Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Jeremy Lipschultz

Second Advisor

Dr. Cowdin

Third Advisor

Dr. Thorson


The influence of mass media, particularly the portrayal of value-related issues in prime-time entertainment television, has provoked much recent debate concerning a perceived impoverishment of values in society. Recently, current and popular prime-time television shows have been cited for a presentation of values which do not reflect values endemic to the teachings of most mainstream religions. The present study examined content in a sample of prime-time network entertainment television to see how value portrayal compares to the values associated with basic Judea-Christian tenets. Television is considered a common cultural storyteller and therefore is thought to be a reflection of society while presenting ideas that may affect it. The present study, although not an exact replication, was similar to a study conducted by Selnow (1990). Values toward self and others, including a sense of duty to family and self, were observed with the highest frequency (41.2 percent of all coded value incidents). For all value incidents coded, more value presentations were unfavorable (58.4 percent) than favorable (41.6 percent). Specifically, a favorable value presentation was coded for value incidents which advocated, supported, and/or demonstrated a particular value as it is stated in the BCPS taxonomy, while an unfavorable value presentation was coded for value incidents which failed to demonstrate, challenged, and/or contradicted a particular value from the BCPS taxonomy. The BCPS taxonomy was the value index used for operationally defining values in the present research. For each value incident coded, the principal or active agent--the one character whose lines and/or dialogue were dominant--was noted. The observed age of each principal or active agent was coded by assigning the principal or active agent to an age coding category, i.e. 31-40 or 41-50 years of age. The most common age for all principal or active agents coded fell in the age 41-50 category. Results obtained in the present research are not overwhelming toward any one trend or conclusion. The distribution of favorable and unfavorable value presentations, for example, does not indicate a trend which characterizes television as a "new religion." However, whereas the Church in earlier times was the major mediator of values, norms, and beliefs--a role now taken by television (Hoover, 1988)--values as observed in the present study are only dissimilar to Judeo-Christian beliefs in terms of the nature and degree of unfavorable value presentations, if not in terms of frequency. The average ages of principal or active agents in association with favorable or unfavorable value presentation was inconclusive (age 41-50 for both).


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1995 Robin C. Mills.