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Dr. Petroski
Dr. Petroski
Posts : 22
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Join date : 2018-05-16

The Economics of Morality

on Thu May 24, 2018 9:07 pm
While much of the research surrounding the form and function of media framing tends to be situated around an assumption that different content producers have different personal and political interests, prominent media scholar Ron Tamborini proposes a slightly different approach: the economics of morality.

In his model of moral intuition in media entertainment, or MIME, Tamborini (2011) suggested that while the content in much of our entertainment and informational media is often rooted in moral issues—battles of moral right and moral wrong—the reasons behind these content productions are economic. Tamborini argues that content producers are aware that “drama sells,” but they are also aware that different audiences have very distinct moral orientations, what he refers to as morality subcultures. For a broadcaster, producing content that violates the moral orientations of the intended audiences will likely result in very unpopular, unsuccessful, and potentially troubling broadcast (for example, the program was reported to the FCC for violating community standards of decency—themselves often rooted in moral rather than legal considerations). Thus, producers are likely to create content that upholds and supports rather than violates and challenges predominant moral orientations. In fact, research applying MIME has suggested, for example, newspaper headlines in more liberal or conservative parts of the United States to generally present news in a more liberal or conservative manner, respectively, and that many popular sitcoms and soap opera programs tend to present a more conservative view on such cultural taboos as alcoholism, adultery, and spousal abuse. In addition, there is emerging research to suggest that differences in media content and preference across cultures can often be attributed to differences in the moral standards between, for example, U.S. Latino and non-Latino populations (soap opera content) and U.S. and German television audiences (the former preferring more sitcoms and the latter preferring more news programming).

Yet, as media becomes increasingly narrowcasted or tailored, how important do you think it is for producers to understand the morality subcultures of their audiences? Do you think there few or many morality subcultures? Can you identify newer programs that seem to tap into larger or smaller morality subcultures?

Dr. Petroski
Department of Communication
Southern Connecticut State University
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