The Entertainment Functions of Television

The Entertainment Functions of Television

The Entertainment Functions of Television

The Entertainment Functions of Television

Synopsis

Papers based on a conference organized by the Committee on Television and Social Behavior of the Social Science Research Council.

Excerpt

Percy H. Tannenbaum

University of California, Berkeley

While most of the research dealing with the mass media generally, and television in particular, has focused on direct or mediated learning from communications messages--from factual materials as such, or lessons and generalizations derived from fictional presentations--one of the more salient facts of media consumption has been overlooked. Most of the deliberate exposure of most people to TV is motivated less to seek information, as such, but in search of something generally referred to as "entertainment." This cardinal fact is reflected with great consistency in audience ratings in the United States, in similar data from other countries, and in the perennial popularity of certain American and British programs across diverse foreign cultures. It is also reflected in some of the data contained in the "uses and gratifications" type of research wherein respondents are asked to reflect on why they use the medium. Although there is reason to suspect some of the data collected in the latter type of research--if anything they probably inflate the actual incidence of active information seeking and deflate the entertainment function--there is still abundant support for a significant incentive to be "entertained."

There has, nevertheless, been very little research on the entertainment functions of the media--indeed, a paucity of research on the significance of entertainment in everyday life, quite apart from the media per se. It is one of those phenomena that is around us all the time, a kind of activity shared by most individuals on almost a universal basis, and yet it continues to be neglected. Scholars of television, particularly, avoid this phenomenon at their own peril--in terms of understanding why so many people use television to . . .

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