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Mediated Authenticity

How the Media Constructs Reality

Gunn Enli

This book explores the paradox of mediated authenticity – the idea that our understanding of society is based on mediated representations of reality. Enli argues that mediated authenticity is established through negotiations between producers and audiences in what is coined the ‘authenticity contract’. Sometimes the contract is broken, leading to authenticity scandals and the need to renegotiate this contract. These moments of truth, some of which are analysed in this book, are important moments in media history. Through case studies, this book examines mediated authenticity in broadcast and online media, from the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, quiz show scandals, to manufactured reality-TV shows, blog hoaxes and fake social media, and the construction of Obama as an authentic politician. The book demonstrates that authenticity has become an increasingly important factor in the media, and that solving ‘authenticity puzzles’ – separating the fake from the real – has become an inherent practice of media use.


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Chapter 3: Money, Fraud, and Deception: The Quiz Show Scandals


· 3 · money, fraud, and deception The Quiz Show Scandals The American people don’t believe anything until they see it on television. —Richard Nixon The introduction of TV changed the notion of mediated authenticity. Audio-visual communication was not a completely new phenomenon, as moving pictures had been introduced through the cinema, and the radio had been a forerunner for visual broadcast media. I will thus assume that the au- thenticity illusions in TV partly built on the pre-existing illusions in radio and film, but also established its own medium-specific authenticity illusions and a unique contract with the viewers. This chapter will use literature on audio-visual media and theories of broadcasting to investigate how television addressed its audiences and es- tablished an authenticity contract. As with radio, TV soon became a promi- nent social institution and key source of information and entertainment, and the viewers developed an intimate relation with the TV personality. In this chapter, I will explore the authenticity illusions in television and how reality was constructed in early audio-visual mass media. As in the previous chapter, I will explore an authenticity scandal to demonstrate the balance between authenticity illusions and deception. 46 mediated authenticity Structurally, this chapter is divided into two main parts. In the first part, I will discuss the introduction of TV and its audio-visual authenticity. Here I will also engage with the larger societal shift towards a visual culture. In the second part, I will analyse the so-called American quiz show scandals of the late 1950s,...

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