Television and Children: Program Evaluation, Comprehension, and Impact

By Brian R. Clifford; Barrie Gunter et al. | Go to book overview

5 Science Programs With Single Themes: Evaluation, Comprehension, and Cognitive Impact

Although it is true that television is predominantly seen and conceived of by its audience as an entertainment medium, nonetheless, for many viewers, it is also recognized as a major source of information, embodying functions to inform, explain, and educate ( Johnsson-Smaragdi, 1983; Rubin, 1977, 1979). Most broadcasters take this additional role seriously as can be seen from the scope and diversity of television's programming. Information about events in the known world is communicated by regular news and current affairs programs; the world of the unknown is explored by various nature and science programs that often depict the unseen and the unimagined. Both types of programs can command large viewing audiences. Before television, both these worlds were less directly and vividly available to the majority of the population. With the advent of television, however, both are now easily apprehended through the "window on the world" offered by the television set in nearly everyone's living room.

There can be little doubt that television has the potential to enlarge people's awareness and stock of knowledge of world events. This enlightenment can occur in response to a variety of different program formats. Thus, within the gamut of programming we can identify programs that impart information incidently on the back of entertainment (e.g., drama series/serials and quiz or talk shows); programs that are clearly highly constructed, didactic, and manipulated along educational lines (e.g., programs made especially for schools or instructional purposes); and, somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, programs that try to convey important scientific and technological information in popular ways. The latter comprise many widely viewed general interest magazine and documentary films. In short, then,

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