Paddy Chayefsky’s Network tackles the controversy of the media’s willingness to exploit anything in order to get more ratings and to make more money. It brings up the unawareness amongst us viewers that the media is controlling our lives; that television is ruining our way of feeling and thinking. One example of this is when we watch the news; we’re so used to hear about savage and distress that we’ve become desensitized to things that are usually part of human nature. Rarely do we see any emotions or feelings involved with news reporting, what we see and hear is calm and gathered descriptions. This has caused us to lose our sense of shock and our sense of humanity.
Howard Beale represents the truth that no one seems to be paying attention to. He brings up the fact that not only does the media contribute to our twisted way of viewing reality, but so do we. As an audience, we’re empowering the networks to continue their exploitation by watching their television shows. It will never stop until we “turn them off”. Diana Christensen represents moderntelevision; she thinks all publicity is good publicity, and that all political agendas can be transformed into something attractive to the audiences. For her, there’s no important distinction between news and entertainment. Max Holden believes the opposite. He represents the principles and idealism against the cynical corporate people who are taking over the fictional TV network UBS. This theme is also illustrated by the generation gap between them. Max tells Diana, “Everything you touch die,” meaning that Diana is destroying his beloved news division. But at the same time, she fascinates Max, which leads to a love affair to begin.
Although Network is ostensibly a drama, it’s also a satire. We laugh about the film’s satirical jokes and exaggerations because they’re true, even in today’s media environment. One example is when they create a show featuring soothsayers and gossip columnists. This captures how some news entertainment shows work today; that it’s easier to get airtime if you’re a "psychic" or some other kind of amusing character, than if you actually have useful information to convey. Another satirical theme is the love affair between Max and Diana. Diana gets euphoric when she thinks about higher ratings. She kisses Max while telling him how cheaply she can buy the James Bond reruns and while discussing ratings during sex, she climaxes when telling him about the "Mao Tse Tung Hour." All while Max is apathetically following her around, seemingly unhappy about her excitement. This symbolizes how entertainment and money has the power over idealism and morals.
Ratings are money, and the TV business is a multimillion-dollar business dedicated to make a profit. However, I believe that in an ideal world, corporations shouldn’t infiltrate the news in any way. I think Holden best represents how news should be conveyed; it’s not supposed to entertain or to satisfy any needs. It should simply speak the truth, even if it means being occasionally “boring”. I also agree with Beale; that we have to be critical as viewers, to take charge of our own feelings and beliefs. We have to remember that the only responsibility the networks have is to their stockholders, which means that whatever we see on television is financially supporting the network. I think Network does a good job portraying the media industry and its corruption. It shows the different factors and parties that play in when running a network and creating a television show. The satire and the clever dialogues make the film entertaining while at the same time conveying a message causing one to cringe. However, it feels like the film is propagating that the old media is holding the moral line against the new media. I believe there are honest people in the media industry today, so I’m not really convinced that it has to do with the “generation gap”. When looking at the history of news and media, there’s plenty of proof showing that the business has always been corrupted and that the goal has been to make as much money as possible. Beal explains television and its influence in the remarkable scene when he says, “We’ll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in illusions, man! None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds… we’re all you know.”