Global Television

We’ve been looking into global television this week. We analysed how habits of media consumption have changed, but more specifically the way media can cross over cultural boundaries and it’s ability to translate for a new audience. I want to unpack both of these concepts in a little depth to see if any links between the two can be drawn.

Firstly, the way we watch television has obviously changed. Growing up, we had one TV in my house, one remote, and about 20 VCR’s and DVD’s on standby – ready to be re-watched for the 38th time. There was a magic in watching the television, and I think that it’s definitely dissipated slowly over the last decade. Part of this magic was being in an audience, the whole family would sit down together on a specific night to watch a specific show. You would debrief on this weeks happenings with your family or friends afterwards – this doesn’t happen as much as it should anymore.

It is quite possible this is linked to the rise of technology and the rise of ‘streaming’ services. Business like Netflix, Stan, and Foxtel (among hundreds of others) are all intertwined in people’s everyday lives. They make it so simple to just unwind, watch an episode of your favourite show, watch another episode of your favourite show, and then fall asleep watching a third. While being convenient, cheap and simple, these streaming services are also part of the force sucking the magic out of television. Everyone in your family can watch something different at the same time, in different rooms of the same house.

A few of the many available streaming services

Popularity of streaming sites says lots about our generation. We definitely are more open to the idea of binge-watching whole series than we once were. I don’t think laziness is the only factor in play here though.

With streaming sites, we are able to access so much more content than that which we would on the television. Content from all over is suddenly in the palm of our hands. It’s not only British and American television, but masses of media coming from countries that don’t even share the same dialect, such as Korea, Japan, France, and Norway. I want to introduce the term cultural proximity. A 2008 article in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media defines cultural proximity as ‘the intuitively appealing notion that people will gravitate toward media from their own culture.’ When we are crossing cultural boundaries with our media, there is the always going to be the problem of how well it will translate into a new cultural region. For example, something that many Australians find humorous, may fall flat on American audiences. Case in point with the series Kath and Kim, an Australian situational comedy focusing on a ‘bogan’ mother and daughter duo. While widely popular in Australia, an American version was commissioned to try and tap into a seemingly popular market. Unsurprisingly, a television show based solely off Australian humour did not go down well in the states, getting the can after barely one season.

American Kath and Kim vs Australian Kath and Kim

While streaming and globalisation has definitely played a part in creating a wider cultural understanding, it also needs to pick moments. It is important that we realise what can and can’t translate, as well as whether there is a need at all for appropriation at all!


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