Coordinated by Elisabetta Scala, edited by Alessandra Caneva and Daniela Delfini A Year of Zapping: a critical guide to Italian television programs Media Observatory of the Italian Parents Movement (MOIGE). Magi Publishers, 2011, 276 pg.
Little books grow. In our case, it’s good to say, paraphrasing the title of the well-known novel by Louisa May Alcott. In fact, with the 2010-2011 publication of A Year of Zapping reaching its fourth edition, this volume has become a solid reference point in the panorama reviews for Italian television programs.
The goal of the volume’s editor, MOIGE (Media Observatory of the Italian Parents Movement), is always the same: offer the family a valid orientation tool for TV content. This is carried out through a critical and detailed guide of over 130 programs that were broadcast through general interest, digital and satellite channels. A media-education service, which the families increasingly feel the need for when faced with a frustrating television offer, is carried out thanks to the numerous daily reports that reach MOIGE.
The programs are analyzed from various angles, from the narrative to the sociological dimensions. Particular attention is given to the messages transmitted and the ideas conveyed. In addition to providing a brief synthesis on the facts of the production (duration, script-writing, filming, average audience, broadcasting), the fact sheet of each transmission also offers a critical review of the production, with particular reference to its suitability for minors. The evaluation of the program is expressed in symbols: the bin indicates low-quality programs, while the star indicates a high-quality program. The thumbs-down symbol is used for programs that are unsuitable for minors, while the thumbs-up indicates the programs appropriate for all. An estimated age-range to which the program is geared is also presented. The seashell, MOIGE’s logo, resembles the organizations top picks for programs with content suitable for the whole family.
The important improvement to this fourth edition is the section dedicated to animated cartoons. Particular attention is given to whole fiction programming of Italian broadcasters Rai and Mediaset because it is a product that draws in the highest audience level and therefore bears a strong influence on values and models of consumerism, culture and education. Among the various reviews, we’ll focus on the highly viewed series on the Roman family, Cesaroni, showed during prime time on Channel 5 and already in its fourth season. A negative evaluation was given mostly due to the change of genre. The initially pleasant and brilliant sitcom became more of a soap-opera in the last series, with less momentum and more drama, especially for the emotional events. The result is a less relaxing and less enjoyable product.
Among the most positive reviews was without a doubt Hanna Montana , the Disney series that tells the story of an American teenager who decides to have a double life: one of the famous Hanna Montana and one of a simple student. Only the family and her closest friends are in on the secret. It’s a program that definitely deserves a star, which is the highest ranking by MOIGE, given for quality and the positive values transmitted that make it a sitcom suitable for all ages. The family is given an irreplaceable value, just like friendship. It tries to convey a life lesson in each episode, with concrete examples of how to life well, without slipping into paternalism. Among the other reviews, we find Big Brother, which was ranked perhaps the worst program of the year. It is a reality show with limitless vulgarity, and it completely lacks content and ideas.
In conclusion, this edition of A Year of Zapping represents a good editorial product, excellent for its attempts to provide a public service of program orientation for families. A critique, or at least a suggestion for the next edition, would be the inclusion of reviews on top programs in general interest television that are in the unprotected time periods. This would provide guidance and offer a critical vision of these programs that many teenagers already watch.