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Beyond Ratings or Quality. Surpassing the Dilemma of Entertainment in Public Broadcasting
Unformatted Document Text:  10 In this diagram differences in audience-orientedness, instead of distinctions based on genre form the main points of difference between public and private broadcasters. The citizen and the enjoyer are revealed as primary target groups of the public broadcasting organizations, while commercial networks target (potential) consumers. Whether or not a public network broadcasts a program should be determined by the eagerness of (certain groups of) viewers to watch it or by the social involvement that certain programs may provoke. For commercial networks these are secondary considerations. What counts is: do these programs attract viewers with a profile advertisers are looking for? This is why sometimes very popular programs on commercial TV are discontinued: they attracted many viewers but not enough viewers with the right viewer profile: shoppers of a certain age, a certain sex, a certain income and with a certain lifestyle. In this context one of our interviewees, an independent producer, suggested: The unique aspect of public broadcasting is that you do not have to work for that single target group of shoppers, but that within the audience other target groups exist as well. By adding the group ‘enjoyers’, or jouisseurs, to the two already known viewer groups (citizens and consumers), public program makers and managers will be released from the dilemma ratings or quality. This freedom will open up new opportunities with respect to entertainment programming in particular. Moreover, the basic mission of public TV – trying to reach all kinds of viewers, letting people enjoy and addressing them as citizens – allows for a more relativist view of quality and the dissolution of the hierarchical distinction between high culture and low culture. The latter, in fact, creates room for discussing the quality of entertainment to begin with, as well as for identifying the various vocabularies that are used in discussions of quality. Below I argue that the dominance of the artist and marketing vocabularies in the discourse on TV quality with their focus on either content or ratings obscures a consideration of the implied impact of programs on viewers as an important quality dimension. The Quality of Entertainment: A Public Matter Most scholars agree that ‘quality’ is the defining feature of public broadcasting (Bardoel & Knulst, 1994; Born, 2000; Born & Prosser, 2001; Brants & De Bens, 2000; Corner, 1999; Ishikawa, 1996; McQuail, 1992; Wieten, Murdock & Dahlgren, 2000). Some even suggest quality functions as public TV’s ‘brand name’ (Dries & Woldt, 1996, p. 22). Surprisingly, then, it has received little attention in academic research

Authors: Meijer, Irene.
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10
In this diagram differences in audience-orientedness, instead of distinctions
based on genre form the main points of difference between public and private
broadcasters. The citizen and the enjoyer are revealed as primary target groups of
the public broadcasting organizations, while commercial networks target (potential)
consumers. Whether or not a public network broadcasts a program should be
determined by the eagerness of (certain groups of) viewers to watch it or by the
social involvement that certain programs may provoke. For commercial networks
these are secondary considerations. What counts is: do these programs attract
viewers with a profile advertisers are looking for? This is why sometimes very popular
programs on commercial TV are discontinued: they attracted many viewers but not
enough viewers with the right viewer profile: shoppers of a certain age, a certain sex,
a certain income and with a certain lifestyle. In this context one of our interviewees,
an independent producer, suggested:
The unique aspect of public broadcasting is that you do not have to
work for that single target group of shoppers, but that within the
audience other target groups exist as well.
By adding the group ‘enjoyers’, or jouisseurs, to the two already known viewer
groups (citizens and consumers), public program makers and managers will be
released from the dilemma ratings or quality. This freedom will open up new
opportunities with respect to entertainment programming in particular. Moreover, the
basic mission of public TV – trying to reach all kinds of viewers, letting people enjoy
and addressing them as citizens – allows for a more relativist view of quality and the
dissolution of the hierarchical distinction between high culture and low culture. The
latter, in fact, creates room for discussing the quality of entertainment to begin with,
as well as for identifying the various vocabularies that are used in discussions of
quality. Below I argue that the dominance of the artist and marketing vocabularies in
the discourse on TV quality with their focus on either content or ratings obscures a
consideration of the implied impact of programs on viewers as an important quality
dimension.
The Quality of Entertainment: A Public Matter
Most scholars agree that ‘quality’ is the defining feature of public broadcasting
(Bardoel & Knulst, 1994; Born, 2000; Born & Prosser, 2001; Brants & De Bens, 2000;
Corner, 1999; Ishikawa, 1996; McQuail, 1992; Wieten, Murdock & Dahlgren, 2000).
Some even suggest quality functions as public TV’s ‘brand name’ (Dries & Woldt,
1996, p. 22). Surprisingly, then, it has received little attention in academic research


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