How TV Exploits its Audience
In a 1958 speech, legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow said about TV, “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is nothing but wires and lights in a box.” Imagine if Murrow were around today with all talk shows full of hot air, vitriol and salaciousness. That box is a delivery system for media corporations to sell eyeballs, audiences, to other corporations called advertisers. That’s the political economy of TV. Viewers are bombarded with ads wrapped around inane programming. The box has great potential as Murrow says, but it is barely approaching it. TV is more of a device to get people to buy things they don’t really need.
Sut Jhally is Professor of Communications at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He is the founder and executive director of the Media Education Foundation and the author of The Codes of Advertising. He co-directed the critically acclaimed documentary, Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear and the Selling of American Empire.