through the use of this new media (Zehra, 2005).

            According to Donovan D. Westhaver (2012) “recently television has adopted new art of for sending information in an entertaining and tempting way to viewers. The goal is not to inform the public as accurately or thoroughly as possible, but to entertain you so as to grab their attention and interest. It has been observed that more and more people turning to the news stations for their amusement, rather than watching movies or sitcoms.” The reaction is quite often along the lines, “the news is more interesting than movies.” Recently infotainment has gained more craze and sound popularity among viewers than ever in the past. News in infotainment programs are presented in way that viewer feels listing at a theatre(cited athttp://dondwest.hubpages.com/hub/Infotainment-Media).

Infotainment and Television

Dr Stephen Stockwell (2004) defined infotainment as news and current affairs programs sink in comedy, fun, music, art, parody, imitations, cartons, sketches, sitcometcmainly to catch audienceinterest instead of presenting it traditionally. The challenge to these traditional forms comes from an emerging, still-formless genre known as infotainment. We might begin the work of defining infotainment by noting that it refers to a grab bag of styles, formats and sub-genres whose only common feature is that they fall somewhere in the space between the two traditional pillars of television, information and entertainment cited at (https://www. adelaide.edu.au/apsa/docs_papers/Others/Stockwell.pdf).

            It is commonly held that the invention of the infotainment industry started with the “penny press” in the 1830s. Established first in New York, these tabloids, which included a high quota of stories related to crime and punishment, sold for one penny, when all other newspapers sold for six cents. Broadcasting in the United States had a commercial focus from its inception: the U.S. Radio Act of 1927 defined air waves as publicly owned and radio broadcasting as a commercial enterprise funded by advertising. Television also followed this model. Both provide licensed material and, at least theoretically, must satisfy public needs and interest. But the networks’ revenues were based on audience ratings, so infotainment became central because of its commercial draw. The 1950s marked the appearance of classic infotainment programming: game and talent shows, glamour and celebrity in the world (Mott, 1962).

Infotainment—information and entertainment– media content or programs that mostly disseminate information regarding current issues of importance charged with deep entertainment with paramount purpose and planned efforts to gain popularity among audiences members. Information-based programs saturated with entertainment to attract audience psyche and also to keep alive their attention throughout presentation. Infotainments programs cover variety of complex issues of almost all realm of life and present them in a very interesting manner to indispensable/primarily to create not only understanding but to bring about positive desired change in attitude of viewers and to help them to set down opinion. Infotainments programs are way of gathering verification through live conversations. These conversations come in the form of discussing opinion polls, conducting interviews, or addressing possible solutions. Dialogical arrangement allows anchors to control the program’s messages and can interrupt true critical analysis of a topic (Anderson, 2004).

Programs Formats of Infotainment Programs      

The term infotainment denoted for a bunch of program types which come as a result of mixture of two types generally information-oriented and entertainment-based genres of television programming. Basically Infotainment is a derogatory termoften used to explain the ebb of hard news and public affairs discussion programs. Most of these programs include shows based on parodies, funny analysis and moral issue based comedy to entertain viewers. Since the inception of twenty 1st century focus of television programs have slightly shifted toward programs which provide information packed with comedy and fun. News and current affairs including political issues, politicians and party leaders and bureaucrats are prime target of such programs. Viewers from 3rd world countries who are facing many problems in their daily lives consume such programs for emotional release and catharsis purpose. These hybrid programs have created a complex vision with a potentially wide range of impacts on public information, political communication, and democratic setups. Many scholars have found that that infotainment programs generally focus news of the day to combine it with comedy, sitcom, imitations, songs etc for the purpose to make such programs funny interesting and informative. However initially it was considered that through these programs we are “gratifying ourselves to death” by forsaking print-based, rational-critical information in favor of entertaining televisions’laughing stock which has short attention spelland story form with dramatization but with passage of time this fear has been over ruled as now a day almost every channel broadcast infotainment shows (Postman, 2005).

            According to Altheide(2004) point of view now political news are presented under entertainment-driven “media logic” and channels disseminatethese contents to public through an “infotainment news perspective.” Media Channels specially news oriented channels compileevents and issues into chronicle form for presentation. Gerber (1994) has found many dramatic elements which are commonly used in news as matter of routine. According to him “These elements include emphasis on conflict, emotion, evocative visual imagery, and interpersonal interaction.”This process (conflation of news with entertainment) is term as the “infotainment quotient.”Gerber further indicated that “television news producers (in order to create drama in news stories) use music, variety of visual and aural effects, fast-paced editing, celebrity dummies, sports, and lifestyle topics in theirs news transmissions.”Furthermore individual newscasters are marketable personalities and carefully selected to provide pleasant look for viewers. Similarly recently, scholarly attention has turned over the other side of infotainment: the increasing penetration of news form and content into entertainment programming. A number of factually based entertainment shows now look like news, featuring “anchors” that read voice-over copy and introduce reporter packages, often with the pervasive graphic box over the shoulder. Further, a range of legendary programs construct storylines that refer to, draw from, or dramatize politics, current events, or issues of newfangled social importance.

Challenges of Contemporary Infotainment Programs

Carpini& Williams (2001) also commented that infotainment programs have become challenge for entertainment based programs because infotainment programs combine information and entertainment. This practice has offered an alternative location to viewers for informational content and political satires at one place. They also suggested that“infotainment is best understood as a phenomenon of border-crossing as it complexities common theories about news and entertainment as it was perceived that news should be necessarily serious and entertainment on the other side do not require facts and logical way of socio-political impressiveness.”Infotainment calls into question a number of other traditional disparity, including those between politics and showbiz, public affairs and popular culture, and even factual and legendry media forms.

            According toBrants(1998)“it is difficult to examine infotainment a singular, clearly definable form because infotainment scale takes into accounts the topical focus of a given program as well as its arrangement and style.”In infotainment programs different segments are presented. These programs include factual content on issues related to policy matters which are presented in a serious format similar to other television talk shows.On the other hand infotainment programs also include dramatic and personalized contents with informal funny and stylistic layout. Brants further argued that “These two poles, however, are idealized types, with varied infotainment programs dwell in a wide range of positions in between.”Quoting US media and network television infotainment programs “News Lite” which include local, tabloid, and other forms of “soft news”; contemporary documentaries; late-night comedy news; and issue-oriented sitcoms. The mixture of news and entertainment assorted across national media systems and it is changing and shifting with passage of time while accommodating each new programmatic innovation. Such program types (e.g., late-night comedy) can use different ways to combine information and entertainment in order to make such programs interesting entertaining and full of information.

In term of studying and conceptualizing infotainment it is one of the challenging objects of the study because it is difficult to precisely define this term. For the purpose to define and confine infotainment two approaches has been articulated by scholars, which differs in methodology but share identification of the goalsand significance of the phenomenon for public information, political communication, and the democratic process.(Baum, 2003)further according to Baum “Scholars working within the realm of media effects are interested in the outcomes of exposure to various types of infotainment content. Specifically, empirical studies have examined the effects of infotainment consumption on factual political knowledge, candidate evaluation, issue salience, and political engagement, the last including voting, volunteering in campaigns, and discussing politics with family and friends.”Research studies have shown that infotainment contents do have the potential to reach people who otherwise would pay little or no attention to news and political information and this exposure can result in increasing factual knowledge among viewers.

            Consumption of infotainment programs can correlate with increased levels of political engagement among viewers of such programs. Further, the wide variegation of infotainment programming resists efforts to generalize effects across specific programs. The scholarly approach in recent past has turned from focus on individual effects to:a concern for political culture; to understandings of the democratic system; political authority, and the nature of citizenship as constructed through various discourses of infotainment (Moy et al. 2005). According to Jone&Zoonen (2005) infotainment is seen as a counterweight to traditional expert- and insider-dominated forms of political talk that have little apparent relevance to the life-world of the audience.Baym (2005) suggested that particular forms of infotainment are offering a corrective to a news conversation that has become co-opted by political communication professionals and seeded with scripted sound bites and twist. Finally, infotainment is argued to have the potential to make news and politics pleasurable, which itself may be an imperative for political participation. In contempt of uncertainty about its effects and disagreement about its significance, it is clear that infotainment is becoming an increasingly important phenomenon for democratic politics and public.

            According to Achter (2008), during the last two decades of the twentieth century, news reporting, entertainment media and politics went through significant changes. Boundaries between journalism and entertainment, and between public affairs and pop culture, became difficult to discern. Journalism mingled with show business. Celebrities made the news and became politicians. Politicians entertained people and became celebrities. Political journalists embraced entertainment formats. Comedians mimicked reporters covering politics. Infotainment1 arose as a global phenomenon, highly encouraged since the start of commercial TV. The “reality” portrayed in the media often resembles a 24-hour spectacle covered and broadcast live with a tabloid approach. Intellectual traditionalists think this dumbs down the public. Populists claim it democratizes the public sphere. Paparazzi, talk shows, and reality shows rank among the most popular TV genres.

            Media producers now consider it essential to include the E-factor (the need to make it entertaining) in all cultural products. Online media, the new communication venue, continues its search for a profitable business model. An overload of information makes it difficult to discern its legitimacy and value. The prevailing question posed in endless conferences asks whether journalism will survive in this entertainment-obsessed digital environment. But maybe this is not the most important question. Another approach may be to ask: What kind of media content becomes increasingly influential and critical as options for information sources change? Where is the power usually attributed to journalism now being negotiated? Who are the new opinion leaders that replace the traditional analysts of society and how do they construct their authority and power to transgress (Pew Research Center, 2004).

Sub-Genres of Infotainment

Following are the major sub genres of infotainment which are currently used in TV programming:

Lifestyle shows

These shows based on information on recent trends of housing, dressing and cooking etc

Docu-soaps

TV programs which are based on series of real times events, issues and incidents.

Docu-games

These programs are based on manufactured competitions like quiz etc.

Tabloid News

These programs are based on News format with mostly entertaining content.

Talk Shows

These programs are based on entertainment format with informative content.

Mocumentary

These programs are based on fake documentary format with satirical purpose.

News Sitcom

Sit-com format reflecting on media practices.

However infotainment programs may include any one of the above or all of above discussed formats (Schlosser, 2000).

Globalization and Infotainment

The evolution of infotainment has paralleled a process of globalization. For many observers, the globalization process has produced a cultural homogenization of human manifestations and media products. The rise of infotainment has also been accompanied by a devastating trend toward media concentration. 10 mega corporations controlled most of the production of information and entertainment throughout the globe. They produced a global media culture, bringing together TV, film, magazines, newspapers, books, information databases, computers, and other media, and producing a networked multimedia infotainment society (Betting & Hall, 2003; Bagdikian, 2004; McChesney, 2004&; Baker, 2007).

            In the light of above discussion it can be concluded that Informative and entertaining formats continue to become more deeply integrated in line with efforts to learn about the world and to make political decisions. The emergence of infotainment has created a media landscape structured by the competing forces of fragmentation in viewers. In terms of technology, the large-scale adoption of cable television, the development of satellite and digital delivery systems, and the continued expansion of the Internet have led to an unprecedented multiplicity of channels and informational sources. With the growth of media viewers have also become fragmented and specific to the desired contents and among these contents infotainment has gained significant popularity. Widespread infotainment programs significantly lowered the importance of traditional television contents and styles. Pakistan has seen widespread growth of media since 2002 and competition to achieve high rating has led this media to adopt popular culture of infotainment. In Pakistan almost every channels have infotainment programs and even news bulletin are produced in a way that it combines entertainment and information. Pakistan’s privately owned electronic media has witnessed the introduction of conglomeration which is adjunct by widespread commercialization. This has resulted into re-conceptualization of all media forms not as public service, but as for-profit products (Commercialization of the Media).The inception of private channels in our society has revolutionized the society in many aspects particularly in field of information and entertainment. Due to social, economical, political crisis along with terrorism phenomena, attachment of viewers has increased with media in Pakistan. It is generally assumed viewers usually prefer to watch the TV for relaxation but in today life it is very difficult to differentiate between infotainment and entertainment programs. It is also observable that many individuals prefer to watch infotainment programs for verity of purposes which are to be scrutinized. In Pakistan there are so many Infotainment programs but following programs have captured reasonable popularity. These programs are Hasbehall (Dunya News), Khabarnak (Geo News) and Darling (Express News). It would be matter of great interest to work over the audience of Sargodha Gujrat and Islamabad to document their perceptions regarding newly introduced infotainment programs by private news channels in Pakistan.

Selected Private Channels

The dawn of twenty- first century in Pakistan marked the beginning of media explosion due to the permission, given by government, to establish private news channels. We can easily differentiate private news channels from state controlled channels due to their marvelous effects. Actually private television channels are more independent and their coverage expanded from the official corridors of the president’s palace, PM House and ministries secretariat to small villages and ordinary towns in the country. Before cable system only elite’s class enjoyed this facility through dish antenna. Cable system was firstly introduced in Pakistan’s major cities in 2004 and then widespread all over the country. Due to this facility each and every individual has an easy access to pri­vate channels. The number of television channels grew from two or three state-run stations in 2000 to over 50 privately owned channels in 2008. About 20 channels exclusively broadcast news (Khan, 2009).

Geo News

Geo News is a Karachi based Pakistani news channel, fully owned and operated by Jang Group. Its focuses on news and current affairs format of television programs. Actually this channel is considered the pioneer private television channel and it set the foundation of a new era in the broadcasting industry in Pakistani private news and current affairs channels. It started its transmission on 14 August, 2002, initially on test basis and later on, the test transmission was converted in full fledge transmission in November 2002. This channel has been frequently facing sanctions and restrictions by the government of Pakistan. The basic reason behind this is because it has been criticizing the government of its wrong-doings and highlighting the corruptions of the governments along with the coverage of issues of the general public. Initially Jang Group started only one channel but due to its popularity among the audience and following the world trends of specialized broadcasting, the group opened new channels. Aaj Kamran Khan Kay Saath (political talk show), Capital Talk anchored by Hamid Mir (political talk show), Jawabdeh by Iftikhar Ahmad (talk show) are some of the famous programs of this channel. Recently the one of the most popular programs of Geo News is Khabarnak which is based upon infotainment. (www.einfopedia.com, retrieval date: 18th December, 2011). Keeping in view the project in hand Geo News program Khabarnak is being selected.

Express News

Express News is an Urdu language Pakistani television news channel launched on January 1, 2008. It is owned and run by the country’s third largest Urdu daily, Daily Express. The headquarters of this channel is in Lahore (Pakistan). This channel is equipped with latest and sophisticated technology. It has a wide network of news bureaus with a large number of news staff throughout the country. It has ten bureau offices located in Karachi, Lahore, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Multan, Islamabad, Peshawar, Rahim Yar Khan, Sukkhar and Quetta. This channel is famous among the Pakistani public for international, national and specifically the localization of the news events. It is owned by the Television Media Network (Pvt.) Limited. The channel became very well liked within a short span of time and quickly won the hearts of Pakistani people. HarKhabar Par Nazar is the slogan of Express News. KalTak by JavedChaudhary, Live with Talat, (political talk show) and Darling (infotainment show) are some of the famous programs of this channel. The Dar & Darling is selected for the present study (www.einfopedia.com, retrieval date: 18th June, 2011).

Dunya News

Dunya News is an Urdu language news and current affairs television channel from Pakistan. Dunya in English means “World.” It was launched in 2008 and it quickly became one of the best TV channels in Pakistan. MianAamirMehmood, the former ZilaNazim of Lahore is the owner of Dunya news TV channel. The headquarters of the channel are located at Abbot Road, Lahore. Dunya News is now available throughout Pakistan on local cable operators. News Watch, Cross Fire, Policy Matters, andIn Session, and Hasbehall are some of the popular programs in Pakistan Infotainment based program Hasbehall has gained much popularity in resent past and this program is selected keeping in view the present dimension of present study (www.einfopedia.com, retrieval date: 18th June, 2011).

Statement of the problem

Have exposure to private channels’ infotainment programs effects on perceptions of viewers of Sargodha Islamabad and Gujarat cities?

Objectives

In view of the project in hand the objectives include, in broad, to determine:

  1. To determine the viewers, consumption patterns of private TV channels’ infotainment programs.
  2. To explore the extent of liking among viewers of private channels’ infotainment programs
  3. To explore the extent of information viewers acquire from watching private channels’ infotainment programs.
  4. To explore the viewers extent of satisfaction with the different formats of private channels’ infotainment programs.
  5. To explore the viewers extent of satisfaction with the different characters of private channels’ infotainment programs.
  6. To explore the time spending of viewers’ in watching private channels’ infotainment programs.
  7. To determine the extent of help provided by infotainment programs to viewers in understanding social and political issues.
  8.  To document viewers rating of selected private TV channel.




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