Rai: children and the representation of pain on TV
The subject of the distorted or incorrect representation of social problems
and situations on the part of the media is beginning to be noticed more
and more by observers and analysts of society, but also by associations
and ordinary people. In fact, apart from the different readings or interpretations
of the phenomenon, there is now agreement on the fact that the effects
of a spiral competition between the public and private services have
often ended up by producing emphatic tones, making communicative styles
more spectacular, creating an obsessive race for the scoop which
has produced undeniably negative effects on the quality of communications
as a whole. To pay the price, as it were, are those subjects who more
easily lend themselves, because of their objective condition or for the
appeal of their image, to becoming the pretext and opportunity for spectacular
presentation: children, women, victims of tragic events.
From this viewpoint, children are in the foreground: the ability to
intercept the emotions of the viewer, the natural connotation of tenderness
that accompanies the image, the immediacy of the expressive characteristics,
all contribute to making them the privileged subjects of such a widespread
form of communicative "instrumentalisation". An emphasis that
seems to increase when children are associated, in the news and in fiction,
with painful facts.
In this case, the temptation for the world of communications seems to
become irresistible, because there is nothing like a "suffering
child", real or imaginary, to draw the attention of the general
public. And yet, this temptation becomes really dangerous because it
can produce an unfortunate kind of communication that shows a lack of
respect from several viewpoints.
In order to study this matter in depth, the Rai Social Action Department,
in collaboration with the Radio-television Audience Centre commissioned
Censis (the National Statistics Institute) to carry out an analysis survey
on the content of 3 months of Rai television programming.
The monitoring of the representation that television gives of children
suffering for various reasons, of which the results are presented herewith,
shows whether, and to what extent, the public service gives in to or
resists such temptation, and if, how, and to what extent, this category
of "subjects" is useful for emotional communication that can
intercept the deepest feelings (to protect a child), but also the less
noble emotions (morbid curiosity for others' suffering).
In fact, it seems that in this case the old theories of the television
viewer hypnotised in front of the screen are brought up again: in fact,
faced with a general process of disaffection, the cases of crime news
involving children seem to draw the attention of a huge audience. And
it must be wondered why, in recent times, crime news has been given such
honour by the television screen, advancing on the rather marginal role
that it had in the past. And why crime news, which is always a question
of local facts and, therefore, "micro", has to take an increasingly
more central position in the news services.
In this sense, the subject, increasingly more important nowadays, of
the newsworthiness of an event, or, if you prefer, in more technical
terms, of the so-called agenda setting is reproposed:
who decides and why to they decide that crime news with brutal overtones
deserves twice as much, if not three times as much, space as, for example,
a world conference on the environment, which influences the lives and
the health of millions (to tell the truth, of billions) of people? Who
decides that the latest genetic discoveries deserve a fifth of the space
of the blood thirsty details of a mysterious murder? And why must news
be exciting and shocking ("man bites dog")? Is it not enough
to give information? The question remains open.