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Beyond Ratings or Quality. Surpassing the Dilemma of Entertainment in Public Broadcasting
Unformatted Document Text:  7 which only peers count as quality judges. This impossible choice forms a second obstacle for casting a serious look at entertainment in public TV. Ratings or quality? Dismantling the dilemma. As shown above, the conventional understanding of the notions ‘quality’, ‘public service’ and ‘commercial’ constitute a major impediment for any serious consideration of entertainment in public broadcasting. It basically involves a dilemma of ratings versus quality. It seems to me that there are two exit options. First, news is not the only genre that can be of service to citizens; entertainment can do the same. The second opening is the addition of a third audience group next to the familiar ones of citizens and consumers. Entertainment for citizens It’s quite common to presuppose that news is directed to citizens and that in entertaining programs viewers are addressed as consumers. This evokes the question how public broadcasters can address their audience as citizens through entertainment. Elsewhere I have demonstrated how the uneasy relationship between popular culture and the mission of public broadcasting is closely associated with a limited and one-sided understanding of the notion of citizenship (Costera Meijer, 2001, 2002). It seems to me, however, that the rise of a postmodern cultural attitude has increased the appreciation of the democratically and culturally formative functions of entertainment (Fiske, 1989; Hartley, 1999). When appealing to an audience in their role as citizens is broadly defined as encouraging viewers to be more socially and democratically involved, it cannot be decided in advance what genres will involve people more directly in public debates (Barker,1999; Murdock, 1988, 1999). For example, the main goal of soap operas is entertainment, but each and every day they also stimulate millions of viewers to discuss social issues with each other (Gripsrud, 1995; Schrøder, 1988; Tufte, 2000). Clearly, standard quality journalism has lost its exclusive role as educator of citizens. By watching soaps, detective series, and video clips, viewers may discover many new and valuable insights on how to be a citizen (see Buckingham, 2000; Costera Meijer, 2001a; Costera Meijer 2001b; Gripsrud, 1999; Hartley, 1999; Hermes, 1999; Manschot, 1994; Murdock, 1999).

Authors: Meijer, Irene.
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7
which only peers count as quality judges. This impossible choice forms a second
obstacle for casting a serious look at entertainment in public TV.
Ratings or quality? Dismantling the dilemma.
As shown above, the conventional understanding of the notions ‘quality’, ‘public
service’ and ‘commercial’ constitute a major impediment for any serious
consideration of entertainment in public broadcasting. It basically involves a dilemma
of ratings versus quality. It seems to me that there are two exit options. First, news is
not the only genre that can be of service to citizens; entertainment can do the same.
The second opening is the addition of a third audience group next to the familiar ones
of citizens and consumers.
Entertainment for citizens
It’s quite common to presuppose that news is directed to citizens and that in
entertaining programs viewers are addressed as consumers. This evokes the
question how public broadcasters can address their audience as citizens through
entertainment. Elsewhere I have demonstrated how the uneasy relationship between
popular culture and the mission of public broadcasting is closely associated with a
limited and one-sided understanding of the notion of citizenship (Costera Meijer,
2001, 2002). It seems to me, however, that the rise of a postmodern cultural attitude
has increased the appreciation of the democratically and culturally formative
functions of entertainment (Fiske, 1989; Hartley, 1999). When appealing to an
audience in their role as citizens is broadly defined as encouraging viewers to be
more socially and democratically involved, it cannot be decided in advance what
genres will involve people more directly in public debates (Barker,1999; Murdock,
1988, 1999). For example, the main goal of soap operas is entertainment, but each
and every day they also stimulate millions of viewers to discuss social issues with
each other (Gripsrud, 1995; Schrøder, 1988; Tufte, 2000). Clearly, standard quality
journalism has lost its exclusive role as educator of citizens. By watching soaps,
detective series, and video clips, viewers may discover many new and valuable
insights on how to be a citizen (see Buckingham, 2000; Costera Meijer, 2001a;
Costera Meijer 2001b; Gripsrud, 1999; Hartley, 1999; Hermes, 1999; Manschot,
1994; Murdock, 1999).


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