of American Television
on International Audiences
Alexis S. Tan
Washington State University
Considerable attention has been given recently to television as a source of social reality perceptions and as a transmitter of culture. Because television is a major source of information and entertainment in the United States in a growing number of foreign countries, expectations are that audience perceptions of social realities will closely correspond to the “realities” portrayed in television, and that audiences will adopt values and behaviors emphasized in television. Information presented television is readily available; little effort needed to process it; realities are presented in summary forms, with simple solutions to problems and even simpler portrayals of cultural groups and their environments.
Several theories can explain the influence of television on the culture and social realities of viewers. In this chapter we discuss three theories which have been influential in describing the influence of American television on audiences. We apply these theories in an international context, and present data from a study of American television in Russia.
Cultivation theory (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli, 1982) suggests that television presents a distorted but uniform picture of reality that is internalized and accepted by heavy viewers, primarily because of the pervasiveness images.