Here to return to the previous page
- Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for "Culture of
English Speaking Countries Lessons" for Xiangtan Normal University...
WESTERN CULTURE AND SOCIETY: THE UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA (USA) -
From the 1950's to
1980's three privately owned television networks offered free
programs financed by commercials, they were NBC, CBS, and ABC -
controlling 90% of the TV market. Since the 1980's there has
been an increase in pay cable TV transmitted by satellite. By
1994, almost 60 percent of American households had subscribed to
cable TV. Among the new cable channels were several that show
movies 24 hours a day, channels such as MTV, which shows music
videos, and many news and entertainment channels.
A fourth major
commercial network, FOX, has expanded quickly, broadcasting local
and national shows.
There are over 300
public television stations across the United States, each of which
is independent and serves its community's interests. But the
stations are united by such national entities as the Public
Broadcasting Service, PBS, which supplies programming. American
taxpayers provide partial funding for public television.
The big Television
Networks have grown quickly, there are now many large broadcasters
who run many different TV stations.
Television shows are
divided up into different times of day: Daytime, Primetime and
There are many
successful shows which have been sold to many other countries
including the huge comedy - “Friends” - NBC’s worldwide hit
series, shown on primetime Thursday nights. “Friends”
continues as the number one comedy and top-rated 8 p.m. series on
television. comedy about six close-knit young friends living in
New York City.
Another top comedy -
“Ally McBeal” revolves around the life of a female lawyer,
Ally McBeal, working at a Boston law firm. She went to law school
at Harvard, where she was deeply in love with a man called Billy,
however Billy left, where he met his wife, Ally is still in love
with Billy and the drama follows their lives in and out of the
There are many
American Soap Operas - “Days of our Lives” which turns 36 this
November, first premiered as a half-hour drama in 1965 and
expanded to an hour 10 years later. Today, it remains a favorite
among viewers of daytime television. It is the top of NBC’s soap
opera lineup and a true classic in television history.
Many American soaps
feature very attractive cast members, unlike British soaps which
feature characters which are more true to life.
Drama - “ER” -
This drama series involves the overworked and underpaid doctors
working in an emergency department of a hospital. The show follows
their lives as they make life-and-death decisions every day. Very
popular show, made in America and exported to many other
Drama - “NYPD
Blue” is a police drama series. Set in the violent world of New
York City, NYPD Blue powerfully portrays realistic characters
devoting themselves to the pursuit of justice.
Talk shows - “The
Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” continues “The Tonight
Show’s” half-century tradition of entertaining viewers and
providing them with laughs on late night TV, a mix of talk,
interviews and comedy.
Quiz shows - “Who
Wants To Be A Millionaire” began in the United Kingdom in
September 1998. The series was a big hit there and still is —
hitting a ratings high of 19 million viewers. It premiered in the
United States on ABC on August 16, 1999, where it averaged about
29 million viewers per night in the 1999-2000 season. Now sold to
many countries outside of the UK.
News - There are
many local and national news channels. The most well know is CNN.
The beginning of
commercial radio broadcasts in 1920 brought a new source of
information and entertainment directly into American homes.
availability of television after World War II caused radio
executives to rethink their programming. Radio could hardly
compete with television's visual presentation of drama, comedy,
and variety acts; many radio stations switched to a format of
recorded music mixed with news and features. Starting in the
1950s, radios became standard accessories in American automobiles.
The medium enjoyed a renaissance as American commuters tuned in
their car radios on the way to work.
The expansion of FM
radio, which has better sound quality but a more limited signal
range than AM, led to a split in radio programming in the 1970s
and 1980s. FM came to dominate the music side of programming,
while AM has shifted mainly to all-news and talk formats.
Developed over the
past 25 years, talk radio features a host, a celebrity or an
expert on some subject, and the opportunity for listeners to call
in and ask questions or express opinions on the air. The call-in
format is now heard on nearly 1,000 of the 10,000 commercial radio
stations in the United States.
Besides the 10,000
commercial radio stations, the United States has more than 1,400
public radio stations. Most of these are run by universities and
other public institutions for educational purposes and are
financed by public funds and private donations. In 1991, more than
12 million Americans listened each week to the 430 public radio
stations affiliated with National Public Radio, a nationwide,
nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.
NEWSPAPERS (THE PRESS):
In 1990 the press
celebrated its 300th anniversary as an American institution. In
1734 the governor of New York charged John Peter Zenger, publisher
of the New York Weekly Journal, with seditious libel. Zenger's
lawyer, Alexander Hamilton, argued that "the truth of the
facts" was reason enough to print a story. In a decision
bolstering freedom of the press, the jury acquitted Zenger.
The "New York
Tribune" began in 1841, and it quickly became the nation's
most influential newspaper. Early in the 20th century, newspaper
editors realized that the best way to attract readers was to give
them all sides of a story, without bias. This standard of
objective reporting is today one of American journalism's most
important traditions. Another dominant feature of early
20th-century journalism was the creation of chains of newspapers
operating under the same ownership, today about 75 percent of all
U.S. daily papers are owned by newspaper chains.
The number of Sunday
papers rose from 497 in 1946 to 889 in 1994. The largest U.S.
newspapers have been losing circulation in recent years, a trend
that can be attributed to the increasing availability of news from
television and other sources.
The top five daily
newspapers by circulation in 1995 were the Wall Street Journal
(1,823,207), USA Today (1,570,624), the New York Times
(1,170,869), the Los Angeles Times (1,053,498), and the Washington
Post (840,232). The youngest of the top five, USA Today, was
launched as a national newspaper in 1982, after exhaustive
research by the Gannett chain. It relies on bold graphic design,
color photos, and brief articles to capture an audience of urban
readers interested in news "bites" rather than
traditional, longer stories.
New technology has
made USA Today possible and is enabling other newspapers to
enlarge their national and international audiences. USA Today is
edited and composed in Arlington, Virginia, then transmitted via
satellite to 32 printing plants around the country and two
printing plants serving Europe and Asia. The International Herald
Tribune, owned jointly by the New York Times and the Washington
Post, is a global newspaper, printed via satellite in 11 cities
around the world and distributed in 164 countries.
In 1893, the first
mass-circulation magazines were introduced, and in 1923, Henry
Luce launched "Time", the first weekly news magazine.
responded to a reduction in readers by trying to appeal more to
carefully defined audiences than to the public at large. Magazines
are now available on virtually any topic. TV Guide, Time, and
Newsweek, for example, also publish regional editions.
The number of
magazines published in the United States has risen, from 6,960 in
1970 to 11,000 in 1994. More than 50 magazines had a circulation
of over one million in 1994. The top two in circulation were both
aimed at retired persons: NRTS/AARP Bulletin (21,875,436) and
Modern Maturity (21,716,727). Rounding out the top five were
Reader's Digest (15,126,664), TV Guide (14,037,062), and National
In 1993, Time became
the first magazine to offer an on-line edition that subscribers
can call up on their computers before it hits the newsstands.
CURRENT MEDIA ISSUES: Many Americans
are disturbed by the amount of violence their children see on
television. In response to citizens' complaints and pressure from the
Congress, the four major TV networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox --
agreed in 1993 to inform parents of violent content at the beginning
of a program, and cable networks have agreed to give similar warnings.
In 1996, the commercial and cable networks went a step further and
established a rating system, based on the amount of violence, sexual
content, and/or profane language that a program contains. A symbol
indicating the show's rating appears on the television screen at the
beginning of, and intermittently during, the broadcast.
Such voluntary measures
seem preferable to government regulation of programming content, which
would probably violate the First Amendment. Another possible solution
to the problem is technological. Beginning in 1998 new television sets
sold in the United States will be equipped with a "V-chip,"
a device that will enable parents to block out programs they would
rather their children not see.
Similar complaints have
been voiced about the words and images accessible on computers.
Congress recently passed a law attempting to keep indecent language or
pictures from being transmitted through cyberspace, but a federal
court struck it down as unconstitutional. If this problem has a
solution, it probably lies either in close parental supervision of
children's time on the computer or the development of a technological
barrier to use of certain computer functions.
One of the most debated
media-related issues facing Americans today has little to do with
technology and much more to do with the age-old concept of personal
privacy: whether any area of a person's life should remain off-limits
once he or she becomes a public figure. In 1988, a leading
presidential candidate, Senator Gary Hart, withdrew from the race
after the press revealed his affair with a young woman. Politicians
from both parties complain that the press is "out to get"
them, and some conservative members of Congress assert that the media
are biased in favor of liberals. Many critics believe that increased
prying by the media will deter capable people, regardless of their
beliefs, from going into politics.
On the other hand, in
the old days reporters virtually conspired with politicians to keep
the public from knowing about personal weaknesses. President Franklin
Roosevelt's crippled body was not talked about or photographed, and
his poor physical health was kept from the electorate when he ran for
a fourth term in 1944. A majority of voters might have chosen
Roosevelt anyway, but shielding them from the facts seems dishonest to
most Americans today, who believe that in a democracy it is better to
share information than to suppress it.