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Poverty of Television

Poverty of Television

The Mediation of Suffering in Class-Divided Philippines

By Jonathan Corpus Ong

Based on an ethnographic study of television and audiences in class-divided Philippines, this is the first book to take a bottom-up approach in considering how people respond to images and narratives of suffering and poverty on television. 

PDF, 226 Pages


May 2015

£18.36, $30.36

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EPUB, 226 Pages


May 2015

£18.36, $30.36

  • About This Book
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  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

Based on an extensive ethnographic study of television and audiences in class-divided Philippines, this is the first book to take a bottom-up approach in considering how people respond to images and narratives of suffering and poverty on television. Arguing for an anthropological ethics of media, this book challenges existing work in media studies and sociology that focuses solely on textual analysis and philosophical approaches to the question of representing vulnerable others. Current questions in media ethics, such as whether to portray sufferers as humane and empowered individuals or show them ‘at their worst’ have so far used textual and visual analyses to convey the researcher’s own moral position on the matter. In contrast, this book, inspired by the anthropology of moralities, accounts for the different interpretations and moral positions of audiences, who are positioned in various degrees of social and moral proximity to those they see and hear on television. Winner of the 2016 Philippine Social Science Council Excellence in Research Award.


‘“The Poverty of Television” is an important book that will be cited for years to come. Not only is this the first ethnographic study on mediated suffering in the global South, but it is also written with great intellectual lucidity and a profound sense of care and responsibility for those it talks about.’ —Lilie Chouliaraki, London School of Economics and Political Science

‘This thoughtful and rigorous examination of lay moralities among Filipinos watching images of the poor in their own country not only de-Westernizes the notion of “media witnessing”, but also calls on media studies writ large to actually talk to the presumed victims of televised representations.’ —Vicki Mayer, Tulane University

‘This is the first scholarly book on Philippine television. Ong goes to the core of the issue – the cultural politics of news and entertainment, the lifeline of poverty of and in Philippine television. Ethnographic and political economic, the morality of media and development are critically engaged in this book.’ —Roland B. Tolentino, University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication

Author Information

Jonathan Corpus Ong is a lecturer in the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester.


Anthem Global Media and Communication Studies

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Introduction: The Poverty of Television; 1. The Moral Turn: From First Principles to Lay Moralities; 2. Theorizing Mediated Suffering: Ethics of Media Texts, Audiences and Ecologies; 3. Audience Ethics: Mediating Suffering in Everyday Life; 4. Entertainment: Playing with Pity; 5. News: Recognizing Calls to Action; Conclusions: Mediating Suffering, Dividing Class; Appendix; Notes; References; Index

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