“I can explore the world at the comfort of my home”. This is a tagline for an advertisement cable television. Indeed television has come a long way in our lives. From its first introduction it has already create waves in the society that we live in.
In the past, television was a symbol of social status and wealth. Only the rich and powerful can afford the luxury of having a television in their homes. It had served a vastly different purpose that it does today. In Singapore, the introduction of television began around the 1960s where it has taken over the era of radios in the entertainment industry. At first, television (the black and white form) is a rarity, and they only had 3 channels that showcase English, Chinese, Malay, Tamil and sports programmes. It is precisely due to its rarity and newness that it attracts people to the television sets. All of a sudden, family with the television set becomes popular with the neighbours and the programme that is being played becomes a timeslot for social gathering in front of the television. Television at that point of time has become a status symbol. To the owners, the television becomes a status that proves that they are more superior both in wealth and social capital to their neighbours; to the neighbours, television becomes a symbol that they wished they had and wants to earn in order to get the same status. Television has also become an attraction for social interaction and cohesion. People would gather after work to catch their favourite programme on television. During this time, the interaction comes both in the form of the people interacting with the characters in the programme but also the interaction with the others in regard of the programme.
A classic example would be one of a soccer match that is played on television. The audience will first put themselves in the shoes of the player to see how they would play it and thus when anyone of the characters in the game makes a mistake, they would share and express their judgement with those that are around them whom they hope share the same opinion. This creates interaction between the community and forms both relation and identity of the people when they are able to understand and internalise the judgement of the others through this exchange.
However, as technology progress so has the quality and the accessibility of television progress. Television has been made more and more available throughout the years through mass production and the affordability of the machine. This has lead to a decrease in the importance of television as an attraction of social interaction in the society. Television today still remains a status symbol but instead of the ownership of a television that determines your social status, it is mostly the quality and the brand of the television that determines the social status. To own a SONY BRAVIA is different from owning an AKIRA television. Our lives are so commercialised that we are buying things not for their usage but for their implications to the image we portray to others regarding our social status.
The increasing number of television means that more people are connected to the media via television. With increased connectivity, means more people are being affected by it. Television today is being offered with a variety of choices. As our world gets globalised so is our entertainment source, television. Recapping back on the tagline at the start of this essay, you will be surprised at how true that statement can be. Cable television has enabled many of us to explore the lives of others through the foreign channels that are shown on television. This exposure has affected the social fabric of our society. We began to take what we learnt from the television and incorporate it into our lives. We have been socialised into the rest of the world at the comfort of our own homes. The trend of J-pop and K-wave that has seized our entertainment industry shows how a culture from a foreign country could easily influence ours. Fashion which is part of culture has seen a trend in a copying if Japanese and Korean fashion style. Walk along Orchad road and notice the number of teenagers deck out in the latest Japanese-styled clothes that may not even suit our climate.
Rather than assuming that this is a one-way influence, it is essentially a 2 way influence. It is true that the programmes influence our way of life but the programmes are also influence by us to take on an identity in order for us to identify with it. Taking the example of the anime-turned-drama boys over flower, it has 3 different versions that all shot into popularity. For Taiwan, it was called Meteor Gardens, in Japan, it was called Hana Yori Dango and there are plans to shoot a Korean version. Although they all have the same storyline but the background of the script and the characters have been change to alter allow the locals to identify with the characters. The Japanese drama is not the same as the Taiwan one. The characters do not share the same history and background and they don’t even speak the same language. Hence it maybe that the society that shapes the programmes that we are watching.
Another observation is that the television programmes are almost all from developed countries. Very few are from developing nations that are shown in Singapore, even if there are it would be of some charity or education programmes. Thai, Africa and even Vietnam programmes are not found in Singapore. It can’t be the language barrier that stops us from watching drama produced by these nations but rather is the lack of audience. They do not appeal to the audience as we find it difficult to relate to them and they are not commercialised to appeal to our liking. The inability for us to identify with their situation and environment has caused this inequality in exposure. The lack of exposure means that there are lesser chances for their voices to be heard and lesser chances for them to incorporate themselves into our environment. They will remain the ‘ignorant one’ and we will remain the ‘knowledgeable one’ due to our exchange of information and culture; they are the ones that would be excluded from this cycle of progress.
Television has incorporated itself into all aspects of our lives not mentioning changing the social fabric of our society. Should we not take into greater account the power of media if it was to have such a great influence on our lives?