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Is reality real? Protecting the viewers through informative disclaimers

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  1. Introduction
  2. Categories of reality television
  3. History of the quiz-show scandal
  4. Forms of deception in reality programming
  5. From the quiz-show scandal to present day enforcement of section 317 by the F.C.C.
  6. Pros and cons of product placement in reality programming
  7. The pros and cons of regulation
  8. Conclusion

Reality television has swept America over like an epidemic. Almost every channel has some form of a reality show. This genre began in 1989 with the creation of COPS and America's Funniest Home Videos. Only three years later MTV aired the first episode of The Real World. After that, reality programming became quite popular. Numerous broadcasting companies began airing their own form of reality television. This rise in reality programming has transformed television viewing over the past 20 years. Although not all reality programming is identical, they all share common qualities. These qualities usually consist of real everyday people put on television for their moment of fame and/or change in their present situation. In these past two decades, reality television has diverged in all different directions. Now reality television as a genre by itself is too broad to describe in detail. Therefore, in order to understand and effectively regulate reality programming, the different types of reality programming must be broken down into sub-categories. These sub-categories of reality are competitive, sitcom, popular, documentary, viral, and remake reality.

[...] Podlas describes numerous occasions where this manipulation occurs, judge on MTV?s Surf Girls accused producers of manipulating which contestants remained on the show Project Runway contestant Wendy Pepper was a plant or at least was spared from eliminations so that she could continue her role as foil?15 Finally, the most influential use of this collusion was committed by Mark Burnett, the producer of the first installment of Survivor. Burnett was accused of intervening and persuading contestants to vote off contestant Stacey Stillman in order to preserve another contestant Rudy Podlas Cardozo Arts & Ent. L.J. at 162-163. Id. at Boesch from being eliminated. [...]


[...] In order to inform the viewers of this false content, a disclaimer system for reality programming should be required. An article that touches on this topic describes the creation of the quiz-show statute, and the lack of protection it has over reality programming.8 The author, Kimberlianne Podlas, a professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, goes in depth regarding the deceptive nature of reality programming.9 She discusses reality programming?s use of video editing, collusion between certain contestants and producers otherwise known as ?artifice or scheme?, secret assistance to advance contestants further through the show, and causing contestants to refrain from trying to win. [...]


[...] Finally, the most important quality of all is the entertainment. People enjoy these programs simply because it is mindless television, otherwise known as T.V.?. People who watch these programs know the lack of storylines or plot twists, but that appeal could prove potentially harmful for future generations. It is harmful because it is depriving society of real creativity with little to no positive message. However, it opens up the opportunity for any individual to come up with a hit reality program, as long as the same dramatics are included. [...]


[...] Quiz show sponsors in particular recognized that some contestants were more popular than others, a fact that could be used to increase audience size. They required and advocated the rigging of the programs to create a desired audience identification with these popular contestants.12 This identical reliance on popular contestants is found in today?s reality programming. The only clear example of a cast that took advantage of this reliance for their own benefit is the cast of Jersey Shore. They used their own popularity in order to secure up to $30,000 per episode during the third season?s airing.13 C. [...]


[...] Moreover, there is a lot of leeway for the results to be compromised. The fourth category, documentary reality, airs individuals or groups of people performing occupations or being put in situations that are not common to the everyday individual. Examples of these programs would be Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs, Man vs. Wild, etc. These programs give the viewers the opportunity to see or learn a little more than the previous categories Although the dramatics may still be involved, they usually do not take the focus off the main point of the program itself, giving the viewer a glimpse into a completely different career path or life situation. [...]

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