Webwork: Jalila Silan

Bourdieu: Complicated Reality to Pretentious Illusion to Capitalism

In Pierre Bourdieu’s work entitled “On Television”, he discussed the power and the strong influence of television compared to other forms of medium. Even in our own household, we don’t subscribe to a newspaper anymore, my father would say just watch the news they tell everything; when in fact, newspapers seem to add much more content on national issues as oppose to the sensationalized, thirty-minute version of the television. However, it seems that at present time even newspapers are sensationalizing their news report to be at par with television. Also, there is limited mental process that takes place in watching television as oppose to reading the newspaper as Pierre Bourdieu’s stated “It suits everybody because it confirms what they already know and above all, leaves their mental structures intact”(as cited by Durnham & Kellner, 2006 p. 329). In television, everything is laid out for the viewer: the images, actual footage and the likes, as oppose to a newspaper, wherein we have to imagine the image being presented by the journalist in describing the whole scenery. In a sense, newspaper requires intellectual work (Bourdieu as cited by Durnham & Kellner, 2006).

Television for Bourdieu dominates other fields (as cited by Szeman, 1998). According to (Riley, 2008), decline of newspapers is rapidly accelerating. The print advertising had its biggest drop in revenue in 2007. However, newspapers are saved by their online counterpart whose ad revenue is increasingly growing. This means that one of the main source of information majority of the people are receiving is found on television and for Bourdieu, this is not good.

With the increasing number of cable channels, it makes an illusion that these channels want to inform the viewers or to add knowledge, however, in reality they aim to entertain more than to inform. Although there are channels that promotes education like Discovery and National Geographic Channels, these channels still aims to entertain (Mcquillen, 2007). The producers of these channels would look for ways to make learning things more interesting, hence, may leave out facts or details that are not interesting but important. Television chooses the things the viewers want to see and not the things they need to know. However, it is still a fact that television creates diversity that newspapers cannot.

Aside from news broadcasting, even television shows that suppose to depict the reality into a certain scenario or situation are fabricated by television. For example, the hospital setting of Grey’s Anatomy, House, Scrubs and E.R. and other television hospital scenes. Although we are conscious the characters are merely fictional, we are still unable to picture hospital life outside from what television has portrayed. I talked to my some of my cousins and they said that the reason why they now wanted to become a doctor is the excitement in encountering disease as House did in the series. Or to experience hospital drama as depicted in Grey’s Anatomy. But, if you ask real doctors if the scenarios being played in these television series are accurate they would say that hospital life is more boring and serious than that. It doesn’t have all the excitement and drama these shows illustrates. Television is that powerful that it could create scenes and news, fabricate it, sensationalize it and people (or at least most people) would accept it as fact. Making it seem like something anyone can do. It is true that television shows have open up the people to see the hospital as more than a place to go to when you’re sick, but also a place wherein the people in there have their own stories. However, television hides the offensive parts or the un-interesting parts to entice people to be entertained and not to be informed about real hospital life. Because they would want people to be attracted to the show, and not be repelled by the real scenarios. So now, people would say “I understand hospital life” but only in an abstracted level.

Is this applicable to news such as current events and such? During the height of the ZTE scandal, I remember a certain TV network doing an interview with the key witness Lozada. According to some accounts, they told Lozada that they would only interview him. But to his surprise, the network also contacted some of his “enemies” or those who are in opposition to his testimony (I couldn’t remember their names now). The network told him that this is for the greater good of the public; so that the real story will emerge. Because of the presence of the key players of the scandal in both side, debate ensued. They were shouting at each other, calling each other names and what not. The journalist played as an arbiter leading the discussion in a more interesting direction. “To know the REAL story”, this might be the cover story of that network, but towards the end of the show, no truth came out. Actually, it only added more confusion and a bigger fire. A lot of people watched this specific debate which raised the networks rating drastically. Truth be told, it seems that the network might not care whose side is right or wrong but they care about what makes money to the company. The network is aiming to get higher audience ratings to defeat the competition ergo, earn lot of money. It’s to frank and straight-forward and I have no proof to back it up but this is a good starting point to begin analyzing that maybe the actions of the networks or what they promote as “Real Story” may not be real at all but a fabricated truth to cater to what they think the viewers want to see and not the actual truth and that their motives is not sincere.

Overall newspapers have the advantage over TV when it comes to providing the most important information (Mcquillen, 2002). It seems the newspapers are less sensationalized as oppose to television, maybe because they have more time to actually make intellectual work as oppose to the “current” new of television. This might be true but because of the accelerating decrease of their revenue, newspapers might strike a compromise with television. As Pierre said in his article “The printed press face a choice: would it go in the direction of the dominant model, which means, publishing newspapers that resemble TV news or should it emphasize its difference and engage instead in a strategy of production differentiation?” (as cited by Durnham & Kellner, 2006 p. 333)

According to an article written by (Mcquillen, 2002), newspapers and television depend on each other for content and information. From the rumors I hear, television programs, specifically the early morning news, use newspaper articles or clippings for their headlines. On the other hand, the newspaper also watches current news throughout the day to find articles to publish as they wait for their press time. So gradually, newspaper is slowly going to the direction of the dominant model and in a sense disregarding Pierre’s challenge to them, just so they survive the technological world.

So now, the challenge is on us. Television and newspaper are somehow conniving in hiding the complete truth to the people, so it’s now up to us, the viewers to not act passively to what television is giving to us; but to challenge it and question it and look beyond the fabricated truths and to take our time to make our minds process information and see the hidden agendas, hidden truths, hidden motives and the "real" reality. You have the remote. You have control.

Durnham, M.G., & Kellner, D. (Eds.). (2006). Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. US: Blackwell Publishing.
Szeman, I. (1998). Review. Szeman Review: On Bourdieu .
Mcquillen, P. (2002). Journalism: Newspaper vs. television. Helium.
Riley, D. (2008). Decline of US Newspapers Accelerating. TechCrunch.



From the original author of this page, Jalila Silan, you have learned that the Television has been the cornerstone of information dissemination, and perhaps even cultural formation. I agree with her understanding of the subject matter, although I feel there's a lack of proof to back up Pierre Bourdieu's arguments. My contribution to your knowledge on television, therefore, is an in-depth look at how television is truly projected for journalists, politicians, and the people/ audience - looking beyond the four angles of your TV screen. I especially wish to discuss the subject matter in contemporary setting in order for modern-day thinkers to better locate themselves in the issue at hand.


The world is changing as we speak. Technology has taken over, with the massive number of cellphones, laptops, and Ipods produced and sold each day. The role of television, however old it may be, is still of great importance in this ever-binding world of change. The television, thanks to John Logie Baird, has become a "god" for the very reason that is power. Its coverage extends through boarders of space, differences, and even time. With the invention of the Television, the world seemed a lot smaller. Aside from the internet, we are now able to learn about cultures, happenings, and more about worlds other than our own. Globalization is no doubt a result of this growing sphere of television. In the Philippines alone, more than 90% of the households own a television set. Because we have grown accustomed to this virtual world, we now exist is a "hyper reality" - unintentionally living in spaces provided by what is seen on TV. In other words, what we see on TV has become so normal to us that we cannot tell real information from those that are altered.

Because of the this power of luring in its numerous viewers, more and more people are tempted to use it in order to share with its power. Luckily for the entertainment industry, the television only means more money even at the expense of the viewers. Why? TV companies make money depending on the ratings - when the ratings are high, more people wish to endorse on their show, and more money goes in. TV programs, therefore, depend on its viewers for direction on how to go about with their shows. "It is perfectly adapted to the mental structures of its audience."(Bourdieu as cited by Dunham & Kellner, 2006) Furthermore, the viewers become a commodity. They… We're the ones being bought in this industry - without consent, and often, without our knowledge.

As to how we are lured, it is quite simple. In the desires of every person, there is entertainment. Whatever seems entertaining, that's what TV programs showcase - never mind being accurate to reality.

"This same search for sensational news, and the unbridled constructions of demagoguery (whether spontaneous or intentional) or can stir up great excitement by catering to the most primitive drives and emotions (with stories of kidnapped children and scandals likely to arouse public indignation). Purely Sentimental and therapeutic forms of mobilizing feelings can come into play…" -Pierre Bourdieu

As a response, now with added awareness, "It is not enough, it should not be enough, to attack the people in charge." (Bourdieu as cited by Dunham &Kellner, 2006) Improvement could only come from within. The responsibility lies in all those involved - audience, journalists, politicians, producers, etc. Pierre Bourdieu's suggestion might seem rather utopian and impossible, yet "conscious action aimed at controlling the structural mechanisms that engender moral failure would be possible." (Bourdieu as cited by Dunham &Kellner, 2006). For the sake of democracy and righteousness, we shall all strive for a clean and "safe" system of receiving information.

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