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Beyond Ratings or Quality. Surpassing the Dilemma of Entertainment in Public Broadcasting
Unformatted Document Text:  23 Notes: 1 I wish to thank Robert Adolfsson, Lodewijk van Noort, and Hester Morssink for their unrelenting dedication to carefully analysing and writing up the interviews for this project and Bernadette van Dijck and Ton Brouwers for their critical comments and suggestions. As a preliminary activity for this report, twelve program makers were extensively interviewed on the subject of quality and entertainment (Morssink, 2002). 2 Tunstall (1993, p. 138) defines (light) entertainment against sports, drama, and news programming; it includes quiz shows, game shows, human interest, surprise shows, chat shows, comedy, and traditional variety. Manschot (1994) considers formats that have been around since the late 1960s as entertainment: popular music shows, game shows, revue shows, cabaret and satire, and talk shows. Implicitly, he also views light drama productions (comedies, long-term series, etc.) and infotainment as entertainment programming. 3 These interviews were held in the context of a study I did for the Board of Governors of the Dutch Public Broadcasting system (see Irene Costera Meijer, Publieke Kwaliteit en Amuserende programma’s. De ontwikkeling van kwaliteitsvocabulaires voor publieke omroepen. Amsterdam (ASCOR) 4 juli 2002). The ensuing report – based on desk research of policy papers, newspaper articles, and internal memos of the past fifteen years – mapped the various views on the quality of entertainment programs and provided a first analysis of the vocabularies used. In addition, data from participant observation of four major meetings in 2001/2002 and results of in-depth interviews with nine senior broadcasting managers and thirty-six program makers and producers (both in-house and independent) about quality, public responsibility, and entertainment in ten one-to-one interviews of on average 1,5 to 2 hours and six group interviews of on average 2,5 – 3 hours were used. Moreover, all interviewees were asked to comment on their interview transcript as well as the draft report. All critical (only a few were given) comments were incorporated. 4 All quotations come from ratified interviews held between august 2001 and June 2002 5 In a view of entertainment as ‘trash’, entertainment is a low form of culture that appeals to the lower human instincts (voyeurism, gossip, greed, malicious delight). It is easy to make (endlessly repeated formulas and cheap, little creativity); it is a star vehicle in which the star has more say than the maker; and, last but not least, it is American (Tunstall, 1993, p.139). The ideological critique that tends to go with it suggests that entertainment keeps people away from the truly important issues in society. In the economic critique of entertainment the genre merely counts as a cash cow for the nouveaux riches (Corner, 1999; Manschot, 1996; Postman, 1985). 6 This might explain why accountability to viewers still has marginal significance with public networks (Bardoel, Brants & van Noort, 2002) 7 Different taste communities exist because of the diversity of and disagreement about aesthetic standards and values (Gans,1999: 92-93) Taste communities are sometimes ‘real’ and might become visible as internet communities around particular programs or genres. In the Netherlands one can point to the detective-site of one of the public broadcasters (KRO); in the USA the internet-forum of CNN caters to a particular taste community. More often a taste community will be a construction and ‘only’ exist as a result of audience research. I prefer ‘taste communities’ instead of ‘taste publics’ or ‘taste cultures’, so as to underscore the significance of interaction among viewers about their favourite programs. Programming for a taste community implies that quality is that which the members of a community (the fans of a genre or program) communally define as quality. Those who like watching Derrick or Murder she wrote describe their preference in different terms than those who like watching Prime Suspect or NYPD Blue.

Authors: Meijer, Irene.
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23
Notes:
1
I wish to thank Robert Adolfsson, Lodewijk van Noort, and Hester Morssink for their
unrelenting dedication to carefully analysing and writing up the interviews for this
project and Bernadette van Dijck and Ton Brouwers for their critical comments and
suggestions.
As a preliminary activity for this report, twelve program makers were
extensively interviewed on the subject of quality and entertainment (Morssink, 2002).
2
Tunstall (1993, p. 138) defines (light) entertainment against sports, drama, and
news programming; it includes quiz shows, game shows, human interest, surprise
shows, chat shows, comedy, and traditional variety. Manschot (1994) considers
formats that have been around since the late 1960s as entertainment: popular music
shows, game shows, revue shows, cabaret and satire, and talk shows. Implicitly, he
also views light drama productions (comedies, long-term series, etc.) and
infotainment as entertainment programming.
3
These interviews were held in the context of a study I did for the Board of Governors of the
Dutch Public Broadcasting system (see Irene Costera Meijer, Publieke Kwaliteit en
Amuserende programma’s. De ontwikkeling van kwaliteitsvocabulaires voor publieke
omroepen.
Amsterdam (ASCOR) 4 juli 2002). The ensuing report – based on desk research
of policy papers, newspaper articles, and internal memos of the past fifteen years – mapped
the various views on the quality of entertainment programs and provided a first analysis of the
vocabularies used. In addition, data from participant observation of four major meetings in
2001/2002 and results of in-depth interviews with nine senior broadcasting managers and
thirty-six program makers and producers (both in-house and independent) about quality,
public responsibility, and entertainment in ten one-to-one interviews of on average 1,5 to 2
hours and six group interviews of on average 2,5 – 3 hours were used. Moreover, all
interviewees were asked to comment on their interview transcript as well as the draft report.
All critical (only a few were given) comments were incorporated.
4
All quotations come from ratified interviews held between august 2001 and June
2002
5
In a view of entertainment as ‘trash’, entertainment is a low form of culture that appeals to
the lower human instincts (voyeurism, gossip, greed, malicious delight). It is easy to make
(endlessly repeated formulas and cheap, little creativity); it is a star vehicle in which the star
has more say than the maker; and, last but not least, it is American (Tunstall, 1993, p.139).
The ideological critique that tends to go with it suggests that entertainment keeps people
away from the truly important issues in society. In the economic critique of entertainment the
genre merely counts as a cash cow for the nouveaux riches (Corner, 1999; Manschot, 1996;
Postman, 1985).
6
This might explain why accountability to viewers still has marginal significance with
public networks (Bardoel, Brants & van Noort, 2002)
7
Different taste communities exist because of the diversity of and disagreement
about aesthetic standards and values (Gans,1999: 92-93) Taste communities are
sometimes ‘real’ and might become visible as internet communities around particular
programs or genres. In the Netherlands one can point to the detective-site of one of
the public broadcasters (KRO); in the USA the internet-forum of CNN caters to a
particular taste community. More often a taste community will be a construction and
‘only’ exist as a result of audience research. I prefer ‘taste communities’ instead of
‘taste publics’ or ‘taste cultures’, so as to underscore the significance of interaction
among viewers about their favourite programs. Programming for a taste community
implies that quality is that which the members of a community (the fans of a genre or
program) communally define as quality. Those who like watching Derrick or Murder
she wrote
describe their preference in different terms than those who like watching
Prime Suspect
or NYPD Blue.


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