Tuesday 15 July 2014

Are Soap Operas considered a Public Service?

"Around the world the genre has succeeded in providing "educational entertainment" - a blend of public service messages and melodrama that has enraptured millions of viewers."
 - Hegarty, S: How Soap Operas changed the world: April 2012 

The cross over of current affairs with the entertainment value that soaps are stereotypically supposed to offer, confuses the audience when taking in to consideration whether Soap Operas are a public service.

A Public Service is a service provided by the government service to people in the country (and/or surrounding area that its "power" applies to) though directly acknowledging the public sector. This term usually applies to the services such as fire brigades, policemen and paramedics. 

This term initially focuses towards these services that are used to help those in need, which, as we are not being "saved" initially by Soap Operas, we are enthused not to label the programmes as a "Public Service".

However, in relation to how the public benefit from these public services, Soap Operas can fit in to the category as they commonly  current affairs, helping audiences realise their surroundings and their own personal identity. Although the likes of the police force and fire service are included in the public service to help those in need, as well as making them safe, they are also used to identify problems and issues that could occur, which could benefit those in the future when it comes to their safety. This is also enticed by the likes of Soap Operas, who make us aware of certain situations and how these could be tackled.
An example of this is, when the story emerged from Hollyoaks involving John Paul as a rape victim, they paid close attention to how this situation could be handled, in order to not offend anyone who was going through the situation as well as providing information for those who could prevent the situation from happening. It showed only the aftermath of the event, portraying the stages of talking to the police through to the investigation. These type of narratives covering current affairs links to the portrayal of a public service as they provide in formation to the public to protect them and their safety, similar to the likes of policemen and other civil servicemen. 

Soap Operas linked to the civil service also provide stories that link to the "real world" that could be seen as controversial, such as EastEnders' portrayal of the first gay kiss in 1989. This caused outrage due to how controversial it was at the time, however it was noted that "on the second kiss there was barely any fuss. By the third kiss hardly anyone noticed," with viewers outlining that maybe it was a normal thing. This information provided to the audience, outlining the contemporary affairs of their surroundings contributes towards soap operas being pronounced as a public service. It is clear that the involvement of soaps in current affairs is the reason behind they are labelled as a part of the public service, alongside the likes of paramedics and the armed forces.

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