The media industry can be explained using a framework that exhibits their different levels of influence namely; the mandate, the conditions, and the practices. In this case, the mandate (which is the first level) refers to the principal goals of the media house or the reason the organization is operated (Havens & Lotz, 2012, p. 4). Typically, all the levels in the framework (mandate, conditions, and practices) influence each other. These, in addition, have an impact on both the conditions of the workers in the media industry as well as the text that the latter creates (Havens & Lotz, 2012, p. 5). Mandates control what the media organization is likely to produce and its behavior in the media industry. Currently, most of the large-scale media operate under the commercial mandate except the National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). These kinds of media create content majorly to earn a profit and therefore make every decision in the context of profitability. The concern is always whether the content is acceptable to both the advertisers and the audience or otherwise (Havens & Lotz, 2012, p. 6). However, the commercial media system are always more non-democratic. They consider some of the audience to be more significant than the others. Hence, they had better serve the interests of the young and the affluent members of the society as opposed to the less fortunate and the old who do not form part of their target audience.
Moreover, in the film industry, the most common commercial mandate is the direct pay media. In this case, the audience usually offers a direct payment for the media being offered by the industry players (Comm251, 2014). For instance, when an individual visits their local movie theaters, the latter directly pays for the ticket in order to gain entry into the theater (to watch the movie). Just like any other commercial media mandate, the film industry gauges their level of success through the acquired profits over a given duration (Comm251, 2014). In this case, therefore, the film industry must always entice as many people as possible so that the realized profit levels are maximized. Further, this has always created a need for the industry to produce content that resonates well with the audience being served.
As stated earlier, the commercial mandate through the assessment of what the public considers more popular can shape the contents produced in the film industry. As result, many films currently aim at appealing to a large number of audiences (Comm251, 2014). An example is the Bridesmaids, which is dominated by a male cast and has always been viewed as a big no for the many moviegoers because the producers of the movie opined that it would not be appealing to mass viewers. After the producers realized that the movie was successful, it was ascertained that it was possible to attract a large audience and make more profits with the female cast. Thus, the majority have recently resorted to making similar movies, for example, The Other Woman and The Heat thus changing the standard of the industry (Comm251, 2014). While the film contents have always changed over time, it is apparent that the change is purely profit motivated and thus is principally aimed at attracting a large audience to the theaters.
Development of Commercial mandates in the Film Industry
The three media models; the commercial, the public service, and the government model have been in existence for a very long time. However, the commercial model has been on a steady inline while the government model has been slowly declining in the period after the 1990s (Ondobo, 2001, p. 10). This film model just like the other commercial media models sprang from the belief that the market mechanisms of the media were able to respond to the specific needs of the customers (Ondobo, 2001, p. 9). Further, it was motivated by the strong reluctance of the industry players to allow the state agencies to control and manipulate the media. Nelmes (2012) on the other hand argues that the commercialization of the film industry in the United States dates back to the early 20th century (1902) (p. 4).
However, according to him, the development of the commercial film mandate could be perceived to be more of a natural occurrence than to have been influenced by any human factors (Nelmes, 2012, p. 121). It was realized asset of solutions that could practically make the films more intelligible to the moviegoers, but with a motivation for commerce. Alternatively, it was considered the way of seeing the culture of the West and most so of the Western women. Ideologically, the film industry was recognized as a medium that could for commercial reasons be used for manipulation with the ability to control representation and response (Nelmes, 2012, p. 121). Precisely, over the past decade, the commercialization of the film industry has led to the expansion of Hollywood with the emergence of more relevant and innovative films. This has also contributed to the expansion of the sector to serve more audience that it is intended to achieve as well as generate more profits, which is its primary role.
Media Regulation: Television Policy
Media regulation is the guidance or the control of the mass media by either the government or other bodies mandated to carry out the role. The regulation can either be in the form of the content of the message, the structure of its leadership or the general operations. In the United States, the concern for the regulation of the television network is premised on the fact that the TV stations transmit through electromagnetic waves (that is a public resource) and that none of the many broadcasters can be entrusted to do so (Brainhard, 2005, p. 1). As such, the federal government formed the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in 1934 to regulate the media in what was termed as the 'public interest' (Jolly, 2007, p. 3; Candeub, 2007, p. 1555). Though what is termed as 'public interest' in this context has been ambiguous, there has been a consensus between the regulators and the policymakers in the industry (Jolly, 2007, p. 25). This is due to the need to regulate the media in order to equitably allocate the available spectrum to all the players and shape the vital public space; which the television industry is part of.
The regulators of the industry always have a very 'large toolbox' available to them on the move to control this public space. In the case of the TV stations, regulations fall into two broad categories. First, the economic regulation, which affects the television industry by dictating, for instance, who owns a TV station (Brainhard, 2005, p. 1). These are more content-neutral, that is, they do not limit the content of information a TV station disseminates to the viewers. On the other hand, there is content regulation which involves the Federal Communications Commission which reviews the programming of the stations (Candeub, 2007, p. 1551). From time to time, the industry policymakers have advocated for various combinations of content and economic controls. However, the States seems to rely more on the content regulation as opposed to the latter.
The FCC Toolbox
Both the regulations whether economic or content finally shape the public space that the television is part. An economic regulation in terms of rules on licensing and ownership limits indirectly informs the television programming. In the United States, the FCC issues license to the TV stations for a finite duration upon which they are allowed to operate (Candeub, 2007, p. 1555). These licenses are renewable by the body after certain durations and are only awarded to those deemed capable of serving the interest of the public. Additionally, there have been ownership regulations in the industry. This limits the number of companies any single individual or group of companies can own or the population a given corporation can serve through its group of companies. It also protects the public against the monopoly of ideas and the concentration of the industries. However, there has been an argument by the broadcasters that these impinge on their economic freedom (Brainhard, 2005, p. 1).
Conversely, content regulation involves laws that require the stations to air particular programs at certain times. The regulations "also mandate that broadcasters rate their programs and embed the ratings into their signals to be decoded by a V-Chip implanted in TV sets" (Brainhard, 2005, p. 1). Other industry regulations prohibit the companies from airing obscene and indecent programs or limit the same to certain hours of the day. Further, there are regulations that require that the broadcasters should air programs that serve the needs of the whole society and not merely a section. The lobby groups, however, have accused these, of limiting the freedom of speech of the broadcasters. With a large number of regulatory requirements, there is a need for the FCC to engage more than one regulatory tool. This explains why the regulators over the different periods have always resorted to using different regulatory tools to control the industry.
History of TV Regulation in the US
In the early days of television broadcasting, the regulators emphasized on devising licenses and broadly specified the acceptable programming service. It also developed the ownership limits to ensure their market was competitive (Brainhard, 2005, p. 8). However, by the mid 20th century (the 1960s) the FCC commenced content regulation. Later in 1970, it implemented the Children's TV regulation that was harshly opposed by certain policymakers who wanted the role of the FCC to be limited to content regulation (Jolly, 2007, p. 3). Lionel Van who was Communications Subcommittee of the House of Representatives by 1970s, for example, proposed a policy to replace economic regulation with content regulation in vain. Similar attempts also failed in the 1980s when the appointees of President Reagan to the FCC attempted a similar move. Theirs was an attempt to totally deregulate the industry (Brainhard, 2005, p. 8).
Since the 1990s, there seem to be a general acceptance of the content regulation as opposed to economic regulation. There has been a relaxation of the licensing rules. The licenses are also renewed without much review of the past services of any particular company unlike it used to be before this era. Ownership rules have to be relaxed from owning a maximum of three stations to not exceeding about 39% of the available audience which was emphasized by the 1996 Telecommunications Act (Candeub, 2007, p. 1556). Meanwhile, content regulation has been re-emphasized. The 1990 Children's Television Act provides that broadcasters need to air programs that are educative to the children and restricts any contrary programs during such shows. This was mandated by the FCC rule that required such programs to be aired between 0700 and 2200 hours (Brainhard, 2005, p. 8). Further, the 1996 Telecommunications Act also required that every TV set needs to be pre-equipped with a V-chip that can screen out any content deemed undesirable. This regulation has though been in existence since 1978 when they clarified by the Supreme Court in the case of FCC v. Pacifica Foundation 438 US 726 (Brainhard, 2005, p. 8). Despite the opposition to the OPI (Obscene, Profane, and Indecent) rules, the FCC increased the OPI rules enforcement in 2001 under the leadership of Powel. Apparently, regulators are inclined more towards content regulation with OPI controls appearing to be on the increase.
Implications of TV Regulations
Content regulation, as opposed to economic regulation, is more subjective than objective. While a piece of information maybe obscene for one person, it may be a piece of fine entertainment for another person. This raises the question of how, whether, and...
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