ratings. After all, unless we adopt a strictly elitist view of quality (linked up with high
culture), a relevant and major standard for pluralist, quality programming is that
viewers really enjoy watching a certain program. To express the diversity of and
disagreement about aesthetic standards and values, the notion of ‘aesthetic
pluralism’, coined by Herbert Gans (1999), is particularly useful. Those who enjoy a
certain program are part of what I would like to call, again inspired by Gans (1999), a
This does not automatically imply that program makers and
audience must belong to the same taste community in order to give them real
pleasure. It is not important that makers love their program; it is important, though,
that makers ‘love’ their audience. As one of our interviewees, an independent
producer, told us:
Colonel Parker, the manager of Elvis Presley, always said to him that during a performance he should not ‘look for his kid, but at the audience’. When Elvis Presley did a show, he always looked a lot at the audience. I have started doing it myself as well. What do they like about a program, or what do they not like about it? Are they having a good time? Which joke makes them laugh and which doesn’t? This requires an huge interest in the audience. This love is crucial to me.
This three-dimensional audience-orientedness can be schematically depicted as
Table 1. Three ways of understanding audience-orientedness
Who is your audience?
What do you focus on?
Address them as socially committed
Making your audience aware
Serving taste communities
Caring for your audience
Creating markets (shoppers 19-49, youths)
How do you recognize program quality?
Greater social / democratic involvement with the audience
Fans and genre buffs enjoy the program
Program is popular with the targeted viewer group
What do you want to give to your audience?
Community feeling: sense of belonging to specific (national, regional, cultural) identity
Educating & informing audience
Rendering visible democratic culture
Enthrall your audience
Call on viewers’ sense of playfulness
Imagining a better world and a better humanity
Conviction that one can fulfill one’s needs by buying goods