Who’s to blame when programming goes too far?

We’ve seen two extreme examples of reality programming go awry in the past few weeks. In one, a San Francisco radio station held a promotion offering a Ninendo Wii to the person who could drink the most water and wait the longest before having to relieve him/herself (Hold your Wee for a Wii). Sadly, a woman died as a direct result of the stunt.

In London, a top reality show has caused an international stir and strained relations because of the portrayal and treatment of an Indian woman on the program.

In the radio station case, three morning disc jockeys and a raft of other staff members involved in the ill-conceived promotion were sacked. In London, the events are still playing themselves out, but top politicians in India have said the show has ‘strained relations’ between their country and Britain. With all the uncertainty in the world, who needs TV to further fan the flames?

Both programs reflect poorly on the producers and the networks. But, in their defense, aren’t they just following popular trends and pushing the envelope ever further? Aren’t viewers flocking to shock shows that elevate outrage to the next level?

And, aren’t advertisers pouring their money into sponsoring such fare?

So, who should be held accountable for allowing this sordid stuff on the air in the first place? The individuals who came up with the original programming/idea? The networks? Advertisers? The FCC? Or, is this all about looking in the mirror and, quoting the Bard of Avon, admitting that, "the fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Whatever the cause, the effect is scary. With more and more reality programs popping up, I’m afraid we’ll only be seeing more and more examples of bigotry, boorish behavior, inexcusable stunts and, sadly, fatalities. Taking a big picture view, such fare also goes a long way towards reinforcing radical Islam’s views of our "decadent" society. It’s time for someone or some institution to put down the remote control, step up to the podium and say enough is enough.

5 thoughts on “Who’s to blame when programming goes too far?

  1. Sut Jhally sums it up well: “Over a 100 years ago, Marx observed that there were two directions that capitalism could take: towards a democratic ‘socialism’
    or towards a brutal ‘barbarism.’ Both long-term and recent evidence would seem to indicate that the latter is where we are headed, unless alternative values quickly come to the fore.”
    When talking about accountability and who’s “at fault” for out-of-control content/programming, I don’t think you can
    put the blame entirely on the viewers.
    Our society has been HARDWIRED and BRED to want, want, want. It seems like each generation is a bit more selfish, greedy, and materialistic than the last. Each generation is numb to the content, programming, and advertising that preceded them. Thus, our values and perception of “what’s acceptable” continues to shift. Humans are impressionable creatures. Advertisers and the media definitely play a role in this…

  2. Why step in? Do we really need/want to save such people? These babies are happy to suck at the media’s teat and I don’t think it is the responsibility of sane and mature society to try and wean them. They’re dumb and happy. The media’s happy. You be happy too, RepMan :–)

  3. Valid points, Bubbles. But, there has to be accountability at some level or chaos will ensue. In fact, chaos has made some nice inroads already. The challenge is who steps in and when does it become a ‘Big Brother’ situation?

  4. The responsibility is with those who choose to prostitute themselves by participating in such garbage. The woman who killed herself by drinking so much water deserves a Darwin Award. And what exactly do celebrities expect when they sign on to live with STRANGERS in front of a televison camera? I don’t think it reinforces “radical Islam’s views of our decadent society” so much as it points out exactly how many morons there are in the world.