Fun With Frames: Exploring Metacommunication and Real Media Frames in South Park's Fake News

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Virginia Tech


The popular cable show South Park has steadily entertained audiences since its debut in 1997. Much of the show's humor and entertainment value comes from its satirical treatment of public figures, institutions, and timely trends. One of the institutions often lampooned on the show is that of television news broadcasting. This thesis project seeks to shed light on entertainment media portrayals of television news journalists and television news journalism as a whole by examining the issues covered, how those issues are framed, and how the journalist is used as a figure on the border of entertainment and information in one show. A content analysis was performed on all news broadcasts contained within all 181 episodes of South Park through its twelfth season. Results indicate that Semetko and Valkenburg's (2000) five generic frames penetrate well into the entertainment realm; a broadcast's "relationship to reality" is framed significantly differently when Conflict and Speculation frames are employed; news broadcasters are not portrayed as exemplars of the media's "liberal bias;" and that South Park has used significantly more reality-based storylines in recent years than in its early years.



metacommunication, framing, generic frames, macro-frames, entertainment media