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Essay on Media

A primary issue of concern in the media and communication arena is the existence of entertainment culture. Entertainment culture that is synonymous to “packaging.” It has been said that media is no longer the business of informing but it now concentrates on the task of entertaining. Postman’s fear is that present-day information is being reduced to mere entertainment. That relevant language is being replaced by surface theatrics.
Reporting and imparting news has become marginally biased. There is a lot of propaganda created, all for the sake of keeping the public riveted on their channel. Propaganda, and the art of it, is now raised to an alarming level due to the emergence of new media. New media such as, computer aided graphics, sound engineering, the accessibility of information via the web and so forth. All these in conjunction with a business savvy allows the producer to throw in “everything he’s got” to come up with an entertaining piece. Notice how content is now secondary.

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There is no doubt that the power of media can transform any story. Given the same content and situation, the treatment will make all the difference. Case in point, Pigafetta’s account of the Battle of Mactan and the recent Manila filmfest entry, Lapu-Lapu Both based on the same historical incident; treated with, one as information being the priority and the other a box-office financial return; one can say that they may have even been two different topics altogether. For the latter, having Joyce Jimenez prance around with the many other topless female extras already proves that entertainment can be an aid to the story telling or a distraction. Either way it is media that transformed the message.
We are now what Postman calls “ a people amused into stupidity” because we are spoonfed with information whose only significance is its aesthetic value. To be re-elected, our politicians go through the route of showbiz in order to reach celebrity status. They come armed with “music, imagery, theatrics etc.” instead of purely relying on the public’s perception of their social and political integrity. What matters more now, form or substance?

Like many powerful tools, entertainment can be bane or boon to society. On the one hand it can spoil the collective into “not thinking for themselves” anymore but on the other hand, it can be the most effective tool for relaying relevant insights. Perhaps entertainment really is not an indication of the deterioration of intelligence in society. In my opinion, it is a better ally than an enemy.
It may be the most effective means of distributing information to the public at this point in time. In its defense, it may be argued that entertainment is a way of touching people. Nowadays, especially in the Filipino context, it may seem to be the only way. Take TV Patrol for example—one entertainment factor is Mike Logan’s rhyming/reporting packaged in that annoying sing song tone of voice. Having this example, one can ask if issues of society, culture or politics are really trivialized when imparted through wild bursts of song and dance numbers? In some perspectives, intelligence/information, in fact, to a certain extent is enriched by the type of presentation it is packaged in—the medium and the execution of imparting knowledge/information.
What is the measure of intelligence anyway? Why can we not consider entertainment to be a sophisticated style for dispersing information? At this point it seems to be the most effective. Intelligence is not compromised in fact, the human brain is stimulated, taking into consideration that entertainment is very relative—as diverse as each persons preference and character. Intelligent matter does not deteriorate in themselves. Also “forms of communication are neither bad nor good in themselves.” If packaged properly and presented in a way that “serves within a social order” no matter how high the entertaining factor is, the information imparted should communicate really well.

Postman’s take on this whole bit on the deterioration of intelligent material due to the entertainment culture holds a lot of truth, generally speaking. Although, observing the pinoy scene, I highly doubt that Filipinos have become more stupid. Shows like Sineskwela, Balitang K, Morning Girls seem to be doing a fine job. In fact they raise issues of concern and stimulate the public into forming their own opinions on certain issues. Perhaps this is still an indication of intelligence.
What is it with Filipino viewers that makes entertainment work so much on them? In our type of society are the “rigors of learning” really necessary? Is this how we gauge the extent of high intelligence? By what standards do we gauge high intelligence anyway? Is it the ability to think and comprehend without the aid of visual accessories and artsy, humorous and entertaining hullabaloos? The tricky thing here is how to strike a balance between ethical and objective restraints and aesthetic freedom. It takes a really gifted media person to be able to find the right tension between deciding what information to impart to society and the best way to present this information to them, without compromising any relevant knowledge. Regardless if the public pays attention for its entertainment value or not, the media person will have struck a balance In the end, we realize that the challenge of media is to find the golden mean between substance and presentation. And from there, we allow the viewing public to discriminate on their own.