Project Title

Chayefsky's Network

Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - English

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Faculty Sponsor Name

Weinstein, Anna

Disciplines

Screenwriting

Abstract (300 words maximum)

This presentation will examine the 1976 film Network and specifically how screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was prescient in two ways. First, that media would be owned by corporate conglomerates and would then be used to promote the corporate image, and secondly that news programming in particular would be used to exploit the anger and fears of identifiable constituencies to increase viewership.

This presentation will explore how Chayefsky, a World War II veteran and playwright, became disillusioned with television as an industry and felt it had disregarded its social responsibilities to the public it served. This was in spite, or maybe because, of his personal success as a pioneering writer in television’s earliest years.

Chayefsky surmised that Americans were angry and therefore wanted angry shows, and this idea was the seed for what eventually became Network. This analysis will identify the causes, the generational politics at play as well as artistic license being balanced against business needs, which led UBS to change its lineup in a radical new direction. Further, the presentation draws comparisons between the script’s depiction of UBS’s complex corporate ownership and the actual state of media ownership arrangements today. The dilemmas the fictional network executives faced in the script are similar to what media executives face today. They still have to produce a quality product, attract a loyal audience, attract advertisers and turn a profit. They still have to navigate through a generational divide among their management and staff while balancing the artistic and business needs of their organizations.

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

How will this be presented?

Yes, asynchronously via recorded video upload

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Chayefsky's Network

This presentation will examine the 1976 film Network and specifically how screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was prescient in two ways. First, that media would be owned by corporate conglomerates and would then be used to promote the corporate image, and secondly that news programming in particular would be used to exploit the anger and fears of identifiable constituencies to increase viewership.

This presentation will explore how Chayefsky, a World War II veteran and playwright, became disillusioned with television as an industry and felt it had disregarded its social responsibilities to the public it served. This was in spite, or maybe because, of his personal success as a pioneering writer in television’s earliest years.

Chayefsky surmised that Americans were angry and therefore wanted angry shows, and this idea was the seed for what eventually became Network. This analysis will identify the causes, the generational politics at play as well as artistic license being balanced against business needs, which led UBS to change its lineup in a radical new direction. Further, the presentation draws comparisons between the script’s depiction of UBS’s complex corporate ownership and the actual state of media ownership arrangements today. The dilemmas the fictional network executives faced in the script are similar to what media executives face today. They still have to produce a quality product, attract a loyal audience, attract advertisers and turn a profit. They still have to navigate through a generational divide among their management and staff while balancing the artistic and business needs of their organizations.

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