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Discuss the reasons for the success of the reality TV genre and the moral implications the genre raises. The success of reality TV cannot be denied, it has emerged from Crimewatch UK in 1984 as a series of cop shows and fly on the wall documentaries, such as Airline, only to become the modern day television giant. It is without doubt currently one of the most popular TV genres, but is it really entertainment? Big Brother, the founder of reality TV as we know it today, has caused breakdowns, emigrations and ruined many lives.
Do the bad factors of reality TV outweigh the good? Reality TV is supposedly an insight into people’s everyday lives but is the Big Brother house really a natural environment. Reality TV as we know it today, i. e. Big Brother, is an off-shoot of many other TV genres. Stemming from fly on the wall documentaries such as The Experiment or Celebrity Driving School, the genre contains a huge range of scientific explanations. Many reality TV shows offer a tempting monetary prize to the last remaining contestant.
If a contestant fails to win the jackpot the national press offer a large amount of cash for an insight into life in the Big Brother house. Soaps like Coronation Street or Eastenders are full of misery, death, arguments and countless breakups and affairs, very similar to everyday life in the Big Brother house. Humans in general are very nosy; reality TV has fulfilled that market niche. The UK press is obsessed with affairs, celebrities and the royal family. To the audience it seems reality TV is yet another pointless subject for the press to exploit.
The British press is very powerful and influential on their readers, a conspiracy between the press and the reality TV shows has been a very important factor leading to the success of the genre. The genre is aimed at people aged 14-30, however there are older/younger viewers. The genre is more female orientated, as are soap operas. Women are generally more sociable than men and love to gossip. Women are also more emotional than men, thus contributing to the appeal of the genre. Is the appeal of reality TV fading? In the first night of Big Brother 4 it attracted 8.
4 million viewers compared to one week later when only 3. 5 million tuned in to watch. There are many views on the reasons why numbers of viewers are falling, one of the foremost being that reality TV has always had a struggle retaining numbers of viewers. During the summer months far less people want to be inside watching TV. Initially reality TV was a huge success in hauling people indoors, but do we really want a square-eyed nation? Other reasons for declining numbers of viewers include rising concerns over the moral implications of shows like Big Brother.
Big Brother has recently been heavily criticised over the way the selection process is run and has been forced to adapt it. The Big Brother house seems less edgy this year than in previous years and the contestants have more of a team player attitude. Arguments and drunken antics are less frequent but let’s face it why watch a drunken brawl on televison when you could walk a mile down the road to the nearest pub. Like many crazes reality TV had its height of success, BB3 being that of Big Brother, with contestants such as Jade Goody.
Big Brother has sparked off many other reality TV shows such as I’m a celebrity get me out of here but all these shows bore down to the same question in the audience’s mind, is this really entertainment? The public audience needs more variety or they will become bored with the endless reality TV shows. However even in these dark times some companies are still trying to haul in viewers from the dying genre with more exciting and even insane shows such as Celebrity Jump.
Channel 4 executives have even resorted to broadcasting teenagers having sex on primetime TV in a quest to drive up viewer ratings, “TV bosses accused of exploiting youngsters to boost viewer ratings. ” (Daily Mail, October 16th 2003) It is because of acts like this that many believe reality TV is the downfall of British television. There is deep controversy over the moral implications of shows like Big Brother. Jade Goody BB3 for example, was ruined by the media. Whilst in the Big Brother house Jade was caught sharing a bed with male contestant Danny Jarman, Jade was also broadcasted on national TV playing strip poker.
A sexually orientated story like this makes a great article and the media have even gone to the extent of offering prize money to the first couple to have sex in the Big Brother house in an attempt to rinse the genre of any remaining money before it dies out. The selection process is another very controversial factor of reality TV, should Jade have entered the Big Brother house? It is believed that the contestants who enter the house are chosen out of thousands of applicants purely because of the way they will react once inside.
Jade Goody, BB3, for instance must have been the ideal contestant, she was mentally unstable and had a one armed lesbian mother, the possible stories the press could have invented must have been tremendous. People enter the Big Brother house out through their own choice and therefore are responsible for their own actions, however many contestants do not know what they are letting themselves in for and many parents, in particular those of the Teen Big Brother contestants, believe it is wrong to subject people to this torment,
“Let’s face it, they’re still kids and many might think it quite irresponsible to stick them in a room together. ” (Mother of Tommy Wright, Teen Big Brother) The editing of shows like Big Brother is vital to their success, if the show was to be broadcasted twenty four hours a day, like E4 for instance, the number of viewers would be a lot less due to the rarity of something interesting happening. Scott BB4 stated on The Curse of Big Brother just how boring E4 actually is.
The genre has a lot of young followers, some would deem it unacceptable for material containing scenes of violence, sex and bad language to not necessarily target but broadcast these ideals to children. Channel 4 and Big Brother makers Endemol claim the program to be educational but, “It’s difficult to see what anyone learns except how to run down other people, how to use obscene language, to discuss masturbation and how to get a previously unknown girl into bed within three days, who is then given the morning after pill.
It does seem to me that the high sounding aspirations of Channel 4 and Endemol are little more than a cynical joke. Given the rise of anti-social behaviour and the epidemic of sexually transmitted infections among teenagers, I believe this series is seriously undermining initiatives to tackle those problems. ” (John Beyer, Director of Big Brother pressure group) Should two companies have the right to cause so much misery to families and money to the taxpayer for the sake of upping viewer ratings?
And are Big Brother contestants really the right role models for the youth of today? Reality TV no longer appeals to the audience as it has done in the past. Program makers are being pushed into tighter regulations by the moral implication raised and fortunately or unfortunately this is causing the genre to suffer. The genre has been at the forefront of the media for several years now but it has lost the innovative front it needs to survive on the air. The genre has ruined lives and the appeal of watching normal people in a false environment is minimal.
Contestants may take responsibility for their own actions but does that automatically mean the print media has the right to abuse them for the sake of making good news. To the audience it seems that the genre has broken the line between what is regarded as entertainment and what is considered immoral, as a result the genre has experienced falling viewer ratings and an onslaught of criticism from the national press and critics. The short-lived success of reality TV can only suggest that it is not really the kind of entertainment the British audience wants.