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Beyond Ratings or Quality. Surpassing the Dilemma of Entertainment in Public Broadcasting
Unformatted Document Text:  4 ensures that each and every market niche is served. By contrast, in a small country of some fourteen million residents who share a minor language this is of course hardly possible. It is an aspect that is frequently so frustrating to drama makers that it finishes them off. A second misguided assumption is that with commercial networks the viewers set the standards of programming, while in fact the demands of the advertisers who pay for the commercials set those standards, as even Pieter Porsius (1998), former president of the largest Dutch production company Holland Media Groep, testified. In this respect, Peter Dahlgren concluded that if entertainment is left to commercial networks in Europe, only the commercially attractive audience groups are served (2000, p. 26). Thirdly, a common justification for advancing the principle of complementariness is the suggestion that commercial networks tend to follow a steady course and limit their offerings to specific genres. Not only is this reasoning incorrect (Aslama et al., 2002), it also carries the risk that public programming degenerates into programming that merely does what the commercial stations do not do, thus turning commercial programming into the absolute standard of public TV. Similarly, the perception that commercial networks offer television for free, including free entertainment, is wrong. Rather, commercial stations are financed differently: through income from commercials. Viewers equally pay for this funding, albeit indirectly, in their role of consumer. Finally, some argue that public networks will attract more viewers if they were to focus even more on their so-called core business, which is providing programming of ‘high quality’ that is ‘distinctive, . . . informative, for everybody, and socially relevant’ (Raad van Bestuur, 1998, p. 57). This view is based on a misapprehension as well. Finnish research supports Dutch data that indicate that the external quality image of public broadcasting (with viewers) does not essentially differ from these basic features and qualities (Het Imago van de omroepen 2000, 2001; Mäntymäki, 2002). Therefore, the problem should not be marked as a matter of identity, but as the fairly limited number of viewers this identity generates. Precisely the automatic relationship viewers perceive between public broadcasting and information, culture, art, and quality constitutes an obstacle for viewers to tune in to a public channel. Instructive in this respect is a study by Wober (in Leggatt, 1996a, p. 75-80), who asked 3000 viewers which programs had quality. The response was unambiguous: informative programs received the highest score, followed by drama and light entertainment. However, when the same group was asked to provide a single definition of ‘quality television’, 27% indicated that it should be ‘entertaining’ and ‘enjoyable’, while references to ‘informative’ and ‘educational’ only came in

Authors: Meijer, Irene.
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4
ensures that each and every market niche is served. By contrast, in
a small country of some fourteen million residents who share a
minor language this is of course hardly possible. It is an aspect that
is frequently so frustrating to drama makers that it finishes them off.
A second misguided assumption is that with commercial networks the viewers
set the standards of programming, while in fact the demands of the advertisers who
pay for the commercials set those standards, as even Pieter Porsius (1998), former
president of the largest Dutch production company Holland Media Groep, testified. In
this respect, Peter Dahlgren concluded that if entertainment is left to commercial
networks in Europe, only the commercially attractive audience groups are served
(2000, p. 26). Thirdly, a common justification for advancing the principle of
complementariness is the suggestion that commercial networks tend to follow a
steady course and limit their offerings to specific genres. Not only is this reasoning
incorrect (Aslama et al., 2002), it also carries the risk that public programming
degenerates into programming that merely does what the commercial stations do not
do, thus turning commercial programming into the absolute standard of public TV.
Similarly, the perception that commercial networks offer television for free,
including free entertainment, is wrong. Rather, commercial stations are financed
differently: through income from commercials. Viewers equally pay for this funding,
albeit indirectly, in their role of consumer.
Finally, some argue that public networks will attract more viewers if they were
to focus even more on their so-called core business, which is providing programming
of ‘high quality’ that is ‘distinctive, . . . informative, for everybody, and socially
relevant’ (Raad van Bestuur, 1998, p. 57). This view is based on a misapprehension
as well. Finnish research supports Dutch data that indicate that the external quality
image of public broadcasting (with viewers) does not essentially differ from these
basic features and qualities (Het Imago van de omroepen 2000, 2001; Mäntymäki,
2002). Therefore, the problem should not be marked as a matter of identity, but as
the fairly limited number of viewers this identity generates. Precisely the automatic
relationship viewers perceive between public broadcasting and information, culture,
art, and quality constitutes an obstacle for viewers to tune in to a public channel.
Instructive in this respect is a study by Wober (in Leggatt, 1996a, p. 75-80),
who asked 3000 viewers which programs had quality. The response was
unambiguous: informative programs received the highest score, followed by drama
and light entertainment. However, when the same group was asked to provide a
single definition of ‘quality television’, 27% indicated that it should be ‘entertaining’
and ‘enjoyable’, while references to ‘informative’ and ‘educational’ only came in


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