In fact, the European Union at this moment is debating whether broadcasting could help the development of a society we should aspire to by airing cultural and educational programmes [Ursell, G. (2003) Creating Value and Value Creation in Contemporary UK television: or “dumbing down” the workforce. Journalism Studies, Vol 4, No 1, p31-46] Annan wanted to create a service that catered for the minorities and social groups that were previously excluded from BBC and ITV. Annan had a concept of ‘The Open Broadcasting Authority’ and thus, Channel Four was born. The Rise of Channel Four, Five and More
The new channel was not to be seen as just another outlet of choice, but also as an experiment channel that aired innovative programmes hinging on cultural and artistic issues. It was designed to be a channel that offered “… extended choice… ” to minority groups and give a complete overview of political attitudes and opinions. It would be a fourth channel that would “… somehow, be different. ” [Isaacs, J. (1989) Storm Over Four: A Personal Account (eds. ) (London: Weidenfield & Nicolson) p19-20] Channel Four remained ‘quality’ viewing because of its philosophy of small audience targeting.
It appealed to interests and tastes not catered for by ITV and offered diverse programming, often radical in taste. With the financial support from advertising, but not in competition with ITV, Channel Four was not completely profit based. This signified a more market orientated channel. But the weak introduction of Channel 5 seemed less popular with its American soaps and soft erotica. The ’60 seconds’ news was aimed at those too busy to watch more in depth news programmes and targeted those who only wanted the headlines.
But this channel certainly had a lot to answer for in terms of quality viewing, as in 1997 it became the least popular out of the 5 channels. [Pfanner, E. (2005) In Shift; BBC to Start Arabic TV Channel, International Herald Tribune [online]. Accessed 26/10/05] And following Margaret Thatcher’s plan in the late 1970’s, proceeded the introduction of cable, satellite and digital viewing. They were justified to “… foster the UK electronics industry… ” and satellite would “… help the UK aerospace industry. ” [Goodwin, P. (1999) The Role of The State, The Media in Britain, Stokes, J. and Reading, A. (eds. ) (London: Macmillan) p134].
The introduction of Cable arrived after Sky and together, the number of channels available to us rose from just 5 to less than 1000. The Impact of Competition on Choice and Quality The obvious increase of channels available to us in contemporary television results in a major level of competition in the broadcasting industry. The debate of television standards suggests that it is not only the changes in programming that have affected quality, but the changes in television production too. A schedule of labour-saving activities by broadcasters leaves journalists producing work of a lesser quality than before.
[Ursell, G. (2003) Creating Value and Value Creation in Contemporary UK television: or “dumbing down” the workforce. Journalism Studies, Vol 4, No 1, p3]. The impact of more television hours and channels have changed viewing patterns and increased the fight for more market share. Research has concluded that there has been a significant move towards more entertainment type programmes as competitors try to gain the most market share [Barnett and Seymour, 1999; McChesney, 2000] as broadcasters are increasingly viewing more pleasurable shows rather than intellectual.
This is also reflected in educational and information genres where they are ‘funked up’ to make them more entertaining and desirable to watch. Documentaries such as ‘Holidays from Hell’ incorporate dramatic music, dramatisations and fast cuts – which result in a less authoritative and substantial programme. It could seem like Britain is a nation well entertained but less informed and educated. However, these changes could be seen as more constructive than as a lessening of quality.
Popular soaps such as ‘Eastenders’ have highlighted issues such as AIDS, homosexuality and racism in their scripts, making entertainment a subtle educational experience as well. In addition, Mike Best, director of Yorkshire Television, correctly points out “Regardless of whether it is a PSB or a commercial channel… the key aim of all programmes has surely to be to entertain. ” With increased competition and the desire to make higher profit margins, both the BBC and ITV were forced to make job cuts and redundancies resulting in an average of 10,000 people working in production for each company (ICT 2000 p 142).
With an output of 50,000 hours per annum it would be absurd to believe all these hours were filled with handmade quality footage. Short deadlines and time restrictions also influence production to be slapdash as the team try to multiskill. Sometimes, the same news items are reeled several times during the day but fashioned in slightly different ways. [Ursell, G. (2003) Creating Value and Value Creation in Contemporary UK television: or “dumbing down” the workforce. Journalism Studies, Vol 4, No 1, p37-39].
There are certainly new pressures on broadcasting channels to deliver top-rated programmes with a lower budget and a more demanding schedule than before. This could be why top-rated, cheap programmes such as ‘Big Brother’/ ‘Pop Idol’ find it hard to create valuable television. Conclusion It is clear that television broadcasting has experienced many radical changes since it began. Perhaps these changes could be viewed as constructive as they innovatively keep up with our changing societal needs, and channels change to keep their competitive edge.
Advanced technology, such as the introduction of digital television, has helped television move on to a new kind of viewing. Could you really imagine watching TV today from one channel only with no choice in what you are watching? The growth and development of television was, perhaps, inevitable. But in light of the question at hand, it does seem apparent that the increase of competition has led channels to become more productive and under pressure to gain market share over their competitors.
Channels that are profit-led are the most susceptible to producing nonsense, as tight budgets, minimal staff and short timelines force production to be cheap and sometimes of a lesser quality. I deliberate as to whether ‘free’ and competitive TV does mean curtains for quality television. Perhaps the effects of inadequate programming have not made a big difference yet, but I think if the classic scenario of ‘quantity versus quality’ continues television broadcasting will certainly “fail to bring home the bacon” in the foreseeable future.
Word Count 2066
BIBLIOGRAPHY Webpage anon, www. wikipediatalk. wikipediaproject. Accessed 21 October 2005]. Pfanner, E. “In Shift, BBC to start Arabic TV channel” International Herald Tribune. http://www. iht. com/articles/2005/10/25/news/bbc. php Accesses 27 October 2005 Online Journals Cooke, L. (2005) “British Television: Culture, Quality and Competition. ” http://www. journalsonline/thetimes. co. uk Accessed 27 October 2005 Ursell, G. (2003) “Creating Value and Value Creation in Contemporary UK television: or “dumbing down” the workforce”.
Journalism Studies, Vol 4, No 1. Oxford Journals Online. http://alcak. oxfordjournals. org/cgi/content/full/37/2/109 Books Isaacs, J (1998) “Storm over Four: A Personal Account” (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson,) Buscombe, E. (2000) Oxford Television Studies, British Television. (Oxford UP: New York) Goodwin, P. (1999) “The Role of the State” (London: Macmillan) Harvey, S. (1994) “Channel Four Television: From Annan to Grade” (London: BFI Publishing) Also made use of: MC108 Module Reader Kimberley Hatherall 0501504.