By Taylor Morello
word count: 619
Television has long been a medium controlled by a handful of media conglomerates. Each and every television show or broadcast we see has been specifically and carefully chosen by a select few. Communication being something that reaches and influences people across the nation, it is surprising to know that something so influential can be decided by so few. The idea of democratizing television gives us as media consumers the option to decide for ourselves what we would like to see and hear. Websites like YouTube specifically give us the option to make our ideas communicated to the masses.
As noted in Henry Jenkins’ Democratizing Television? The Politics of Participation, the idea is to empower readers to submit their own stories and decide what’s important. With YouTube, everyone is able to submit ideas. The number of views their video gets is an indication of what is important to people or what they want to hear. While it is also clear which traditional cable television shows are the most popular and important to people, there is an important difference between traditional cable television and participatory television like YouTube. With YouTube, any and every idea is submitted, and anyone can watch every single idea. If ideas are submitted to traditional cable television companies, those companies are still going to weed through the ideas and choose what they think should be communicated to the masses. This is the problem with trying to democratize television. While people may be submitting story ideas to these television companies, or conglomerates, there is still a selection process blocking the choice of stories. With YouTube, that problem is demolished.
While participatory journalism seems helpful to our community, there is also a negative side to it. YouTube brings about the problem of clutter. While it gives us more options for media consumption and stories that are going to bring changes in social life, it can be argued that there is too much of it. The problem is that consumers may be unable to weed out what stories they want to hear, or don’t want to hear, because there is too much offered to them. This could be make traditional cable television look like a way to break through the clutter, there is still the problem of the few who are choosing what we see and hear. As stated in chapter 10, “Each evolution of communication systems brings changes in social life and human consciousness.” This means that communication is extremely important and influential in our society. What we see and hear impacts what we do and the decisions we make in everyday life, so to democratize or not to democratize television is a very important idea.
The current formats of television, for example where democratizing television is applied, are very different from the “golden era” of American television between the 1940s and 1960s. Not only were television stories only chose by the media companies that ran them, but television at that time didn’t even run for a full 24 hours. The internet, as we know is a 24 hour resource of any and every type of story, but there is no comparison to the glamorized stories that we see on television today.
To conclude, the idea of democratizing television can be both good and bad. While it gives viewers a say in what stories are important and will be communicated to the masses, less controlling, more opinions, and options, it creates a clutter. If democratizing television weren’t limited by those who in the end still choose which stories are aired, it would aid in the open expression of our country’s thoughts and feelings towards different matters. In a perfect world, it would create equality in the communication of ideas.