THE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE YOUTHFULNESS: ANGLO-AMERICAN INFLUENCE THROUGH THE TV SCREEN.

1. Introduction

TV broadcasting is undoubtedly a very important medium in everybody's life. It has the amazing feature, among other things, of concentrating millions of individuals at the same time receiving the same kind of messages, right there: in front of the TV set. Therefore, the TV medium has great possibilities of being the most important value-sender in the world of mass communication.

To this respect, we can ask ourselves a question: would it be possible to claim that people's perceptions and points of view are, to some extent, influenced by the TV contents and values? Certainly we can argue that, at least, there is a sector in the TV audience that is very sensitive towards the TV stimuli due to its uneasy and impressionable nature: the young audience. They are, moreover, the social group that can be more straightforwardly influenced by foreign patterns since they easily assume them as natural ones, mainly the Anglo-American broadcasting patterns and values. It is obvious that, due to the transnationalization of TV broadcasting channels, foreign patterns come up on the screen (via terrestrial, satellite or cable) and impact directly on their young targets. What kind of effects can these patterns cause on the young population? Are these values jeopardizing the local culture?

The aim of this study is an attempt to analyze a certain American influence on the Norwegian teens through the Anglo-American TV soaps. The basic approach responds to a content analysis of the main values and patterns that these soaps bring to the TV screen and an observation of the level of persuasion that they can provoke on the teen concerning the construction of their own identity. Which are the main topics and values that these TV series bring out concerning the youth? Are these topics and values present in the teens' own definitions about themselves?

Hence, the present work consists of two main parts, a first part focusing on a content analysis of six current Anglo-American TV series broadcast on the Norwegian television and a second part comprising a questionnaire reception analysis amongst the audience (and non audience) of these series.

1.1 Cultural imperialism

The theoretical background of our research is based on the idea of cultural imperialism. This approach comprises one simple fact: the Anglo-American mass media monopoly in the world-wide dissemination of cultural products (i.e. cultural patterns and certain socio-psychological and political attitudes according to the capitalist interests) by an uni-lateral and uni-directional TV flow, exerting on the receiving societies a specific influence and causing global effects, like for instance, the freezing of the development of the local culture.

This cultural imperialism approach reports an Americanization of the European television that is attributed to two main factors:

a) The massive selling of USA programs (adventure, drama, TV films, soaps, etc.) for the European screen making the European channels dependent on the American supply and consequently, hampering their local own production.

b) The USA mergers in the European market which provokes the proliferation of American-owned TV channels broadcasting American products via satellite or cable all over the continent.

However, and on the top of that, Europe has not only been invaded by American productions, but European programs also copy USA standards in its presentation, contents and aesthetics (news, quiz shows, talk shows, reality shows, etc). Thus, the problem becomes not only a matter of a foreign cultural invasion but also a question concerning an important lack of creative productions in the European own TV market.

The cultural imperialism approach is somehow connected to the Frankfurt school theorists when they report the existence of both an electronic media exerting certain control over people's experience and a powerful backstage bloc dominating the society. If we certain take into consideration that the electronic media contribute to the creation of our cognitive world and experience, that the contents of the electronic media are mainly from the USA factory, that there is hardly any other cultural alternative or proposal in the ideational field, and that the TV exposure is quite high among the youngsters, we cannot deny that all these contributory factors may cause some effect on the audience. Especially, when these American TV soaps ideologically propagate and address certain moral codes, consumer attitudes and specific treatment of conflicts to the uneasy, predisposed and changeable nature of the young audience.

1.2 Some previous notes

Before commencing with our content analysis let us first set up a few starting points about the main elements comprising the TV analysis: the TV soaps, the TV audience and the TV series effects.

Regarding the TV soaps, we can affirm that the structure of the majority of them are based on proposals of specific lifestyle packages offered to the viewer and overtly assessed in a very positive way due, among other things, to its attractive aesthetics. From a Marxist perspective, we can claim that these TV proposals are filled with the dominant values of the society and aim at reinforcing and naturalizing the social status quo. The unproblematic/innocuous theme approach, the avoidance of reality, the dehumanization, the sweet or bitter sentimentalism, the entertainment and the evocation of fixed stereotyped associations can be some of the features of this TV genre.

Turning to the TV audience, many theorists coincide that they are not anymore a passive element in the communication process but an active one that intervene, modify and reconstruct the meaning of the message according to many intermediating factors. These factors can be personal (like the individual's personal values, beliefs, cognitive procedures, media use, gender or education) or socio-environmental (like the social class, the social environment, the group norms or the reception environmental conditions). Since young people compose our audience target, we have to take some especial considerations concerning some variables pertaining to the social group they belong. These variables are determined by the physical, biological, emotional social and cognitive transition that the youngsters are experimenting and unavoidable, this can cause important repercussion on the TV viewing turning it into an unstable and changeable process (in response to the youngsters' quick and growing changes and necessities).

With respect to the TV possible effects caused on an audience, it can be argued that they appear very difficult to prescribe due to the not proved direct connection between a TV stimuli and a consequent overt action and the difficulty to isolate that overt action and the elements intervening in it. Therefore, TV effects cannot be reported to provoke a straight influence on people's attitude and behavior, these effects are rather, considered to be just a contributive factor in the formation of the audience's opinion by awakening an arousal of latent desires and needs stemming from some other inputs.

2. TV content analysis

The TV series content analysis was developed regarding six Anglo-American soaps broadcast during November-December 1998 on the Norwegian television.

The six series were Parker Lewis (NRK), USA High (TVNorge), Dream Team (NRK2), Party of Five (TV2), Clueless (TVNorge) and Malibu Shores (TV3). In the next pages we offer a brief description of each one.

Parker Lewis can't lose - Basic sample description

• Name of the TV series: Parker Lewis can't lose.

• Producer company: Columbia Pictures Television.

• Nationality: USA.

• Broadcasting: NRK from Monday to Thursday.

• Duration: 30 minutes (approx.).

• Genre/Setting: surrealistic comedy.

• Story line: daily life of a group of students in a peculiar and odd high school where anything can happen. The leader or main character of the team is Parker Lewis, a resourceful and charismatic boy who has the ability to deal with almost any problem he or his friends' face in the crazy daily school life.

• Space: Interior.

• Action Structure: independent chapters divided into two abreast actions, one is the main story and the other is the secondary one.

• Footage analyzed: the sample of Parker Lewis was obtained from TV recording for two weeks from the 9th of November 1998 until the 19th of November 1998. It was stated that two weeks of recording would be enough to get a representative sample of the whole series.

USA High - Basic sample description

• Name of the TV series: USA High.

• Producer Company: NBS Enterprises.

• Nationality: USA.

• Broadcasting: TVNorge from Monday to Friday.

• Duration: 30 minutes (approx.).

• Genre/Setting: situation comedy.

• Story line: daily life of six students sharing an apartment in an USA high school located in Paris. Their different and sometimes crashing personalities provoke continuously funny confrontations between each other that become the main theme of each daily episode.

• Space: Interior.

• Action structure: Independent chapters divided into two abreast actions, being one the main story and the other the secondary one.

• Footage analyzed: the sample of this TV sitcom was taken from TV recording for a period of two weeks time from the 9th of November until the 19th of November 1998. It was taken for granted that two weeks time of recording could be a good representative sample of the whole series.

Clueless - Basic sample description

• Name of the TV series: Clueless.

• Producer company: Paramount.

• Nationality: USA.

• Broadcasting: TVNorge every Saturday and Sunday.

• Duration: 30 minutes (approx.).

• Genre /Setting: satire comedy.

• Story line: it narrates the daily life of a very popular girl in a grotesque and pathetic Beverly Hills high school.

• Space: mainly interior but also exterior.

• Action Structure: Independent episodes often divided in two abreast actions, being one the main story and the other a very secondary one.

• Footage analyzed: the sample of this TV comedy was taken all over November 1998, every Saturday and Sunday.

Dream Team - Basic Sample Description

• Name of the TV series: Dream Team.

• Producer company: Sky Television .

• Nationality: British.

• Broadcasting: NRK2 from Monday to Thursday .

• Duration: 30 minutes (approx.).

• Genre/Setting: drama.

• Story line: daily life relationships of a group of young people playing in a remarkable local football team. The story deals with human relations and events occurring both inside and outside the football team atmosphere.

• Space: Interior and exterior.

• Action structure: Four or five linked sub-stories that are developed and extended in a progressive way episode by episode.

• Footage analyzed: we took a sample of two weeks in order to take a representative view of the whole series. The period of our TV recording was in the last week of October and the first of November 1998.

Malibu Shores - Basic sample description

• Name of the TV series: Malibu Shores.

• Producer company: not available.

• Nationality: USA.

• Broadcasting: TV3, Saturday.

• Duration: 50 minutes (approx.).

• Genre/Setting: drama.

• Story line: daily life and human relationships of high-school youngsters in the glamorous USA Pacific coast.

• Space: Interior and exterior.

• Action structure: Independent chapters divided into several abreast actions or sub-stories that are being developed progressively. Normally there is one sub-story that dominates the whole episode narration.

• Footage analyzed: this sample has been taken from video recording during the month of November 1998. One month recording seemed to be representative enough for the whole series.

Party of Five - Basic sample description

• Name of the TV series: Party of Five.

• Producer company: Columbia Pictures Television.

• Nationality: USA.

• Broadcasting: TV2 Saturday and Sunday.

• Duration: 50 minutes (approx.).

• Genre/Setting: drama.

• Story line: Young people sharing a house dealing with the problems and events occurring in the daily routine life of the real world.

• Space: Interior and exterior.

• Action Structure: A progressive main story divided into three or four sub-stories with a beginning and a not completely conclusive ending. These sub-stories give independent meaning to every chapter but also contribute to the development of the global idea of the series.

• Footage analyzed: The sample of party of Five was obtained from TV recording during the months of November and December 1998. It was stated that this period of recording would be enough to get a representative sample of the whole series.

The reason why picking up these six series and not others, as a sample of the Anglo-American TV series proposal on the Norwegian screen can be explained by two basic criteria. The first criteria responds to our interest in a young audience profile due to our study aims, and the second can be explained by our intention in obtaining descriptive samples with a significant range of sub-genres variety within the so-called TV series genre itself. Hence in doing so, we were able to observe different approaches and ways of addressing the teen from different story-telling perspectives. Thus for instance, we had samples such as surrealistic comedy/fiction (Parker Lewis), realistic drama (Party of Five or Dream Team), sitcom (USA High) or ironic comedy (Clueless).

The methodological approach of this whole content analysis lies more in qualitative terms rather than in quantitative ones since our main intention consisted of a qualitative description of the topics, lifestyles and patterns purposed to the teen by these TV series.

Therefore in the following pages we will concentrate on firstly, the main topics brought out on the TV screen, secondly the background topics of these TV series and thirdly the youth pattern proposal of these Anglo-American soaps.

Let us commence at this stage with the main Anglo-American topic proposal and our qualitative analysis.

In a general perspective, we could affirm that the themes that these TV series bring out stem basically from a human relationship approach. Thus, we are witnesses of other people's stories, the way they relate to each other and the troubles that these relationships can cause in their lives. This approach in the analysis of our six TV series comprises four repetitive main topics dealing with love, sex, friendship and outlook. We would like to comment them briefly.

Love is normally separated from sex and it is regarded as one of the most important and necessary feelings or relationships for the emotional equilibrium of the individual. Love representation on the TV screen is very gender-orientated in the sense that man and woman have distinct roles and is expected to behave differently. It can be said that love is regarded as something wonderful but weak and ephemeral. The problems that this feeling or relation brings to the story are normally reported by the female-cast, characterized as a wicked and insecure person in the affective-amorous field and therefore, the one responsible in the male's sorrows and desperation. In some series, love has more to do with physical attractiveness than with any other link: love relations in these series thus, deal basically with physical affinity and a kind of romanticism.

Sex is regarded as something dangerous and normally associated with the female seduction and infidelity and therefore, many times it appears to be the reason for the rupture of the couple. Sex, as well as love, appears in a very gender-orientated and discriminative perspective.

Friendship is considered the most important feeling or relationship in the individual's life. Friendship, generally is an enduring value mainly governed by the comradeship notion that is above everything, sometimes even above love. However, we could argue that friend matching in the series is sometimes rather discriminative: only those ones who have a similar outlook and appealing are matched together as possible or potential friends. Friendship is turned then to a matter of outlook and external affinity rather than a sharing of common thoughts and ideas.

The outlook is also regarded as a very important and a very gender-orientated value in all the series analyzed. It has strong social connotations and consequently, it is meant for the social approval of the youngster community representing so, social status and a sort of discriminative social stratification. Connected to this it seems also worth mentioning the strong emphasis that these series make in the internal beauty of the self regardless of one's personal outlook. This can be considered quite incoherent if we mention that almost all the characters' representation are based on a very careful and youthful outlook being this the main feature of their role-personalities. Taking the words of a Spanish TV producer, we could affirm that teen soap operas offer a pattern of youth very restrictive, in the sense that, a person, to be desirable and social attractive is condemned to be young, beautiful and to some extent, immature. It seems that the American TV productions, in this case, and the western cultural commercialism in general, have imposed a paradoxical social standard: the personal attractiveness based on a imitation of the youngster's way of life, attitudes and values regardless of the actual age of the individual. With regard to this, it can be asserted that we have reached to a stage where adult people surprisingly want to imitate the youngsters (rather than viceversa) forgetting the supposed essential goal of adulthood that aims at the gain of the necessary intellectual maturity to leave behind the social and biological youth transitory stage.

Hence, we find that the concept of beauty or outlook is quite biased in the TV series' contents. The way they convey this notion, demythologizing in the beginning and mythologizing in the end again, is a clear defense of the world of appearance, the world on which this TV genre and the essence of the TV itself are based.

In a parallel direction, we reckon a remarkable notion of social class representing the differences in the quality of the lifestyles between upper class (the so-called beautiful people) and the middle-class. However, these differences are not tackled as a problem but as a natural situation due to everybody's option and opportunities in life. Notions like power, education, outlook or wealth (the possession or lack of it) are directly linked to this social class concept.

Eventually, to this respect we would like to point out that despite there is no clear presence of political discourses, it can be found some propaganda approaches performed (especially in comical series like Clueless) from a hyperbolic and demythologizing perspective. This perspective conveys an interesting capitalism-democracy binomial that represents notions such as happiness (in a capitalist world), freedom (to choose in the market place), wealth (for a selective upper class) or high standard of life (provided by a compulsive act of consumption).

Apart from these main topics and notions, it can also be observed a supporting conceptual background that can be enumerated by the following notions:

a) Fashion: in some series, the characters' wardrobe might be a splendid excuse to display and show the teen (from a market-orientated perspective) how he or she should dress in a clear attractive invitation to join, imitate or assume the youth offer proposed to them.

b) Consumption: in an implicit way, the viewer can infer that the characters' lifestyle proposals involve the natural consumption of concrete market goods that seems to be necessary for an attractive youth recreation.

c) Music: comprising the soundtrack of the TV series, music plays an important role in the TV youth characterization due to its high emotional power of seduction and transmission of very specific feelings.

d) Fun-amusement: reported in the young characters' overt attitude and behavior, fun and amusement seems to be a must for a genuinely universal youth nature.

e) Transgression-innovation: this notion has a lot to do with the fun-amusement idea, a concept dominated normally by a certain kind of innovative and creative attitude towards life. Nevertheless, in the series this transgression concept is more based on a simple appearance than a factual teen behavior.

f) The alleged positive marginalization: this notion regards with the characters' lifestyles in some of the series analyzed and it embodies the concept of being relatively different and unique. Hence, it deals with the creation of new personal values and new personal approaches and consequently, it also deals with the elaboration of a new self-identity based on the denial of the common social rules. This idea, quite recreated in the teen soaps, results to be very admired and longed by the teen audience due to their difficult vital stage and uneasy search for a self-definition and self-positioning in the demanding lifestyle imagery world.

g) American atmosphere: in all the TV series it can be reported a subliminal selling of the American culture recreated in the cultural references continuously displayed on the screen. This references clearly responds to the main idea of cultural imperialism.

All these elements certainly contribute to a better story recreation, representation, credibility and consequently, to a probable better predisposition for influence on the viewer. Nevertheless, we would like to borrow Milton Rockeach's (1973) List of Values in order to go further with this supporting conceptual background and have a look at the universal value presenting of the all the series analyzed. In so doing we could obtain a wider view of the value universe that surrounds every series.

Focusing finally upon the Anglo-American youth proposal of these series, we can observe certain differences between drama and comedy. Meanwhile in the comedy the youngster is much more carefree and, to some extent, out of the real world, in the sense that he or she is limited to a restrictive environment without any further projections in the social sphere, in the drama the youngster's pattern offered is more realistic due to the individual's involvement and participation in a wider social environment. But in a general view, we could affirm that the youngster proposed by the Anglo-American TV series is a quite stereotyped youngster dominated by binomial oppositions and governed by the world of appearance.

This American TV youngster seems not to be very interested in participating in the social sphere and change the world he or she is supposed to be disappointed with, for we can infer that he or she is not interested in politics either. It is remarkable the fact that in the series, there are no representations of social movements against some unfair policy concerning for instance, their social status as students, and that every problem presented in the episodes is resolved from a very individualistic point of view. To this respect, we can observe a peculiar drive for personal gain through hard work, being the individual success or failure in the proposed televisual society measured by the quantity of possessions of goods and commodities. Hence, we could infer that the existence or absence of purchasing power in the individual determines his or her lifestyle and future expectations. Therefore, since the Anglo-American TV series seem to pamper and praise the individuality as a very positive and desirable value, there are an absence of social consciousness and responsibilities on the TV screen, as well as social problems like for instance, unemployment or poverty which are focused on a personal perspective and explained by the lack of skills of the individual in dealing with the high competitive daily life.

3. The questionnaire

The basic aim of the questionnaire presented to the Norwegian teen respondents lies in the measurement of a supposed Anglo-American influence on these youngster's imagery. Consisting of questions regarding topics and subject matters that are present in the American TV series, the point is an attempt to identify a relation of similitude between the teen's responses to these questions and the TV series conceptual approach. If some similarities can be found, the probability of an Anglo-American TV influence can be regarded at least, as one of the main inputs contributing to the so called Americanization of the European youngster and society.

The two main discriminative elements we have taken into account are gender and socio-cultural background together with the variables media use, TV and media preferences, TV exposure and TV influence.

The questionnaire consists of six main points. The first point deals with the respondent's basic information such as gender, age and socio-cultural background (determined by the parent's age and the parent's occupation). The second responds to the youngsters' daily use of the mass media and their genre preferences regarding the TV. The third tries to define the TV series audience and the non-audience amongst the respondents and their rate of TV exposure. The fourth focuses on the youngsters' TV series preferences, the reason why for these reported preferences and the sense of credibility towards them. The fifth point offers a free concept and role-character association with the intention of discovering some resemblance with the TV series world, and the last and sixth point deals with questions about behavior and attitude concerning certain patterns and situations that take place in more than one soap.

The questionnaire was distributed in six high schools along Oslo area comprising students from different socio-cultural background from fourteen to seventeen years old. In total we covered 130 respondents. In the Tables 1. 2. and 3. we can find the distribution regarding gender and socio-cultural background.

The results obtained with this questionnaire are presented and divided into four points. Along these four points we compare the different variables we made use of in order to get some remarkable conclusions.

3.1 TV series' content values - Respondents' values: Anglo-American influence

One basic step to be able to infer certain Anglo-American influence on the youngsters is the comparison between the TV series values and the values reported by the youngsters. For that purpose we differentiate and contrast two distinct sub-sections in the elaboration of the first part of our questionnaire: a concept - description (regarding the proposed American TV topics) and a role-description (regarding the proposed youth pattern).

Starting with the concept-description, we can observe a certain similarity between the American TV series' values and the respondents' approach and therefore, we could consider these contents as a possible input for the elaboration of these teens' own opinion.

One similarity in these descriptor associations take place in a concept for instance, such as love which is not only related by the respondents to the deep, positive and desirable feelings (care, tenderness, romance, etc.) but also to the bitter ones (disappointment, deception, hardness). It is quite remarkable the point that the respondents basically connect this feeling with beauty and youth, reporting so a sort of outlook primacy in the conceptualization which it is also quite present on the TV screen.

Another relevant observation can be found in the notion of life where the male respondents tend to consider it more dangerous than their female counterparts and therefore, they adopt a more aggressive attitude towards it. One of the most remarkable aspects in the respondent’s associations with this concept results in its connection with almost all the descriptors presented in the questionnaire - excitement, danger, hardness, education, justice, progress, money, etc. - except social consciousness and social class. In doing so, the youngsters, regardless of their gender or socio-cultural background, present a clear absence of a community dimension for the elaboration of their own living values and beliefs which, not surprisingly, is also absent in the TV series pattern.

A last illustrative example is offered by the school concept and the interesting connection that the youngsters make of said concept with education, money and success. This seems to be the social formula that dominates amongst the respondents' opinions regarding the best way for success in life. We deem that this consumption mentality, whether originally Anglo-American or not, is quite widespread and reinforced by the TV series and, probably it contributes to the creation of that kind of ambition and uneasiness attributed to the youngsters' nature.

In any case, needless to say that these reported facts should be considered as a good example concerning TV soaps and possible effects.

Turning now to the role-character definitions (and the youth pattern proposal), a even higher similitude between the TV series and the youngsters conceptions can be found. This can be explained by the possibility that the American TV series be the only reference for the teen concerning certain role patterns such as for instance, a cool guy: a character defined by the respondents from the same perspective as the TV series' representation, i.e. an individual with certain personal and social qualities within a high consumerist atmosphere.

Another example of these kind of American references can be observed in the descriptors associated to high school student: study and intelligence on one hand, and fun, youth and romance on the other. If we reckon that the most common scenes in the Anglo-American TV series take place in a normal school surrounding with crazy and rebel students, perhaps we can see more clearly this concrete connection and extend it so to a general connection between the TV fiction and the youngster's imagery.

A final conceptual similarity between the TV series and the respondents' description results in their sexist approach concerning gender definitions. In the case of the respondents, this reported sexism is surprisingly observed in both genders. Despite female and male respondents define themselves from slight different starting points, both of them agree in several gender differences dealing with:

a) personality: males on one hand, are reported to be more aggressive, determined, emotional secure and go-ahead than females, and on the other hand, they seem to be less sensitive and worried about human and feeling affairs.

b) social recognition: it seems that the social expectations on the male are higher than on the female. Thereby, boys are expected to take part and participate more than girls in the social daily affairs.

c) consumption: connected to the point above, both male and female are expected to consume different kind of products and services or at least, similar products and services but meant to different purposes. In the case of the male, these products represent status and purchasing power such as cars, travels, hotels or restaurants; in the female, the products and services seem to be aimed at a certain external self-definition such as clothes, cosmetics, parties, restaurants or nightlife.

Given this, we can observe that some of the notion definitions reported by the teens have something to do with the American TV series perspective. Therefore, despite we cannot observe a direct American influence on them, we certainly could claim that, due to the reported concepts and their ideological background, the Anglo-American TV series' values are likely to belong to those inputs participating in the youngsters' imagery, values and beliefs.

 

 

 

3.2 Gender - TV exposure

This second point deals with the relation of two variables that’s gender and TV exposure. If we have a look at the figures of Table 4. maybe we can reach to some considerations.

In a general perspective, the prevalent rate of the respondents goes to a medium TV exposure (40,8% of the total, both genders) which implies that they do watch and follow relatively often at least one or two TV series during the week ( in case of daily TV series) or during the month (in case of weekly ones). Dividing this into gender groups we find that the girls have the highest rate of exposure (44,9%) and almost the double than the boys (26,2%). Probably this high female rate responds to socio-cultural factors such as the still gender-orientated TV market and the youngsters' education. Hence, since the TV series' proposal normally deals with topics concerning personal feelings and social relations, and these topics are most of the time ideologically and culturally attributed to the girl's sphere is more than normal than the higher TV exposure rate corresponds to the female respondents. However this does not imply that the supposed influence is more evident on the girls than in the boys. Male and female youngsters seem to share the same values, notions and visions when they are asked to give an opinion about the topics presented (in the role and attitude descriptions there are some differences though).

Therefore, the two only remarkable conclusions that we can infer from these results are that:

a) the Anglo-American TV series are an important and relevant phoneme among youngsters due to its high rate of (declared) exposure,

b) girls are more inclined to watch these TV programs than boys due to the topic proposal, more in accordance with the girl's sphere and amusement preferences.

3.3. Socio-cultural background - TV exposure

Based on the hypothesis: the more the TV exposure, the more the supposed TV influence, and the higher the education, the lower the TV influence, in this third part we pay attention to the relation between the socio-cultural background of the respondents and their TV exposure rate.

This rate distribution is presented in Table 5. according to the socio-cultural background variable, and within it (Table 6.) we make a distinction between genders in order to obtain some relevant facts that can help us to define some influence pattern.

Therefore, considering these figures we discover the upper middle class as the social strati with the highest TV exposure (18,5%) and, within this upper middle class, the girls as the ones with the highest rate of the whole sample (51,6%). Given this, since the upper middle class is the one with the highest TV exposure to the Anglo-American TV series, theoretically it should also be the one with the highest level of TV influence (!). Obviously, the television is the most used mass media regardless of the social class but, presumably this is not a reliable fact to prove a clear USA influence. The upper middle class due to their educational background and economic position, have the possibility to make use of other mass media that can offer them a sort of other alternative cultural inputs able to balance their personal ideational field. This possibility is not that high amongst the middle class or lower middle class and therefore, the cultural alternatives are, to some extent, quite reduced to the traditional audiovisual media (mainly radio and TV) and their consequent unidirectional Anglo-American flow of contents.

For this reason, we would like to take into consideration the media use concept and its selective process in order to appreciate the differences amongst the distinct social strati in Oslo (and a more reliable American exposure). In order to show these media use distinctions we pay attention to other mass media and the use that the youngsters make of them based on their social background. For that purpose in the next section we consider the daily use of the press and the PC in a quantitative perspective and in doing so, we obtain more remarkable and positive results according to our starting hypothesis.

3.4. Socio-cultural background and gender - TV preferences and use of other mass media

As we can see the TV is the preferred and the most extended medium among the Norwegian teens. The use of the television is still the most relevant and, to some extent, does not present much differences regardless of social class or gender. The most preferred TV genres are the TV series and the films followed by general entertainment in a second place. Amongst the current TV series it seems quite relevant to mention the existence of two of them that are leaders in popularity: Friends and Ally McBeal. Both of these two series offer a certain behavior pattern and lifestyle proposal that seems extremely attractive not only for the majority of the young audience but also for the non young audience. Actually, almost a hundred per cent of all the respondents declare their daily assiduousness and devotion to, at least, one of these two TV series with no gender or socio-cultural background distinctions. Perhaps this amazing liking for these soaps common in all of them can be somehow also explained by the credibility notion, which we report in the fourth part of our questionnaire. Considering this, it seems important to point out at this stage, that the majority of the respondents associated serious and non fictional series like Party of Five or Dream Team with a high level of credibility and this notion seems to be quite appreciated.

Therefore, the following hypothesis: the more serious the TV series seem to be for the audience, the more credible become for them, could be considered as valid, and it could be even extended to this other one: the more credible become the TV series for the audience, the more attractive they appear to them and the more likely are these TV series to influence on them. But this final statement is still far from being completely proved, at least in this study.

In regard of the use of other mass media, we find that a closer look can make more clear the distinction in use and exposure among the youngsters regarding the gender and the socio-cultural background. In Table 7. 8. and 9. we display the distribution of the youngsters' use and exposure of the PC and the newspaper taking into account in doing so, different perspectives.

The daily use of the newspaper and the PC can be ascribed to the upper middle class due to the more specific literate skills demanded by these media (specially by the PC and Internet). The results in Table 8. confirm this statement: having a look at them we can affirm that the daily use of the newspaper and the PC decreases with the social class: the lower the social class is, the lower is the daily use of these two media and the upper the social class is, the higher is the use.

Focusing on differences between male and female respondents, Table 9. shows clear gender distinctions to this respect: boys appear to make a much higher daily use of the PC than girls and a slight higher use of the daily press. As far as we can see, it seems that the male supremacy over the use of the PC and the so called new mass media is still evident and that notions such as new technology regarded as a male thing are probably still prevailing in the Oslo area and, probably in the rest of the Norwegian society.

All in all, according to the mentioned Tables we can observe a probable input-value alternative for the upper middle class in their routinely use of these other media (even though we ignore the nature of these media contents themselves) that cannot be reported with the same magnitude in the middle and specially in the lower middle class for we can infer certain differences in media exposure, reception, consumption and probably, influence among these social strati.

Final concluding remarks

The Anglo-American TV series offer a very specific pattern of youngster, values and lifestyles dominated by notions such as consumption, individualism, sexism and outlook primacy. These series are followed by a great number of Norwegian youngsters who present a high TV exposure and a high preference for this genre (coming mainly from the USA factory). The highest rate of TV exposure surprisingly corresponds to the females from the upper middle class. Nevertheless we cannot take this figure as a consequent and direct American influence on them since there are many other value-inputs with a similar or higher presence in their daily life that contribute to the elaboration of their own opinion. This can be easily observed in the daily use of the press and the PC, where the higher the social class is, the higher is the use of these media (inputs and values alternatives).

In shorts, despite there is no evidence of a connection between TV exposure and American influence, we can certainly argue that all the respondents (regardless of their gender, TV exposure, other media use or social background) share a similar cosmo-vision about the topics presented in the series. This cosmo-vision has certainly something to do with the values dominating in the Western capitalist societies: the Anglo-American values, to some extent. Values and patterns that are being progressively assumed and easily naturalized in spite of the environmental and cultural disparity between Europe and North America.

Therefore, we can conclude by claiming that the role of the television in a supposed Anglo-American influence on the youngsters' imagery can be inferred but not confirmed since this influence, as we pointed out, comes from many different other inputs that are quite difficult to tell apart. In any case, it is undeniable that the television (full of American contents) plays an important role in the creation of the teens' own identity and imagery.

 

 

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Tables.

 

Table 1. Total respondents: gender distribution (%).

male

46,9

 

female

53,1

 

 

Table 2. Total respondents: socio-cultural background distribution (%).

 

upper middle class

 

42,3

middle class

 

51,5

lower middle class

 

6,2

 

 

Table 3. Gender and socio-cultural background distribution (%).

 

male

female

upper middle class

 

39,3

44,9

middle class

 

52,5

50,7

lower middle class

 

8,2

4,3

 

Table 4. TV exposure distribution pertaining the gender of the respondents (%).

 

Total

Boys

Girls

Low exposure

23,7

26,2

20,3

Medium exposure

40,8

47,5

34,8

High exposure

36,2

26,2

44,9

 

Table 5. TV exposure pertaining to the socio-cultural background of the respondents (%).

 

Upper middle class

Middle class

Lower

middle class

Low exposure

10

12,3

0,8

Medium exposure

13,8

25,4

3,8

High exposure

18,5

13,8

1,5

 

Table 6. TV exposure distribution pertaining to gender within the socio-cultural background (%)

 

Male

Upper middle class

Middle class

Lower middle

class

Low exposure

25

34,4

0

Medium exposure

41,7

50

80

High exposure

 

18,5

15,6

20

Female

     

Low exposure

22,6

14,3

33,3

Medium exposure

25,8

48,6

33,3

High exposure

51,6

37,1

33,3

Table 7. PC and newspaper daily use distribution pertaining to gender and socio-cultural background (%).

 

 

Male

Upper middle class

Middle class

Lower middle

class

PC

58,3

36,7

20

Daily Press

70,8

53,1

40

 

Female

     

PC

 

29

23,3

0

Daily Press

51,6

31,4

33,3

 

Table 8. PC and newspaper daily use distribution pertaining to the total socio-cultural background (%)

 

 

Upper middle class

Middle class

Lower

middle class

PC

52,7

26,9

12,5

Daily Press

60

41,8

37,5

Table 9. PC and newspaper use distribution pertaining to the total gender (%)

 

 

 

Male

Female

PC

42,6

23,2

Daily Press

59

40,6