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A Reality Check for Reality TV

March 13th, 2005 · No Comments

Some of you know that I take surveys as a source of supplemental income. Let me state at this point that I did not join such a program because I received a spam email about it. When you receive spam mails telling you that you can make money by taking surveys, what really happens is that you submit a profile about yourself — name, address, age, interests, etc. — and they sell that information to marketers. You will never take another survey, they just take the data you provided and sell it to other companies interested in selling you something.

In contrast, the surveys I take are distributed directly by the marketing department at Time Warner. I got involved in the survey taking business because I participated in a workplace contest. It was sponsored by Teen People magazine, and I’ll admit, I never thought I’d ever hear from them again. The point of the original promotion was to take people that had boyfriend or girlfriend and test who knew who better. I won, of course, because I’m an incredibly attentive guy. We turned our surveys back in, and I was given a prize. Ironically, my prize was eaten before I got to it *grumbles*. In any event, we received a letter asking if we’d be interested in participating in another promotion. They asked us to do another survey type activity. Within a few weeks, we received a much larger envelope that contained a copy of both Teen People and People magazine. Along with the magazines was a comprehensive survey related to the advertisements in the magazine. They told us that no matter what, the magazines were ours to keep, but that they’d like to get our feedback in exchange for a small cash compensation. We took the surveys, and since then, have been a regular part of the Time Warner marketing repertoire.

The latest set of surveys have been about reality TV. The survey was filled with questions about how reality TV made me feel. Well, I had a lot to say. I hate reality TV (but you’ll see there is more about why below). At the end of the survey which consisted of yes/no questions or “choose a few” type questions. They left space at the bottom of the last page for a few lines of text if you had any additional comments. This is what I wrote to them:

I watch reality TV because that’s what’s on. Reality TV is cheap to produce, and people watch it, making it very profitable. I like reality dating shows like “Elimidate” because they really go to show how competitive people can be, and a failed date is embarassing but not really hurtful to one’s life. Here is the problem: some people must agree with me when I say that reality TV is hurting our culture. Shows like “The Apprentice”, “The Swan”, “Married by America”, and “The Real World” are produced in such a way that make the state of humanity seem bleak. I would hope that not everyone in the world is so greedy, or so superficial. I see through it and realize every day that we really are not so bad, overall. But I think that some people walk away from these shows with bad feelings, and really get hurt by watching these shows. Television broadcasters have a responsibility to broadcast better content — shows that use the medium to accomplish something or enhance our culture. They should feel obligated to do something better — something positive for the world. What do people outside the U.S. think when they see these shows? I’m sure you have market data on that. Also, I’m sure that you too are concerned about these issues, judging by some of the questions that were asked on this survey. I implore the executives at all television stations to merely consider the consequences of their programming, and not just the economics benefits. There are more people in the world than just shareholders. All I ask you to do is think about it.

It’s interesting to me that someone at Time Warner actually will read what I wrote. Maybe if everyone that hated reality TV wrote letters like this, they’d stop clogging the airwaves with garbage like “American Idol”.

Tags: Business · Complaint Department · My Thoughts

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