Viewers like you?: how public TV failed the people

Author: Laurie Ouellette
Type: eBook
Date Released: 2002
Format: pdf
Language: English
Page Count: 299
Isbn10 Code: 0231119429
Isbn13 Code: 9780231119429

From Library Journal Conservatives have branded public television as elitist, while liberals decry its dependence on corporate sponsorship. As with television itself, however, the issues are rarely black and white. Seasoned writer/ producer Smith and Ouellette (media studies, Rutgers) agree that public TV has failed miserably, but they disagree on just what it has failed to do. Ouellette sees in public broadcasting the potential to correct social injustice. PBS, she argues, has historically projected the views of the dominant (white, male) culture, while minorities, women, and blue-collar workers have been either ignored entirely or depicted as humorous or pitiable. She believes that public TV should embrace mass culture rather than trying to rise above it. Her ideas, though intriguing, are frequently obscured by social science jargon ("The history of KTCA problematizes geographic essentialism"), making the book appropriate for academic libraries. A refugee from the world of public broadcasting, Smith sees public TV as an art form whose potential has been repeatedly squelched by lawmakers and business executives. In sharp contrast to Ouellette's pleas for cultural sensitivity, Smith cites political correctness as a major obstacle to innovative programming. The authors' divergent views are best illustrated by their attitudes about the early-1970s program The Great American Dream Machine: Ouellette complains that the show poked fun at "the lowly, feminized masses," while Smith praises the show's "verve, style and originality" and intimates that it was dropped because of its controversial content. Smith envisions a national production center that would develop programs with backing from a national trust fund, unconstrained by government oversight. Smith's opinionated rant is more fun to read than Ouellette's work, but too much of the text has only marginal relevance to his thesis. The extraneous diatribes against affirmative action, local school boards, etc., make this an optional purchase for public libraries, though it may be appropriate for communications collections.Susan M. Colowick, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. From How is it that public television, intended to provide a socially uplifting alternative to commercial broadcasting, is so often targeted for criticism, being labeled as corporate lackeys by the Left and as taxpayer-subsidized cultural elitists by the Right? Ouellette examines the history of public television, the personalities, and the issues that resulted in programming that sought to differentiate itself from the sitcoms and game shows of commercial television. The result has been programming that, despite the universal appeal of Sesame Street among children, has become a signifier of economic class and education. The author examines why public television hasn't been successful in providing a medium that expresses the interests of those outside of the white middle class, except for a few efforts during the turbulent 1960s. She also examines the cyclical threats to cut funding and how public television has sought to change the disconnection between its mission and its image. Readers interested in the media and American culture will enjoy this thought-provoking book. Vanessa BushCopyright