Soap Operas, more than entertainment history and development of a cult genre

Paul A. Soukup, SJ

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Well-known to viewers around the world, soap operas have interested communication researchers almost from the beginning of their appearance.[1] The broadcast genre started in the United States, on radio, in the 1930s and by the 1940s early communication researchers were investigating the nature of the audience for soap operas, their motivations for listening to soap opera, and the satisfaction listeners gained from the soap opera.

The soap opera form itself spread fairly rapidly to other countries, with some of the earliest exports going to Argentina and Brazil in the 1940s. In that period, the United States and Britain both produced soap operas; interestingly the BBC in Great Britain originally produced soap operas not for domestic audiences but for U.S. audiences in an attempt to influence them during World War II. After the war, soap operas moved from radio to television, although they continued to have ongoing life in radio genre form.

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