Newspapers exist to sell newspapers and as Clark Gable pointed out in Teacher’s Pet, newspapers exist on advertising. So it has always been with broadcasting. Initially with radio, then television.
From the first radio station broadcasting in this country has been all and only about selling, Like the carnival and circus side show barkers and snake oil sales man of old, the whole point of broadcasting has been to get the audience to part wit their money. Regardless of the product, it had to leave the audience feeling good. Above all nothing about the station or it’s content could be considered offensive to the audience. Or at least the majority of the chosen audience.
That nearly all of this, the programming to attract the audience and the products being sold were mostly feel good dreams, was inconsequential. That the images they generated were often far from the truth and reality did not enter into it.
From goat gland cures to financial schemes of promised wealth were all part of it. Even when William S. Paley formed CBS network news he new his reporters had to keep the audience and advertisers happy.
And so it went from Jack Benny to Leave it to Beaver the image of America it presented was always happy and pure and above average. Far from the reality of most all people but what Americans had of themselves. Or what they wanted to project of them selves, when convenient. Corporations never did bad things nor did politicians. I would say the only programming that even came close was All In The Family with Archie Bunker as the typical Blue Collar worker and Married With Children and even they pulled a lot of punches.
Yet Americans did not see the hypocrisy in all of this. They actually believed they were like Ward and June Cleaver and their kids were like Wally and Theodor. Even their kids less than ideal friends were a lot more perfect than any kids I ever knew. You never saw them smoking cigarettes or drinking beer, both of which were common among the suburban kids I knew. Politicians never l lied or cheated. This was something that “Other people did”. That the “Other people” were their neighbors was not an issue.
None of this was lost on us kids, of course. We say if not the hypocrisy, the inconsistencies. That we all did not wind up completely cynical, is a miracle. Though we did use Disney as the epitome of it. Giving mixed messages both from the media and from adults. Nice kids did not do such things, except if you do,it’s OK and please do.
Virtue and righteousness was all part of the messaging and minorities were happy in their role. Like Bill “Bo-jangles” Robinson dancing in a Shirley Temple movie. But to project and broadcast anything else would lose audience and worse yet, advertisers.
Is it any wonder Americans have such a screwed up image of themselves ?
Not just the advertisers but the equipment as well. Each year companies trying to sell “New and improved” that was pretty much the same as last years and the year before on the insides. Just nicer looking on the outside. Same snake oil in a nicer bottle.
Now we have a president elect that himself is the the very epitome of hundreds of years of American media presented culture.
Surprised ? Well you shouldn’t be. It actually fits better than anyone is willing to admit.