How and why entertainment media are important to people
Entertainment diverts attention and amuses people in their leisure time. Usually, it's fun, enjoyable and pleasurable.
Image courtesy LoGoThEqUe
Entertainment is passive, such as watching movies, or active, such as playing sports. Recreation and hobbies entertain us.
Some criticize entertainment because it diverts time and resources from activities they consider meaningful.
Entertainment media deliver content that is diverting, amusing and enjoyable.
Where did entertainment come from?
Once humans were able to meet their basic needs for survival and still had extra time left over, there was a need for something to fill their spare time. That's where entertainment came in.
Who has time today for entertainment?
- The elite in ancient Egypt and China had musicians, dancers and acrobats at banquets.
- The leaders of ancient Rome created the Circus Maximus, a chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue. Eventually, they were staging as many as 200 holidays a year.
- A thousand years later, books appealed to the masses.
- With industrialization 400 years later came more leisure time. Popular entertainment in the 1800s included minstrel shows, traveling circuses, museums, horse racing and boxing.
- Later, people filled their spare time with magazines, recorded music, movies, radio, television, the Internet and now digital media.
These days about a third of our time is available for leisure activities.
Do entertainment media influence how we think?
- Our thirst for entertainment to fill that time drives the development of media technology that can deliver entertainment.
Much of the content produced for mass communication is intended to entertain.
What are entertainment media?
- Reading, watching and listening to media teach people about society's rules and how to fit in.
- Even journalism is moving toward becoming more entertaining.
- Entertainment media can mobilize the public to action. For instance, through books, television programs or movies about real events. An example might occur in sports entertainment when a riots breaks out in a city after a game telecast.
Entertainment content is found today in media such as books, magazines and newspapers, radio and television, movies and videos, music, games, websites and others. Here's more about some of them:
Books, magazines and newspapers
Many people still find reading to be a fun activity, despite some studies that indicate otherwise.
Television and radio
- Novels have a way of engaging media consumers with their stories.
- Magazines help guide people's social behavior as they show what a culture deems normal behavior.
- The inexpensive portability of books and magazines ensures they will continue to be popular forms of media entertainment for some time.
- Today their content is migrating from print-media formats to wireless Internet delivery systems. Technology enables reading to take place on electronic devices, online and on cell phones.
Television is a prominent means of receiving entertainment as well as news and advertising.
In the 1940s and 1950s when film processing was slow and expensive, programs were performed and broadcast live. Magnetic tape recording of TV shows began in the late 1950s.
- TV program types include situation comedies, dramatic anthologies, Western series, hosted children's shows, variety shows, sports events, news talk shows and others.
- It's been calculated that by the time today's teenagers are 75 years old, they are likely to have spent more than a dozen years of time watching television in one form or another. Remember, technology enables video viewing on electronic devices, online and on cell phones, not just on TV sets in living rooms and bedrooms.
Television networks were slow to respond to competition from cable and satellite. Cable channels had less FCC content restriction. Broadcast networks lost viewers when they were unwilling to take risks with innovative programming against cable's edgy shows.
- In the 1950s, TV became a mass medium with programs and talent from radio and the stage.
- The Ed Sullivan Show in1948 was the first variety series.
- I Love Lucy in the 1950s was the first half-hour TV sitcom.
- Howdy Doody was a popular children's show in the 1950s.
- Gunsmoke was a classic Western that migrated from radio to TV.
- In the 1960s, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) went on the air as a private, not-for-profit corporation owned by its member stations.
- Since 1969, Sesame Street has one of the most influential children's programs ever.
- In the 1970s, programs had more complex, realistic characters.
- The situation comedy All in the Family was the highest-rated program of the 1970s.
- Monday Night Football, in 1970, brought sports programming to prime time.
- In the 1980s, cable and satellite threatened the three network channels and public television.
- One popular new genre was the gritty police drama like Hill Street Blues.
- MTV and other specialized cable channels fragmented the audience.
- The Spanish-language network Telemundo was launched.
Movies, films, cinemas, videos
- Multichannel cable, satellite and Internet entertainment media pose strong challenges to once-popular broadcast programs such as soap operas. It's not that soap operas and other kinds of entertainment programs would disappear, but that they might migrate to cable, satellite and website delivery systems.
- HBO's The Sopranos series was the most watched show in the history of cable in 2002.
- The FX channel attracted 5 million viewers to its police drama The Shield.
- Once-popular daytime game shows mostly have been replaced by talk shows.
Whether in theaters, on television or the Internet, movies continue to be important media.
Nonfiction films, or documentaries, and fiction films, are different kinds of films.
The best-known fictional film genres are:
Economics, technology and audience tastes influence filmmaking.
- science fiction
Moviemakers often find their stories in other media, including popular novels and TV series, stage plays and classical dramas, video games and cartoons and the Internet.
Movies, typically, have been distributed by sales and rentals:
- Tickets to seats in theaters
- Videocassette tapes
- Internet streaming
Listening to music is a highly popular entertainment activity.
Music can stimulate group actions as well as alter the mood of an individual.
People use music to create their self-identities. Musical tastes define people within social groups.
Music, typically, has been distributed via airplay on radio and TV and by sales:
Video, electronic and online games
- Cassette tapes
- Internet downloading and streaming
A video game is an electronic entertainment form in which a player interacts with a display device.
Games are played on computers, consoles and mobile devices.
Popular games feature action and sports in which multiple players compete against each other.
What should we do about entertainment media?
- Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) or massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) allow many players to create characters and engage online.
- Some video games are used to teach history, politics, sociology and military tactics.
- People who aren't comfortable in regular society sometimes interact more effectively with others when playing online games.
- Elderly persons use video games for exercise and to enhance mental agility.
Entertainment is the primary reason people turn to media.
- Consumers should remain aware of entertainment media's ability to transmit cultural values and norms, including harmful stereotypes as well as uplifting values.
- Journalists should keep in mind their role of informing the public even if news coverage turns toward entertainment or focuses on stories about entertainment.
- People should not subside into a passive mode of media consumption without continuing to interact with each other.
Music and Popular Culture in America »
Film and Television Program Genres »
The Media of Mass Communication »
Books and their History »
History of Newspapers »
Brief History of Magazines »
Radio and Television History »
History of Film, Television and the Internet »
History of the World Wide Web »
New Media History »
What is Social Media? »
Resources for Courses »
© 2011 Dr. Anthony Curtis, Mass Communication Dept., University of North Carolina at Pembroke e-mail home page