Thursday, November 5, 2015

Regulation and the Media

For this post, I wanted to discuss and highlight some of the key points found in a few of the readings from this week. In class, we have been talking about regulation and the political implications derived from the realm of censorship of telenovelas, particularly in Venezuela. Two of the readings from Tuesday dealt with the topic of regulating social formation.

One article was from NPR (2012), talking about Brazil's declining birth rate and the potential reasons for this. It reports that over a span of 50 years, the fertility rate has gone from six children per woman to less than two, on average. Along with a new, modern mindset, the increased higher education of women and desire to join the workforce, and the financial burden associated with raising a big family, telenovelas are charged as one of the causes for this drop, which I find so interesting. The story mentions that characters are depicted as wealthy, cosmopolitan, and without many children. However, this fertility rate decrease is visible across socioeconomic barriers. The shift is also apparently happening all over Latin America but stands out most prominently in Brazil.

I haven't watched a Brazilian telenovela, but I'm curious to hear from others in the class who are watching "Avenida Brasil" or another well-known Brazilian novela to see if this is something that is noticeable and very obvious in the portrayal of women. It's incredible to me the psychological power that consumption of novelas can have on their audiences, whether the viewers are consciously aware or not. And on the production side, it makes me think about how the people creating telenovelas can use their influence in a way that promotes positive discussion and social change instead of restricted thinking or ideas, which can be a result of censorship.

Another article was from the Washington Post (2009) and talks about how Telemundo's "Más Sabe el Diablo" was planning on developing a subplot where the protagonist applies to work with the Census Bureau. The question was whether this was a tactic the network was using to employ a statement or advance Latino participation in the census to gather accurate representation in the U.S. The president of Telemundo was quoted saying they were aiming to target the anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. This subplot is beneficial for both the network and the census, in more advertising money, higher ratings, and the ability to gain access to the Latino community. The end of the article (where Dr. A is quoted!) talks about how telenovelas can be a medium for persuasion, and they really are capable of  driving change or stopping injustice because of the value they hold in Latin American countries. 

This is a clear example of the social formation that can come from story lines and the actions of characters. People want to see themselves in the novelas they are watching. As we said in class, when they aren't able to do that, censorship is probably getting in the way. In my Comm. Law class this semester, we've learned that censorship, and self-censorship, in the U.S. would inhibit the marketplace of ideas and the freedom of exchange. U.S. law prohibits prior restraints, or restricting expression or publication of material. Even in the case of libeling someone, for example, the law says people have the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression, and someone could get sued after the fact, but not before publication. This tie-in just shows the stark contrasts between how the role of the government in media and entertainment differs in various places around the world.

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