Finnish Views of CNN Television News
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Book abstract:

The integration of European economies and increasing demand for more advertising outlets in European markets is forcing governments to deregulate, re-structure and commercialize the long-established, non-commercial public-service broadcasting monopolies which have traditionally dominated public discourse. This restructuring and commercialization of the means by which public information is distributed in Europe is accompanied by changes in the prevailing structure of the language of public discourse.

Cable News Network (CNN), as an all-news network available in Europe by satellite and cable, has proven to be a popular and accessible model which can be studied and emulated. CNN's attraction to European broadcasters, however, is not its 24-hour news, but its experienced and professional use of the American commercial discourse style.

The present study focuses on the historical, political, economic and ideological origins of the American commercial discourse style, and critically analyzes it with the cross-cultural assistance of a Finnish audience, an audience which does not yet accept this style implicitly as "news." Also included in this analysis of commercial news discourse is an investigation of phenomena which may cause misunderstandings, also known as gaps, or "lacunae," in the decoding of meaning as presented by CNN in the American commercial style and received by Finnish audiences. Differences in perceptions of CNN's messages are explored and analyzed cross-culturally in order to uncover and expose the "taken-for-grantedness" of the commercial discourse style. Other aspects of the commercial discourse style are studied as well, including the practice of framing the news and concision.

Acta Wasaensia No. 43, 337 p. [ISBN 951-683-567-8]
Copyright © 1999 by Brett Dellinger. All rights reserved.
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Finnish Views of CNN Television News: A Critical Cross-Cultural Analysis of the American Commercial Discourse Style.

by Brett Dellinger

"Finnish Views of CNN Television News" by Brett Dellinger
"Because of the structures of the various discourses within this broadcast genre, structures which were imposed by the pressures of its encompassing commercial objectives and design, it has an inherent inability to communicate information in the same way as the written word."

"CNN's format is a proven competitive broadcasting commodity while other formats, and discourse styles, are not competitive and will have more difficulty attracting audience attention in a predominantly commercial environment."

"Cueing ... as an artificial contrivance becomes a complex phenomenon, one which, after time, can develop into a formalized and familiar cultural experience whose frame becomes ritualized."

"The American public got what many critics and "conspiracy theorists" did not entirely expect: Instead of the "jackboot" and fascist-style propaganda, American television viewers got an endless stream of entertainment..."

"Stuart Hall ... sees the operation of the media within western capitalist societies as "all inclusive." The media shape our tastes and our desires--as well as our expectations. There is 'a shaping of the whole ideological environment ... a way of representing the order of things ... with ... natural or divine inevitability ....'" 

To Finns, it seems, American television news is read "with a gleeful smile and interspersed with laughter, punctuated by frowning--as if ... emotions were totally disconnected from the text.  American audiences ... expect "happy talk" and banter during a news broadcast. Finns, on the other hand, associate such behavior with clowns..."

Chapter 8 was published separately  in Mediapolis: Aspects of Texts, Hypertexts und Multimedial Communication under the title: "Concision in American Commercial Broadcasts." For more information Mediapolis, see Sam Inkinen, the editor, in Research in Text Theory Untersuchungen zur Texttheorie, a series edited by János Petöfi.

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