I recently watched the 1976 Paddy Chayefsky movie Network again through the eyes of college media ethics students. Here’s what I asked. What insights would you add about this incredible film?
Network Discussion Prompts
1. Network signals the beginning of a change in attitude about network news profitability. In the days when programming at the “big three” networks made reliable profits, none of the news divisions were expected to make money. As this report indicates, those days are gone. But is it really possible to produce a quality news product and a profit?
2. Compare the television landscape of today with the landscape depicted in Network. In particular, how have the average television viewer’s (if there is such a thing) news gathering methods and sources changed? This post is an interesting resource for this question.
3. In one of the first scenes, Howard and Max joke about programming a “Death Hour” on television. Giving specific details and examples, discuss the various ways this could be seen as prophetic given today’s movies and television programming.
4. In Network, programming the news is taken to the extreme. To what degree do you feel the news is programmed in reality? Support your answer with details and examples.
5. If you had to write a few paragraphs summing up what Network is saying about corporate ownership of the media, what would they say?
6. Gil Scott-Heron sings that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” The film suggests that might not be the case, as do recent revolutions in the Middle East. Comment on how you think the media can strengthen or weaken a revolutionary message or cause.
7. At one point, Howard Beale says that only 3 percent of Americans read books while only 15 percent read newspapers. Here are a couple of sites that cite more recent statistics on newspapers and books. Comment on how the decline of print has impacted Americans’ knowledge of the world, critical thinking skills, and — maybe — intellect.
8. Arthur Jensen the corporate CEO, tells Howard that, “The world is a business … It has been since man crawled out of the slime.” What are your opinions and impressions of that speech, delivered near the end of the film by Jensen, played by Ned Beatty?