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Beyond Ratings or Quality. Surpassing the Dilemma of Entertainment in Public Broadcasting
Unformatted Document Text:  11 (cf. Buscombe, 2000; Corner, 1999). This is even truer of professional views of quality, which many consider an area where research is ‘most badly needed’ (Rosengren et al, 1996, p. 41). Specifically, Born & Prosser (2001) make a case for giving primary normative attention to producer judgment of quality, since ‘producer intentionality in combination with the conditions bearing on production together determine the character of the output’ (p. 679). Although the exact meaning of quality is rarely elucidated, the survey on ‘Quality Assessment of Television’ by Sakae Ishikawa (1996) is a major exception. It contains, among others, excellent studies by Alberts (1996) and Leggatt (1996b) on the views of professionals on quality programming in the North American and British television industries. For the first time, these authors described systematically on which criteria TV professionals based their production of quality programs. Their quality dimensions, therefore, provide a good starting point for a debate on entertainment as a fully integrated component of the programming of public broadcasting. What Is Quality? In 1986 Blumler still noted that American producers have trouble to discuss quality in abstract terms because of their commercial background, but the interviews of Albers (1996) and Leggatt (1996b) with American and British television professionals, respectively, point into another direction. Regardless of their professional domain – public or commercial TV – and regardless of the genre they worked in, all were able to articulate standards of quality in various areas. Albers classified these standards into five general categories: (1) elements of form (writing, storytelling, editing, acting/on-camera talent, lighting, photography, and directing); (2) elements of content (relevant subject matter, learning something about the human condition, seriousness of purpose, oblique treatment of issues); (3) artistry (chemistry); (4) approach of the viewer (showing respect, no cynicism, no talking down, not seeking the lowest common denominator, not casting pearls before swine, entertaining and informative, showing – not telling, no preaching, accuracy, and of interest to many people) and effect on the viewer (grab the viewer’s attention, holding the viewer’s attention, emotional effect / catharsis, stimulate thought, move to action / change behavior), and (5) commercial success. According to Albers, these five areas represented the major quality concerns of North American professionals. Leggatt grouped the characteristics he found with British TV-professionals into slightly different categories: (1) Craft skills (full range of technical and production skills), (2) resources (production values), (3) characteristics of programs (seriousness, relevancy of subject matter and qualities of storytelling, touching the

Authors: Meijer, Irene.
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11
(cf. Buscombe, 2000; Corner, 1999). This is even truer of professional views of
quality, which many consider an area where research is ‘most badly needed’
(Rosengren et al, 1996, p. 41). Specifically, Born & Prosser (2001) make a case for
giving primary normative attention to producer judgment of quality, since ‘producer
intentionality in combination with the conditions bearing on production together
determine the character of the output’ (p. 679). Although the exact meaning of quality
is rarely elucidated, the survey on ‘Quality Assessment of Television’ by Sakae
Ishikawa (1996) is a major exception. It contains, among others, excellent studies by
Alberts (1996) and Leggatt (1996b) on the views of professionals on quality
programming in the North American and British television industries. For the first
time, these authors described systematically on which criteria TV professionals
based their production of quality programs. Their quality dimensions, therefore,
provide a good starting point for a debate on entertainment as a fully integrated
component of the programming of public broadcasting.
What Is Quality?
In 1986 Blumler still noted that American producers have trouble to discuss quality in
abstract terms because of their commercial background, but the interviews of Albers
(1996) and Leggatt (1996b) with American and British television professionals,
respectively, point into another direction. Regardless of their professional domain –
public or commercial TV – and regardless of the genre they worked in, all were able
to articulate standards of quality in various areas. Albers classified these standards
into five general categories: (1) elements of form (writing, storytelling, editing,
acting/on-camera talent, lighting, photography, and directing); (2) elements of content
(relevant subject matter, learning something about the human condition, seriousness
of purpose, oblique treatment of issues); (3) artistry (chemistry); (4) approach of the
viewer (showing respect, no cynicism, no talking down, not seeking the lowest
common denominator, not casting pearls before swine, entertaining and informative,
showing – not telling, no preaching, accuracy, and of interest to many people) and
effect on the viewer (grab the viewer’s attention, holding the viewer’s attention,
emotional effect / catharsis, stimulate thought, move to action / change behavior),
and (5) commercial success. According to Albers, these five areas represented the
major quality concerns of North American professionals.
Leggatt grouped the characteristics he found with British TV-professionals
into slightly different categories: (1) Craft skills (full range of technical and production
skills), (2) resources (production values), (3) characteristics of programs
(seriousness, relevancy of subject matter and qualities of storytelling, touching the


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