Gender, Power, and Communication in Human Relationships

By Pamela J. Kalbfleisch; Michael J. Cody | Go to book overview

ings, and so on. Prosocial television is presented in this social context and provides an alternate discourse, not a societal mandate. Theories such as uses and gratifications ( Katz, Blumler, & Guerevitch, 1974) and media system dependency ( BallRokeach, 1985; Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976; Ball-Rokeach, Rokeach, & Grube, 1984) acknowledge the importance of the media in the formation of beliefs and opinions whereas acknowledging the limited role of the media in such changes. Use of counterstereotypic characters occurs particularly in situation comedies (e.g., "Mary Tyler Moore," "Who's the Boss?," "Murphy Brown," and "Designing Women"). Such characters can serve as positive role models that represent ongoing social change, and have their own unintended effects, when counterstereotypical characters function as positive role-models. At minimum, counterstereotypical characters can serve as sites of resistance against sexist social structures, as Radway ( 1984) found for United States readers of gothic romance novels.

The technologies must be adapted to the situations and needs of the social contexts in which they are used, preferably by persons from those societies. Empirical study and theories -- both mainstream and critical -- clearly indicate that indigenous cultures, traditions, and values need to be integrated with (rather than eradicated by) the promotion of gender equality. Third World countries can use television as an integral part of their development program, rather than a symbol of development success. In all situations, crafting prosocial entertainment that speaks in the viewer's voice will assist the viewer in understanding the implications of the prosocial themes.

In conclusion, prosocial television campaigns are effective if they are viewed as a means, rather than an end. Media campaigns should be programs to promote and effect change. Organizers of campaigns on commercially-sponsored broadcasting systems should forge alliances with supportive sponsors. The producers of "Hum Log" and "Hum Raahi" were fortunate to have the sponsorship of a major industrialist who agreed with their goals. Supportive sponsors can facilitate television production so that the prosocial themes can be treated in the most effective way possible. However, television cannot substitute for social workers and educators who are capable of providing individualized attention to persons or collectives. Contact with viewers helps to maintain feedback so that campaigns can be made more effective, and traditions and cultures can be respected.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

This study was supported by a Zurnberg Faculty Innovation Fund grant awarded to Dr. Michael J. Cody and Dr. Everett M. Rogers at the University of Southern California. A preliminary report of the project was presented in 1992 ( Robinson, Pfefferman, & Cody, 1992). The 1992 data gathering in India was supported by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. A preliminary report of the project was presented in 1993 ( Chandran, Hirata, & Rogers, 1993).

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