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Beyond Ratings or Quality. Surpassing the Dilemma of Entertainment in Public Broadcasting
Unformatted Document Text:  16 worked all night, we discovered our tune did not fit. What we had was okay, but we all felt more should be made of it. So we decided to throw away the four recordings we did thus far and start all over once again. You have to have it right. Regarding shows or series that go on for years the interviewees tended to be reluctant to discuss quality, as if routine is the same as lack of quality. However, the producer of game show Te Land, ter zee en in de lucht, (with participants who in self- made vehicles try to cross a stretch of water, air, or land as fast as possible) which has been on the air for thirty-two years and continues to be popular, insisted that it always remains important to work with the best people, be serious and concentrated, and to continue to reflect on the format and watch for elements that can be improved. Like any artisan work, making good programs requires experience and training. For the artisan program maker it was important to know what the program should accomplish with its audience. Is it the program’s intention to make viewers laugh, to shock viewers, let them share a feeling, or point out to them what good citizenship is? In an artisan vocabulary, quality depends on the answers to questions like these. If a program is meant to cater to many different viewer groups that enjoy watching it, it is a mark of its quality if it indeed has good ratings. If, however, a program is supposed to appeal to young viewers while its audience turns out to consist mainly of older viewers, the program may have quality in terms of the artist vocabulary, but in terms of the artisan vocabulary it has failed. In this respect, one independent produces gave a telling example: The interesting thing about Costa! [light drama for young viewers] is that it could never have been made for the commercial networks . . . But BNN [public network aimed at young viewers] was attentive and said: ‘it is perfect for our audience. Among young viewers between 13 and 19 we have market shares of over 40%. And this provides the justification for BNN’s existence. This is why we were established in the first place and why we are part of the public system’ . . . By contrast, at one point Fort Alpha was only watched by those over 50 who felt that it was so nice to watch how today’s young people interact with each other at school. Teacher vocabulary A fourth language for talking about quality, the teacher vocabulary, has always been of central significance to program makers in public broadcasting. A teacher’s discourse aims at rendering (everyday) culture more readable, understandable, and insightful for the audience. To accomplish this objective, programs require a specific design. A quiz show, for example, should give viewers the sense that the response to a particular question matters. The answer to a question about some rare exotic insect

Authors: Meijer, Irene.
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16
worked all night, we discovered our tune did not fit. What we had
was okay, but we all felt more should be made of it. So we decided
to throw away the four recordings we did thus far and start all over
once again. You have to have it right.
Regarding shows or series that go on for years the interviewees tended to be
reluctant to discuss quality, as if routine is the same as lack of quality. However, the
producer of game show Te Land, ter zee en in de lucht, (with participants who in self-
made vehicles try to cross a stretch of water, air, or land as fast as possible) which
has been on the air for thirty-two years and continues to be popular, insisted that it
always remains important to work with the best people, be serious and concentrated,
and to continue to reflect on the format and watch for elements that can be improved.
Like any artisan work, making good programs requires experience and training.
For the artisan program maker it was important to know what the program
should accomplish with its audience. Is it the program’s intention to make viewers
laugh, to shock viewers, let them share a feeling, or point out to them what good
citizenship is? In an artisan vocabulary, quality depends on the answers to questions
like these. If a program is meant to cater to many different viewer groups that enjoy
watching it, it is a mark of its quality if it indeed has good ratings. If, however, a
program is supposed to appeal to young viewers while its audience turns out to
consist mainly of older viewers, the program may have quality in terms of the artist
vocabulary, but in terms of the artisan vocabulary it has failed. In this respect, one
independent produces gave a telling example:
The interesting thing about Costa! [light drama for young viewers] is
that it could never have been made for the commercial networks . . .
But BNN [public network aimed at young viewers] was attentive and
said: ‘it is perfect for our audience. Among young viewers between
13 and 19 we have market shares of over 40%. And this provides
the justification for BNN’s existence. This is why we were
established in the first place and why we are part of the public
system’ . . . By contrast, at one point Fort Alpha was only watched
by those over 50 who felt that it was so nice to watch how today’s
young people interact with each other at school.
Teacher vocabulary
A fourth language for talking about quality, the teacher vocabulary, has always been
of central significance to program makers in public broadcasting. A teacher’s
discourse aims at rendering (everyday) culture more readable, understandable, and
insightful for the audience. To accomplish this objective, programs require a specific
design. A quiz show, for example, should give viewers the sense that the response to
a particular question matters. The answer to a question about some rare exotic insect


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