Compare and contrast two different 'reality TV' shows and their associated web sites, discuss how they provide a platform for avenues of communication, marketing and interactivity. How are the audiences crafted and understood for each of these shows?
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Compare and contrast two different 'reality TV' shows and their associated web sites, discuss how they provide a platform for avenues of communication, marketing and interactivity. How are the audiences crafted and understood for each of these shows? Provide specific examples. Today, it seems you can't turn on the television without coming across reality programming. Shows such as Big Brother, The Amazing Race, Average Joe, The Bachelor, Wife Swap, What Not To Wear, The Apprentice and Survivor have become increasing popular with both the American and Australian television audiences (Teven, 2004). Not so long ago, reality TV was ridiculed for being the cheap and cheesy new kid on the programming block. Now, reality TV accounts for the most successful new television shows (USATODAY.com, 2004). As a result of this increased popularity, the industry has been forced to take this genre seriously. This popularity is reason enough to give reality TV the critical attention that it so richly deserves (Mhando, 2002). European television programmers were the first to develop the concept of reality television. Then the American networks purchased some of these formats and brought them back to the United States. They also created some original formats themselves. Since the 1990's, reality TV has become a major phenomenon with most major networks screening some form of realty programming (Wells and Tibaldi, 2002). According to Mhando (2002:187), the supposed purpose of reality TV is to "place 'ordinary' people in 'extraordinary; situations and allows other people (including the crew) to watch them react".
Big Brother Online: Series One was "the biggest streaming event in Australian Internet history" (Mhando, 2002:186). At any given moment there were an average of 2500 people watching the live stream from the Big Brother house. There were 1.1 million page views per day on the website with a total of 86 million hits on the website over the entire period of series one. At the heart of these programs are events which are constructed by the media for the media. After all, if there were no camera and no microphones, the events probably wouldn't be happening. The media then invites the audience is then invited to take a peek. In its colloquial usage, voyeurism, described as secretly staring at other people for personal enjoyment, is considered more a harmless, although at times, guilty pleasure (Nabi, Biely, Morgan, and Stitt, 2003). Although labelling reality-based television programming as voyeur TV might be convenient, but does doing so unfairly denigrate the genre? On a general level, Nabi et. al. (2003:327) found that reality based programs, have been characterised by the participants in their study, as voyeur television. However, the researchers wish to stress that by focussing solely on this view, will do a disservice to the genre. This label "virtually precludes the perception and study of the potential positive outcomes of viewership, including learning about oneself and the world at large" (Nabi, et.
Reality television has come a long way from the days of Candid Camera and COPS, particularly in term of new media technology. The Big Brother house is full of both hidden and visible cameras and a multitude of microphones. Nothing in that house is said or done without it being picked by the outside world. Survivor is able to transport and set up their production in the middle of uncivilised terrain all around the world. All their cameras and microphones in a place that is so secluded and so remote. Gone are the days of the shaky handheld cameras from Candid Camera. Reality TV leaves ample advertising opportunities available to producers and advertisers. There is significant revenue generated through these television programs. Product placement is even a possibility in the remote locations of Survivor (Mountain Dew, Jeep and Budweiser Beer, for example) as well as in the Big Brother house as indicated earlier. Reality TV is no longer the cheap and nasty alternative to high priced sitcoms and crime drama on television. This genre has evolved into a television force to be reckoned with. Whether it appeals to viewer's sense of voyeurism or their need for audience participation, there is one certainty. The reason you can't switch on the television without coming across reality television, is because of the audience demand for it. How much longer this demand lasts is anyone's guess, but as long as the demand is there, the likes of Mark Burnett and the television networks will be there to supply it.
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