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INTRODUCTION

We are studying the influencing factors of selected Music Television (MTV)

programs on urban college students. We chose MTV because it’s a youth oriented

channel that targets youth in their programming exposing them to the American

culture. According to MTV Asia (www.mtvasia.com), The Top 4 programs in Asia

are Laguna Beach / The Hills (a spinoff of Laguna Beach), My Super Sweet Sixteen

and Pimp My Ride as shown by the television ratings. Besides that, we also aim find

out if the term MTV Generation is very much happening today.

The issue with MTV is an on-going problem because many researchers

have studied the effects of television on people before but they’ve never really

identified the influence of certain programs. We’ve identified and chosen the top 4

programs which are Laguna Beach; a show that documents the daily lives of the

glamorous teens living in Laguna Beach, California through their many scandalous

love affairs and complicated friendships, The Hills; a spinoff of Laguna Beach but

instead of the beach, it is classified under reality television that sets in New York and

LA; My Super Sweet Sixteen; a show that documents the preparations of the rich

kids following their birthday parties; and Pimp My Ride where old cars are

modified, giving them a whole new look.

We decided to focus on urban college students because of the diverse

population.

We hypothesized that the students are in fact being influenced by the

selected programmes especially in their language, behaviour, fashion and even

values. To a certain extent, we hypothesized that the way they treat the opposite sex

is also being influenced by the selected programmes. The research questions we have

achieved are:

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1) Does the student’s social skills such as their way of communicating, acting and

dressing match to those portrayed by the selected programs?

2) What are the values that the selected programs wish to introduce?

3) What is the level of influence of the selected programs on the college students?

LITERATURE REVIEW

Numerous studies have been done on the subject of MTV and its influence.

However, most researchers only studied the general concept of MTV and its

influence as a whole. The only way to have a more in depth understanding is to first

identify the most influential programmes and then only the influence of the

programmes on the culture of students such as language, fashion, values and its

relevance on their lives.

According to a study done by Thelen, K (n.d) Music Television and Social

Identity: A Study of First Year College Students and Sophomores, “Music television

has been identified as a socializing agent for first year college students and

sophomores with an audience of 210 million people in 78 countries in year 1994”

according to Walker and Bender. This shows that MTV is no longer just another

television station; It has evolved into something personal or rather as a tool for

socialization over the years.

Thelen added that “MTV is a major influence in the lives of young adults.

Young adults are characterized as people in the age range of 17 to 23 (Hepburn,

1998). MTV not only provides music videos or short films for songs, but it also

allows for a young adult to see what would be considered in style” and MTV has

diversified their programs and it’s no longer about the music but the cult success of

miniseries such as Laguna Beach and / or The Hills.

According to a study done by Geary, (2002) Using Global Media to Reach

Youth: The 2002 MTV Staying Alive Campaign.

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http://pdf.dec.org/pdf_docs/Pnadc579.pdf(accessed August 30, 2008) that the “Girls

in secondary schools in Kathmandu change from saris to blue jeans after seeing the

latest fashions on MTV India. Teenagers in São Paulo say they are hooked on the

popular American television sitcom Friends.” This shows that the influences exist

but many people just don’t notice it because to them, Western influence is considered

a lifestyle and they conform to it for the fear of being ostracized by their peers.

Geary also added that “Western media and globalization are promoting

materialism and serving to homogenize culture rather than celebrate diversity,

especially through the impact on young people. Youth are seen as the part of society

that is most likely to engage in a process of cultural borrowing that is disruptive of

the reproduction of traditional cultural practices.” This is very true since youth

nowadays are so used to the way of life as portrayed by MTV that they don’t realise

that they’re adopting another culture. The subject of materialism is in terms of

monetary as seen in miniseries such as Super Sweet Sixteen and The Hills.

According to Hannigan, J. (2002) Culture, Globalization, and Social

Cohesion: Towards a De-territorialized, Global Fluids Model. Canadian Journal of

Communication, Vol. 27, No.2, “globalization inevitably leads to uniformity; as the

lifestyles and values of the core capitalist societies roll out across the globe,

peripheral societies are inundated by a tidal wave of images derived from American

popular culture” Since we’re also addressing the term of American popular culture, it

means the influence of brands such as McDonalds, Coca Cola, Nike, MTV, etc.

As mentioned above, it shows that the reason why college students’ get

influenced is because of the uniformity. In order for them to be accepted or fit in,

they must conform to certain behaviours and mass produced culture such as the

culture of McDonaldlization where a common culture is shared and adopted by a

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community is mainly due to branding and consumerism which in turn became peer

pressure.

As mentioned by Wong, J. (2001) Here’s Looking At You: Reality TV, Big

Brother and Foucault . Wilfrid Laurier University. Canadian Journal of

Communication, Vol. 26, No.4, “Individuals are drawn to reality TV shows because

they are simply curious about the private lives of others. These programs provide an

opportunity for them to peer into their neighbours’ lives, something which would not

otherwise be possible in everyday life. “ it is agreed that the appeal factor of reality

TV is very much about the lifestyles of others.

To some, their lives are considered mundane and the lives of others are more

appealing and interesting. That is why reality TV shows like The Simple Life (Paris

Hilton), Living Lohan (Ali Lohan), My Life on the Fab Lane (Kimora Lee

Simmons), and It’s Complicated (Denise Richards) are instant, huge success.

As mentioned by Moyer-Guse, E. (2008) Toward a Theory of Entertainment

Persuasion: Explaining the Persuasive Effects of Entertainment-Education

Messages. Communication Theory Journal, Vol. 18, No.3 “ Viewers involvement

with the narrative itself as well as with characters, defining and distinguishing

several related constructs such as identification, wishful identification, parasocial

interaction....” This means that the more involved the viewers are, the more

influenced they become.

She also added that “television can teach the risks and responsibilities that

accompany sexual activity in a way that books, pamphlets and classroom

instructions cannot, by portraying the experiences of sexually active individuals with

whom adolescents identify” that describes why youth or college students are

influenced by the selected MTV programs.

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“The desire to emulate the figure” (Giles, 2002,p.12) re affirms the point that

college students are at an impressionable age and they tend to follow or emulate their

role models who are those cool people on MTV. For example, Lauren Conrad (LC)

of the Laguna Beach and The Hills fame is a very popular celebrity right now and is

often referenced for her fashion sense.

Cohen, J. (2008) What I Watch and Who I Am: National Pride and the

Viewing of Local and Foreign Television in Israel. Journal of Communication, Vol.

58, No.1 “Enjoying US produced television programs and endorsing consumerism”

and later, “Greater admiration for American culture” (Tan, Tan & Gibson, 2003;

Weimann, 1984; Zaharapoulos, 2003) shows that the saturation of American identity

is pretty much alive in all parts of the world.

According to Bucy, E.P and Grabe, M.E (2007) Taking Television Seriously.

Journal of Communication, Vol 57, No. 4 “Visual experience is the dominant mode

of learning” and followed by “The use of language and the act of reading are

relatively influential to complex social behaviour” Like semiotics, everything has a

meaning and only those who are aware and educated with the culture will know the

meaning behind certain semiotics. In this case by Bucy and Grabe, they suggested

that for a person to learn and adopt another culture, they’ll have to view it on

television.

Davison, W.P. (1983) The Third Person in Communication. Public Opinion

Quarterly, 47, 1-15 states that, “a communication leads to action not because of its

impact on those to whom it is ostensibly directed but because others think it will

have an impact on the audience” means that instead of directly influencing college

students, they have to influence other groups that has the power to influence the

college students. For example, Instead of targeting the students, they just have to

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influence the MTV VJs such as Denise, or Taya to dress or speak in a way and the

students will follow suit.

“Entertainment based television are particularly influential in forming and

maintaining impressions” said by Kim, Y.M and Vishak, J. (2008) Entertainment

Media and Political Information. Journal of Communication, Vol. 58, No. 2 is

consistent with the fact that the evolution of LC from Laguna Beach to The Hills. To

maintain the influence of the viewers, they have to come up with a spin off of

Laguna Beach.

King, R and Craig, T.J. Asia and Popular Global Culture: The View from Ye

Hong’s Garbage Dump.

http://www.ubcpress.ca/books/pdf/chapters/craigking/intro.pdf (accessed on October

8, 2007) mentioned that, “Satellites that beam MTV and other Western images into

Asian homes, spearheaded the pop-culture invasion that has captured the hearts of

Asia’s urban youth and challenged existing cultures, of both the traditional

indigenous and the austere official kind” The Western modernization and Asian

culture has always been debated because the generation now are quickly adopting the

Western culture and many researchers blame it on the television.

RESEARCH METHODS

We utilized focus group as our primary research methods since focus groups

are one of the most widely and most fundamental research techniques since they

enable researchers to obtain information that’s they cannot gain be observation alone.

(Devaus, 1990)

Our focus group comprises mainly of our classmates whom were between

the ages of 19 to 23 years old, watches the 4 programmes on MTV. We started the

Focus Group by showing them the opening videos of Laguna Beach, The Hills and

Pimp My Ride. We couldn’t get the opening video for Super Sweet Sixteen so we

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showed them a promo poster. We got positive remarks from the videos but the poster

generated some negative comments. After that, we showed them some photographs

depicting the cast from MTV The Hills in their clothes and some traditional

costumes such as Baju Kurung, Cheongsam, and Saree.

Our focus group was mainly college students and spends an average of 5

hours watching MTV.

The focus group interview will be moderated and the questions will be

asked by Adam while the whole filming and recording will be done by Michelle.

After that, the interview will have to be inscribed by the both of us.

FINDINGS/RESULTS

“Most girls in college do dress like that” (points towards the picture of The

Hills) This is very important because we know for certain that girls in college are

being influenced by The Hills. According to Thelen, K (n.d), “Music television has

been identified as a socializing agent for first year college students and sophomores.

To avoid being ostracized by their peers, they tend to dress in the way to blend in.

“They’re so spoilt, we don’t yell at our parents just because we don’t get

what we want!” We got this reaction from one of our participants when we asked

them to state the differences in terms of culture from the MTV programmes and the

local Asian context. This quote is important as it shows the differences between the

characters in My Super Sweet Sixteen and the students. Besides that, it also tells us

that to a certain extent that they’re not entirely being influenced by MTV programs.

King, R and Craig, T.J mentioned that MTV has ‘captured the hearts of Asia’s urban

youth and challenged existing cultures’ which is only true to a certain extent.

“If we had the money, we would want to dress and lead their lifestyles.” As

mentioned by Geary, (2002) “Western media and globalization are promoting

materialism” and this statement is justified.

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“The Hills are way better than Laguna Beach, maybe because, LC is like,

more grown up and her job at Teen Vogue is just so amazing!!” This quotation was

made by one of the female respondents and it summarizes that most of the

respondents are more interested in The Hills because of the glamorous lifestyle of

the main character and that she isn’t as bratty as in Laguna Beach but rather more as

a mature adult in The Hills.

“Bling is the new diamond and Grillz is the new braces.” This was said by

one of the respondents reacting to the new slang that X-hibit the host of Pimp My

Ride introduced. The traditional connotation of diamond, house and even braces are

being changed into a more Hip Hop language such as Bling, Ice, Crib, and Grillz that

many students are adding into their vocabulary. This is another proof that students

are being influenced.

“Hate them” is the general reaction of the whole class when we asked them

what they thought about Super Sweet Sixteen. This also confirms that the least

influential program is My Super Sweet Sixteen.

Before the focus group, we hypothesized that the students are being

influenced but after the focus group we realised that the influenced was limited to

only their language and their clothes. We also found out that students are selective

about the programs that they watch.

They tend to watch programs that match their values. For example, they

disliked My Super Sweet Sixteen because the characters were spoilt brats, rude and

arrogant. We didn’t expect this because Super Sweet Sixteen is the epitome of the

lifestyle of the rich and the famous. They especially hated that the characters yell at

their parents and the excessive use of profanities throughout the show at their peers

and their parents.

DISCUSSION

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The problems that we faced are the numerous data gathering and

interpretation problems since we have to record what every focus group participant

said. Some focus group participants did not speak coherently and articulately

resulting in some sort of miscommunication.

Besides that, the level of understanding of the subjects was also a potential

problem. Since we related better to our subjects, we understood it better because we

are from the same age cohort, and we do watch MTV and we do get influenced by

MTV.

For example, we based this research on our understanding and our

perspective while older researchers could only associate the research with theories

and finding but not really understanding. The time constraint issue is another factor

since the time given is limited.

Lastly, other limitations such as financial constraints and also technical

problems because one of our recording was deleted due to a faulty device but thank

God for the supporting cameras.

Another issue that we wanted to address is the geographic factor. This study

is done in an urban geography where the people are generally English speaking and

of Middle Upper class. It would be interesting to find out about the level of influence

on the rural Lower class which do not speak English.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the programs on MTV are very influential to impressive to

college students. However, the geographical and cultural limits and restricts the

influences. There are certain Asian values that just cannot be influenced by the

Western values.

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We also would also like to note that the level of influence is average in our

college due to the social class and financial limitations. But if given the financial

ability, they will not hesitate to lead the lifestyles as shown on television.

We can also conclude that our college students are somewhat ego centric and

conservative. They tend to only consume programmes that are somewhat similar to

their values.

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