2.2 What is Infotainment?
2.2.1 Definition of “Infotainment”
2.2.2 The long tradition of Infotainment
2.2.3 The characteristics of Infotainment
3. Examples of Infotainment
4. Problems of Infotainment
4.1 Ethic Problems
4.3 Exposure of privacy and voyeurism
4.4 Problem of actuality
4.5 Construction of reality
4.6 Faking the news
Through Globalisation the world of media changes rapidly. The commercial driven model of popular television spread all over the world and is now present everywhere. Especially the privatisation of the media has led to growing competition and, linked with that, to a change in journalism. (Thussu 2007: 2)
Television has become commercialized, the most important for a media institution is to catch as many people’s attention as possible. And to attract people, especially news has to be entertaining. This mix of information and entertainment is called “Infotainment”. This term is often used in the communication studies and has its origin in the 80s. Infotainment means entertaining news for everybody but also a loss in quality. Especially the shelter of topics has changed through Infotainment. Nowadays human interest topics seem to be much more interesting than politics, economics and society.
This paper wants to describe what Infotainment is, how it can be characterised, when it started and, of course, what problems can be connected with Infotainment.
As already mentioned, Infotainment is a very present topic not only in the communication studies but also in sociology, psychology and so on. In this paper we often refer to the book of Daya Kishan Thussu “News as Entertainment” which was written in 2007. Moreover we have quotations of Prof. Rudi Renger, who has worked a lot with the topics popular entertainment, tabloidization and Infotainment.
The reason why we decided to write about Infotainment is that we all observed that media content in many channels is the same. No matter what channel you watch you get the same news about Heidi Klum’s divorce or Lady Gaga’s new style everywhere. The prom news seems to be so dominant and important in the media these days that you can’t escape from them. So we asked ourselves, why does the media develop in this direction and why does the media content changed in this way? Infotainment was the answer for us. Infotainment is the main essence of the media today. So we picked this topic and decided to get answers to the following research questions:
- What is Infotainment?
- How did it start?
- What are the problems about Infotainment?
The content of our paper is splat in three main chapters. The first chapter describes and defines the main terms. These are Tabloidization as the beginning of Infotainment, Infotainment itself, including its historic aspect and its characteristics. When the discussion comes to the characteristics of Infotainment, two main aspects are quite dominant: Personalisation and Emotionalisation. These two terms are also described in the first main chapter. The second chapter is more pragmatic. It gives concrete examples for Infotainment in television but also in other kind of media. Through these examples we would like to illustrate the characteristics of Infotainment in a practical way. The third and last main chapter handles the problems that are linked with Infotainment. These are ethic problems, sensationalism, exposure of privacy, voyeurism, the problem of actuality, construction of reality and the faking of news. More detailed information to these problems are, as already mentioned, in the third chapter. In a following conclusion we summarize the main points and give a last comment to this topic.
The following chapter describes the most important terms that are connected with Infotainment and defines the term Infotainment itself. The main terms that are linked with Infotainment are Tabloidization, as the “mother” of infotainment and the reason for its upswing, Personalisation and Emotionalism which are the main characteristics of Infotainment.
Tabloidization is a phenomenon that can be noted all over the world. Especially in the last decades it has developed to a strong force that changed the media rapidly. Tabloidization means that the media gets part of the entertainment industry instead of providing a forum for informed debate. It changes from a source that provides public information to its marked-led opposite, the tabloid. But what is Tabloid. Sparks describes it as following:
The tabloid is a form marked by two major features: it devotes relatively little attention to politics, economics, and society and relatively much to diversions like sports, scandal, and popular entertainment; it devotes relatively much attention to the personal and private lives of people, both celebrities and ordinary people, and relatively little to political processes, economic developments, and social changes. (Sparks 2000: 10)
According to Renger the tabloidization is no recent phenomenon. He claims that since 150 years this development can be noted. (Renger 1999: 145)“. Thussu says that it all started in the 1980s, years before media globalization. In the early 90s the number of different TV channels expanded and news became faster. This rise in speed and quantity was the first step to a loss in quality. (Thussu 2007: 3) Franklin observed that also in Britain by the late 90s the priorities of journalism had changed. These days entertainment seemed to be more important for the readers than information. Human interest had more value than public interest.
Measured judgement has succumbed to sensationalism; the trivial has triumphed over the weighty; the intimate relationships of celebrities, from soap operas, the world of sport or the royal family, are judged more ‘newsworthy’ than the reporting of significant issues and events of international consequence. Traditional news values have been undermined be new values; ‘infotainment’ is rampant. (Franklin 1997: 4)
Also in Western Europe the tabloidization in television was taking over. And although there have been many different channels, the contents got nearly the same. A survey in 2004 of media content across Europe by the Open Society Institute noted that despite the availability of thousands of channels, the contents nowadays are similar. The survey also showed that investigative journalism and minority programming have become scarce commodities in both public and commercial TV. (Open Society Institute 2005: 22)
Moving away from a public-service news agenda, the media develops a more marked-led ‘tabloid-version’ of the news with its emphasis on human-interest topics, sports and entertainment. (Thussu 2007: 5) Especially the news in TV is changing rapidly.
Renger says that the term „Tabloidization” describes two scenarios. On the one hand it describes the increasing circulation of the tabloid in the media. More and more people get attracted by the tabloid press and especially by popular television. As a result of this, the tabloid dominates the media market. On the other hand tabloidization means, that quality papers in order to reach many people, adopt the tabloid techniques. (Sparks/Tulloch 2000: 21).
The development from “hard” news to “soft” news is often caused by the pressure of concurrences (Renger 2000: 19). The media tries to get as much consumers as possible and because people’s expectations are changing, also the media develops new techniques to reach them. The best way to catch people’s attention nowadays is to entertain them with topics out of people’s surroundings. These so called human interest topics are, according to Renger mainly the following: love, criminality, luck, death, tragedy, temptation, longings, sex, sorrows, wealth, dreams, the good and bad, charisma and humour. (Renger 1999: 165) The most important task of the Tabloidization is the entertainment of the audience (Renger 2000: 20) Tabloidization is characterized by the rise of emotional and sensational news. Especially politic news is getting more emotional and entertaining.
Tabloidization is often seen as a synonym for entertainment without borders. (Püschel 1998: 35) So the term „tabloidization“ is seen as negatively in the communication studies as „entertainment“, although entertainment is a public task of the media. (Püschel 1998: 35)
Nevertheless entertainment, especially in the news, is seen as „problematic“. The reason therefore is that the news is expected to provide information at least and this is connected with seriousness. Seriousness and entertainment seem to be two different pares of shoes. (Püschel 1998: 36).
According to Schmidt tabloidization means a new form of journalism. This is manifested by short headlines and topics that catch people’s attention. Through tabloidization the borders between information and entertainment get blurred and this means the spread of Infotainment. (Schmidt 1992: 47)
2.2 What is Infotainment?
2.2.1 Definition of “Infotainment”
Infotainment is a neologism that appeared in the late 1980s. It stands for all that is wrong in the contemporary television. Infotainment is a mix of the words “Information” and “Entertainment”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “Infotainment” is “broadcasting material which is intended both to entertain and to inform”. (Thussu 2007: 8)
Information in this context means to clarify specific facts (Schultheiss 2001: 34) and Entertainment means the pleasant and enjoyable reconciliation of free time (Bosshart 1991: 2).
2.2.2 The long tradition of Infotainment
“News as entertainment has a long and venerable tradition […]. Since the advent of mass media, there has been a tension between informing and educating the public and entertaining the crowd in the market place (Thussu 2007: 15)”. With the development of the first popular press the journalistic styles changed. Soon it was notable that people get attracted by the new form of content. Tabloidization and Infotainment have their origin in the USA. It all started with the “penny press” in the 1830s. This kind of newspaper was sold for one penny and contained lots of human interest stories. This type soon got exported to Europe, where it was known as the “yellow press”. Through Globalisation this US marked-driven model got adopted all over the Globe and the boundaries between journalism and entertainment got blurred worldwide. (Thussu 2007: 17)
The development of the popular press was also under the influence of the film and cinema at the turn of the twentieth century. This provided a new room for news and journalism and the authorities used the entertaining media for ideological purpose. Especially regimes from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union used entertainment for direct state propaganda. (Thussu 2007: 19f.) At this time the first director of the BBC John Reith described the potential of radio and television in his famous words “to inform, educate and entertain” the public. But he recognized that entertaining the public is the key to its success. (Thussu 2007: 21)
During the Cold War the television got more and more important. After 1989 market capitalism celebrated its triumph and the state-driven model of broadcasting got undermined. With the rise of private TV in the early 1990s Infotainment started to spread strongly all over the world. Even public-service broadcasters like the BBC are not immune to infotainment because entertainment is the most important force to get recipients. (Thussu 2007: 25-32)
2.2.3 The characteristics of Infotainment
The typical style of Infotainment television contains computer-animated logos, eye-catching visuals and rhetorical headlines. This kind of presenting has it’s origin in the ratings-driven commercial television news culture of the US. Tabloidization is increasingly becoming global as the news channels try to reach more and more viewers and concurrence is getting stronger. So the first task of Infotainment is to make news and politics interesting and entertaining. (Thussu 2007: 68) Thussu says that “the phenomenon of infotainment denotes a type of television news where style triumphs over substance, the mode of presentation becoming more important than the content (Thussu 2007: 8)”. This means to focus on “more emotive delivery, more use of graphics, and close attention to the youthful appearance of (female) on-air talent (Calabrese 2000: 51). This also includes “specific clothing fashion, hairstyles, body types, voice qualities, and personality traits that are most appealing to the audience (Sparks 2000: 51)”. People have great expectations of the TV speakers. They expect a sportsperson to be sporty, weathermen to be smiling and a radio lady to have good teeth. (Calabrese 2000: 52) Nowadays we have a huge amount of different TV channels and many people are just “zapping” trough. This is the reason why presentation is the most important to get people’s attention.
Infotainment provides stories for its consumers. It tries to search for the thrilling, special and surprising essence of an event and makes an entertaining, exciting story out of it. Wittwen mentions in this context some linguistic devices that are often used. These are for example exaggeration, alienation and the creation of a conflict. (Wittwen 1995: 15) Exaggeration is often used in headlines. The media uses keywords like „horror“, „terrorism“, „catastrophe“ and others to catch people’s attention. Alienation means to leave the normal and try to search for interesting, special, surprising cases. Creation of a conflict is also a very common technique of the infotainment media. It means to search for the good and bad in every context and the will to create an interesting and exciting conflict that upsets people and draws their attention on it.
Infotainment often also works with celebrities. Rumours and scandals about the famous and rich people seem to be very interesting for the media consumers. These stories present a world that is unreachable for the most people. Moreover it satisfies people when they hear that also stars have problems and are not perfect. (Wegener 2000: 53f.)
But the strongest and most defining characteristics of Infotainment and the Tabloid itself are personalisation and emotionalism.
- Quote paper
- Bakk. Komm. Maria Vögele (Author), 2011, Infotainment. Characteristics, History and Problems, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/210681