The shape of the media is ever-changing in todays fast past society due to the continual introduction of new technologies (Crosbie, 2010). The looming time limit pressing down on print media suggests that adaptation is necessary in order to thrive in the modern world. Media professionals must compete on a global scale thanks to the introduction of smartphones and other globalised technologies. Ellen DeGeneres is one media professional who has successfully embraced the ability to combine media convergence and globalisation to appeal to a wide audience. Therefore giving her large power within the media.
Ellen Lee DeGeneres was born on 26 January 1958 to parents Elliot and Betty DeGeneres in the suburb of Metairie in New Orleans, Louisiana. At age 16 her parents divorced. Betty DeGeneres remarried soon after, moving the family to Atlanta, Texas (IMDb, 2016). DeGeneres graduated from Atlanta High School in 1976 and went on to study a communications major at the University of New Orleans for a semester before dropping out (EllenTV, 2016).
DeGeneres started her career in comedy as the local emcee at a New Orleans comedy club (Encyclopaedia of World Biography, 2016). Her talent was recognised in 1982 when a videotaped performance won her ShowTime’s “Funniest Person in America” (Scott, 1994). A string of comedy awards thereby followed, including “Best Female Stand Up Comic” in 1991, 11 “People’s Choice” Award’s and 35 “Daytime Emmy” Awards (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2016). DeGeneres’s transition to television began between 1989 and 1992 where she appeared on sit-coms such as Open House and Laurie Hill (IMDb, 2016). As a result of these performances she earned her own show These Friends of Mine, which would later be renamed Ellen (Encyclopaedia of World Biography, 2016). In April 1997, DeGeneres made history as her and her sit-com character were to be the first openly gay leads on American television (IMDb, 2016). Soon after this announcement however, rating declined and the show was cancelled (EllenTV, 2016). DeGeneres tried unsuccessfully to renew her television career until 2003, when she launched her current daytime talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show (Encyclopaedia of World Biography, 2016), which will enter its 13th season in September this year (EllenTV, 2016).
Throughout her career, Ellen DeGeneres has embraced the evolving trend of media convergence in order to achieve success. The Australian Government’s Australian Law Reform Commission (2016) defines media convergence as “The interlinking of computing, communication networks, and media content that has occurred with the development and popularisation of the Internet, and the convergent products, services and activities that have emerged in the digital media space.” Meikle and Young (2012) break this down further to suggest that they are four key areas of media convergence including technological, industrial, social and textual. Adaptation and implementation of technological and industrial convergence have allowed DeGeneres the ability to communicate with a wide range of people.
Technological convergence has become a vital aspect of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. This type of convergence refers to the idea that with ever advancing technologies, media is now available in many forms, not just print (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016). DeGeneres has created a number of applications that allow her fan base to communicate with the show including, EllenTube, Heads Up and Ellen (EllenTV, 2016). Furthermore, full episodes and popular segments are available to stream online, allowing her audience to watch anywhere, anytime. It therefore connects DeGeneres to an extremely wide global fan base.
Industry Convergence is another aspect of media convergence that DeGeneres has embraced. It is the understanding of what is striving throughout the industry whilst adapting and converging with those media platforms in order to enhance your product (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016). Social platforms such as YouTube and Twitter are frequently referred to and promoted throughout the show, being used to find up and coming talents. With 56.7 million Twitter Followers (DeGeneres, 2016), she is the 8th most followed person in the world (Statista, 2016). This combination of modern media and DeGeneres’s willingness to adapt to changing media patterns has given her the ability to reach a wide range of people and essentially globalised her name.
Globalisation has had a profound impact on shaping and promoting DeGeneres’s career. Globalisation has been described as the accessible communication between international people, organisations and countries in order to trade information, products and business (The Levin Institute, 2015). The Ellen DeGeneres Show is a prime example of globalisations impact on communications. The show airs in 14 different countries to more than 270 cities across 5 continents (EllenTV) and reached a record high of 4.4 million viewers in December 2013 (TVBN, 2013). In the last 18 months, The Ellen DeGeneres Show has expanded its coverage further, with Lifetime Asia broadcasting the show to Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and more (Iyengar, 2014). Terry Flew (2007, 67) suggests that one of the most important aspects of globalization is its ability to expand the reach of the media across the globe, as demonstrated by DeGeneres’s television series. Through the combination of media convergence and globalisation Ellen DeGeneres has been able to spread her messages to an audience with a wide range of ages, cultural belief’s and languages, therefore enforcing the importance of these aspects in modern media.
Another aspect of the media Ellen DeGeneres’s has contributed to is the concept of the media as a fourth estate. The dictionary defines the fourth estate as “the profession of journalism” (Dictionary.com, 2016) however more specifically it is the effect a fourth unbiased party can have on the public opinion, businesses and political leaders who claim to be doing what is best for average citizens (The Conversation, 2013). Through her comedic appeal Ellen DeGeneres provides her views and opinions on issues that can often be influenced by the opinions of those in power. A view that is different to those of the traditional media outlets. As a leader in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community, an example of the effect DeGeneres has as a fourth estate is the acceptance and promotion of equal rights for LGBT people. With such a large following, the idea of LGBT was normalized and therefore more readily accepted. Media as a fourth estate allows free speech and the opinions of those whom are usually oppressed to influence and inform those who may not know otherwise (The Conversation, 2016). Ellen DeGeneres takes advantage of this ability through comedy, allowing honest opinions, helping to inform the decisions of others.
As The Ellen DeGeneres Show is formally classified as a Daytime Talk Show (EllenTV, 2016), DeGeneres’s manipulation of the public sphere would have to be one of the most influential aspects to her success. The public sphere is a figurative or literal space where society is able to advertise their personal views (Arnold, 2008). Social Theorists Jürgen Habermas suggests that ideally the Public Sphere is “made up of private people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state” (Soules, 2007). Talk shows, and in particular The Ellen DeGeneres Show, have the ability to voice opinions in an open atmosphere. Through the combination of media convergence, globalisation, the fourth estate and social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube, Ellen DeGeneres provides an environment where her follower’s opinions are voiced. “Tweets” to the show are displayed live, combined with polls, emails and frequent audience engagement (EllenTV, 2016). This allows a public forum to emerge where the opinions of regular citizen’s are displayed, not just those in power. This ability to connect with her viewers has been a key element in the success of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Ellen DeGeneres’s media career was derived from hard work and the exploitation of her natural talents. She has been able to not only adapt but also lead the way in combining the aforementioned aspects of media, capturing a global audience. Furthermore, her ability to be true to herself, and her beliefs despite the cultural and societal pressure’s and scrutiny that surround her is something to be admired. As a public figure and leader for the LGBT community Ellen DeGeneres goes above and beyond to raise awareness of the issues that she feels are a prevalent issue in our society. This extends further than her efforts in the LGBT community to her charity work for foundations such as The Gentle Barn, The Charlize Theron Foundation and many others (EllenTV, 2016) raising over US $50 million to date (People’s Choice Award’s, 2016). This dedication and drive to improve the lives of people she has never met is something to not only be admired but also emulated.
In conclusion, Ellen DeGeneres’s success has been derived from hard work and knowledge of the industry. Her ability to see industry trends and changing media patterns, has allowed her television program to thrive within the modern media, however not without a few failed attempts. This exemplifies the concept that through media convergence and globalisation many opportunities are provided in the media. DeGeneres has adapted to these changes in order to take advantage of the opportunities therefore expanding her public sphere and role as a fourth estate.
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