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About the Authors xv

Preface xvii

1 The History of Programming 1

The Need for Programming 1
The Early Days of Programming 2
The Beginning of Network Programming: A New Lease for
Radio 3
Radio’s Golden Age: The Advertising Agency Years 3
The Introduction of Television and Its Effect on Radio 5
Programming Cycles and Trends 6
Radio Redux: The Switch from Shows to Formats 6
Television’s Golden Age of Drama 6
Quiz Shows Take Center Stage 9
The Television Networks Take Over Programming 11
The Development of Public Broadcasting 12
The Financial Interest and Domestic Syndication Rule 13
The Rise of Independent Stations and Syndicators 14
The Explosion of Cable 14
Syndication in Radio 16
New Networks with Targeted and Niche Programming 16
The Quest for a Young Demographic 17
Viewing Patterns and Changing Audience Attention Spans 17
The Decline of Longform Programming 19
Supercharged Programming Choices: The Internet 20
New Media Recording Technologies 21
The Rise of Consumer-supported Media 22
The Video Game Explosion 23
Regulations 23
Globalization 25
Exercises 26
References/Notes 27

2 Sources of Television Programming 29

Beyond the Idea—into the “Deep Pockets” 29
Major Production Companies 30
Independent Production Companies 33


Foreign Production Sources 38

Networks 39
Stations 40
Buyers 41
Syndicators 42
Advertisers 43
In-House Production 44
Members of the Public 46
Newspapers, Magazines, and Books 46
Managers, Agents, and Stars 48
Exercises 50
References/Notes 50

3 Sources of Radio and Internet

Programming 51
Sources of Programming for Radio 51
Syndicator/Network Programming 52
The Purpose of Today’s Radio Networks/Syndicators 53
From Town to City to Metropolis and Syndication 54
Sources of Music Programming 56
Sources of News Programming 59
Sources of Talk Radio Programming 59
Sources of Other Programming 62
Sources of Satellite Radio Programming 62
Sources of Low-Power FM Programming 63
Sources of Internet Programming 63
Every Computer a Potential Source of Programming 64
Obstacles to Internet Mass Usage 64
Traditional Media Sources 64
Internet-Only Sources 66
Private vs. Public Sources of Programming 66
Exercises 67
References/Notes 67

4 Development 69
Television Development 70
Securing the Rights 70
Attaching a Star, Writer, or Showrunner During the Development
Process 71
The Role of Agents 71
Development Deals 72
Getting Ready for the Pitch: Creating a Log Line 72
Writing an Effective Log Line 73
Getting a Meeting 74
The Pitch Meeting 75

“Laying Pipe” for a Pass 77

Fundamentals of the Deal 77
Public Television Development 78
Syndication Development 78
Station Development 80
The Pilot 81
Development Ratios 82
Testing 83
The Decision 83
Globalization 84
Radio Development 85
Developing a Format 85
Management and Consultants 86
Developing Programming 88
Profit and Other-Than-Profit Motives 89
Satellite Radio Development 89
Public Radio Development 91
Internet Development 92
History of Internet Development 92
Traditional Developers Adapt to the Internet 93
A New Venue for Independent Developers 95
Exercises 97
References/Notes 98

5 Testing 99
Television Testing 99
Awareness Testing 100
Sampling 100
Focus Groups 102
Minitheater Research 104
Cable-Based Research 106
Telephone Research 106
Station Testing 109
Public Broadcasting 109
Radio Testing 110
Sampling 110
Testing Methodology 111
Research Areas 112
Public Radio 114
Internet Testing 114
Testing (Or Not) Simulcast Content 115
Testing Archived and Independently Produced Content 115
Testing User Friendliness 116
Does the Research Work? 117
Exercises 120
References/Notes 121

6 Elements of Successful Programming 123

Television Programming 123
Programming Objectives 124
The Search for a Successful Formula 130
Industry Professionals Weigh In 132
Key Elements for Success 134
Radio Programming 150
Programming Objectives 150
Fundamental Appeals to an Audience 151
Qualities Tied to Success 153
Internet Programming 155
Freshness 155
Targeting Content 156
Consistency 157
Innovation 158
Branding 158
Exercises 159
References/Notes 160

7 Influences on Television Programming 161

External Influences on Television 161
Station Influence 162
Advertisers 163
The Family Friendly Programming Forum 164
Pressure Groups 165
The Religious Right 167
Timing 168
The Media 169
Academic and Nonprofit Studies 171
The Government 171
Internal Influences on Television 178
The Sales Department 178
The Finance Department 179
The Broadcast Standards and Practices Department 180
The Top Management 184
The Promotion, Marketing and Research Divisions 185
Exercises 186
References/Notes 187

8 Influences on Radio and Internet

Programming 189
Influences on Radio Programming 189
Internal Influences on Radio 189
External Influences on Radio 193

Influences on Internet Programming 202

Internal Influences on Internet Content 202
External Influences on Internet Content 205
Exercises 212
References/Notes 213

9 Scheduling Strategies for Television 215

Television Scheduling 215
Fitting the Show to the Available Audience 216
Dayparting 216
Launching the Show: The First Strategy 218
Tentpoling 221
Hammocking 221
Counterprogramming 222
Bridging and Supersizing 225
Blunting 226
Stacking 228
Stunting 229
Crossprogramming 230
Theming 231
Stripping 232
Changing a Show’s Time Slot 232
Overexposure 233
Rerunning and Repurposing 234
Boosting the Audience in Sweep Periods 235
Patience 236
Exercises 237
References/Notes 238

10 Scheduling Strategies for Radio and

the Internet 239
Commercial Radio Scheduling 239
The Clock 239
Dayparting 243
Launching 244
Satellite Radio Scheduling 244
Public Radio Scheduling 245
Internet Scheduling 247
Exercises 249
References/Notes 249

11 Program Evaluation 251

Television 251
Nielsen 252
Commercial Radio 261
Arbitron 262
The Internet 264
Do the Ratings Work and Do Samples Sample? 267
Variables That Affect Rating Accuracy 267
Rating Techniques 269
Studies and Investigations 269
Programming Aberrations 270
How Programmers Should Use Ratings 270
Exercises 272
References/Notes 272

12 Changing and Canceling Programs 273

Television 273
Unsatisfactory Ratings 273
Exhaustion 274
A Lack of Focus 275
Social Changes 276
Aging Demographics 276
The Wrong Time Period 277
Excessive Relocation 277
A Lack of Awareness 278
Bringing on the Understudy 278
The Desire for Something New 278
Programming Options 279
Giving a Cancellation Notice 283
Radio 284
Adjusting Program Elements 284
Network Changes 286
Dealing with Unwanted Changes 287
Internet 288
Is It Worth the Trouble? 288
TMI: Too Much Information 289
Facelifts and Add-ons 289
Exercises 290
References/Notes 290

13 Programming Ethics 291

The Meaning of Ethics 291
Ethics and Illegality 292
Ethics in Programming Decisions and Business Practices 294
Ethics and Lying 295

Ethical Guidelines 297

Considering Ethics 298
Case Histories: Actual Incidents 298
Checkbook Journalism 299
Make the Deal, but Don’t Close It 300
An On-Air Murder Confession 300
Sex in Public Places 301
Sharing the Wealth 301
Who Is to Blame? 301
Anonymous Complaints at E! 301
A Suicide on TV 302
Images of the Iraqi War 302
The Right to Privacy 303
First Amendment vs. the Sixth Amendment 303
Entertainment Programming Ethics 304
A Series of Ethical Dilemmas 305
References/Notes 307

Glossary 309
Index 317
About the Authors

Philippe Perebinossoff designed, developed, and gained funding

for multimedia arts programs for home-
Before joining the faculty of the radio, less and at-risk youth in the Los Angeles
television, and film department at Cali- area. He is a web designer and consul-
fornia State University, Fullerton, where tant, and his prose, poetry, musical com-
he teaches programming, management, positions, videos, art, and theater works
and writing, Philippe Perebinossoff had have been presented in anthologies,
a 20-year career as a network television books, galleries, radio stations, and per-
programming executive. At ABC, he formance spaces throughout the United
created guidelines for fact-based pro- States and abroad.
gramming, evaluated programs for
acceptability, and supervised the devel-
opment of more than 200 telefilms and Lynne S. Gross
miniseries. He has also taught at the Lynne S. Gross is a professor at Califor-
New School for Social Research; nia State University, Fullerton, where
Eastern Kentucky University; State Uni- she teaches radio–television–film theory
versity of New York, Plattsburgh; and and production courses, including pro-
University of Southern California. gramming. She has worked as director
of programming for Valley Cable TV and
Brian Gross as a producer for series shown on com-
mercial, public, and cable television and
Brian Gross is a multimedia artist and heard on radio. She is the past president
educator. He teaches at EF Education in of the Broadcast Education Association
Jakarta, Indonesia; previously, he taught and a past governor of the Academy of
writing, audio production, radio opera- Television Arts & Sciences. She has
tions, visual journalism, and multimedia written 10 other books dealing with
design for 5 years at California State media and many articles for refereed and
University, Fullerton. He has also trade publications.


In electronic media nothing is forever. programming of television, radio, and

New technologies force change. Radio the Internet affects our daily lives.
executives discovered the truth of this We the authors are not clairvoyant,
maxim in the late 1940s when their and are no more able to predict what
cozy world was abruptly invaded by an TV, radio, and the Internet will look like
invention called television. Thirty years in 10 years than anyone else in the busi-
later, TV was turned upside down by a ness. But a programmer who knows the
new use of an old distribution form past and who recognizes that certain
called cable. Now, the Internet is chang- guidelines reduce the odds against
ing established forms and experimenting failure is far more likely to prosper than
with its own possibilities. one who has no touchstones. For that
But through it all, one thing remains reason, our first chapter deals with the
constant: the need for programming history of programming, outlining the
content. No matter how state of the art colorful twists and turns that the busi-
the delivery system is, it does not mean ness has taken over the last 80 years to
a thing if the consumers are not inter- indicate that current strange and seem-
ested in what is being conveyed. The ingly unprecedented events are not so
material must be appealing to audiences, unusual.
it must be presented in an attractive After Chapter 1, the organization of
manner, and it must be equal to the book follows the process of creating
the challenges placed against it by all programming and describes the differ-
forces that vie for the attention of the ences and similarities of this process as
public. it relates to various media. Chapters 2
The goal of this book is to help you, and 3 cover the various ways ideas are
current and would-be programmers, generated and the various media deliv-
succeed in a restless, competitive envi- ery systems available for the ideas. It is
ronment by providing practical informa- vital that you know the strengths, weak-
tion about television, radio, and the nesses, eccentricities, and curiosities of
Internet. Not a theoretical text, this each of these media forms lest you
book is designed to give you a close, design a beach ball for a soccer game.
very personal look at how programming We describe the various marketplaces
works. It does this by clearly defining for which you can construct program-
key programming concepts in the text ming and point out how they differ
and in the glossary (glossary terms are in terms of creative needs, business
boldfaced the first time they are used) arrangements, and distribution.
and by including the experiences of The development process—how a
programming professionals. Not only show gets from an idea to a go-ahead—
will you learn how the process works, is described in Chapter 4. As new pro-
but you also will understand how the grammers will discover, the job does not


end with the construction of the show. as looking at a Nielsen rating. Many
Generally, it also has to be sold. This other factors determine the success or
process has proved difficult for many, failure of a show, and these considera-
but there are techniques that can make tions are reviewed in Chapter 11.
dealing with an idea simpler and more Unfortunately, not every concept
effective. One of these techniques works. Cancellations and restructuring
involves testing material to see whether are a painful but unavoidable part of the
it has a chance of enticing an audience business. When the deed must be done,
and how it can be improved. This there is a right way and a wrong way to
process is explained in Chapter 5. go about it, as explained in Chapter 12.
There are no surefire methods of Sometimes, however, a product can be
producing a hit product. But there are saved by creative changes, such as sharp-
several creative elements that, if under- ening the focus of a sitcom, hiring a
stood and properly incorporated, can new disc jockey, or refreshing a Web site.
provide a better chance of success. These possibilities are examined in the
Although they do not guarantee a same chapter.
winner, the exclusion of too many of No doubt the electronic media busi-
these elements will virtually assure a ness has its fair share of expedient
failure. These ingredients are identified corner-cutters. But we believe program-
in Chapter 6. mers behave honorably, for the most
Programmers are not alone when part. In Chapter 13, we present a variety
they create program material.With them of incidents that involve ethical consid-
in spirit and influence, if not in body, erations. It is our hope that these exam-
are a host of forces that have much to ples will alert you to the kinds of ethical
say about the content and placement decisions programmers face daily and
of programs. In Chapters 7 and 8, we encourage you to consider the norms of
describe the many voices that must be ethical behavior when you have to make
heard before material is seen. These your own programming decisions.
include advertisers, pressure groups, We believe this panoramic look at
government agencies, in-house depart- how programming’s elements are used
ments, and professional critics. They are throughout the industry will provide
important influences on programmers you with the basic knowledge required
and are ignored at great peril. by the business. In today’s world, a pro-
One of the crucial processes in pro- grammer may work for Lifetime’s cable
gramming many of the media forms TV channel for several years then switch
involves the scheduling of shows. Over to the commercial network CBS.
the years, several strategies have proved Someone involved with radio program-
successful (and unsuccessful). Program- ming may be assigned to oversee the
mers must adjust their strategies to station’s Web site. People who under-
changing times and must look vigilantly stand the processes of programming will
at the plans and procedures being used have broader knowledge and be more
by the competition. The vast array of employable than ones who only under-
strategies available to programming stand one particular (perhaps soon to be
schedulers is the topic of Chapters 9 outdated) form of programming.
and 10. Throughout the book, we include
Regardless how the program material sidebars that give insight into various
is distributed, there is a need to evalu- issues or principles. TV, radio, and the
ate its performance. It is not as simple Internet are involved with entertain-

ment. As such, they tend to attract wald, producer and director at Robert
colorful and unorthodox personalities Greenwald Productions; Doreen Hughes,
who help make the business fun, unpre- senior scheduler at ABC; Rick Jones,
dictable, and at times a bit bewildering. director of theatrical films at ABC;
The authorship of this book has Kenneth Kaufman, president/COO,
changed somewhat from the first PKE; Robert Lee King, a director and
edition. Philippe Perebinossoff and writer; Philip Kleinbart, producer and
Brian Gross are the main authors. Pere- vice president of business affairs at
binossoff, a professor who has more than Robert Greenwald Productions; Ron
20 years of programming experience Kobata, a KTLA sales executive; Brian
at ABC and elsewhere, handled most of Lowry of Daily Variety and Broadcasting &
the television material. Gross, who has Cable; Mitch Metcalf, senior vice presi-
teaching and professional experience in dent of program planning and scheduling
audio and multimedia, wrote the radio at NBC; Michael O’Hara, a writer and
and Internet sections. Edwin T. Vane, an producer; Judd Parkin, a writer and
original author, is retired, but much of former head of movie and miniseries at
the structure he devised for the book, ABC; Dan Petrie, Sr., a director; Judith A.
based on his many years of program- Polone, president of movies and minis-
ming experience at ABC and Group W, eries at Lions Gate Entertainment; Eric
survives. Lynne S. Gross, who has cable Poticha, vice president of television
TV programming experience and has at The Henson Company; Randy
written 10 other books about media, has Robinson, president and executive pro-
been a coauthor of both editions. ducer at Randwell Productions; Susan
We give special thanks to the many Rovner, vice president of drama develop-
industry professionals who generously ment at Warner Bros. Television; Howard
gave of their time to provide students Schneider, former vice president of on-
interested in the world of entertainment air promotions at Fox; Michael Sluchan,
programming with practical, useful director of the development of longform
information to enable them to succeed programming at Universal Television;
as programmers. Since the previous Eric Steinberg, senior vice president of
edition, we have interviewed industry research at CBS; Christy Welker, former
professionals including Susan Baerwald, head of miniseries at ABC; and Steve
faculty member at the American Film White, a producer and former NBC and
Institute and former head of miniseries ABC network executive.
at NBC; Ilene Amy Berg, vice president We also gratefully acknowledge other
of current programs at ABC; Beverly industry professionals we have worked
Bolotin, executive vice president of with over the years whose contributions
client services at ASI; David Brownfield, to television, radio, and the Internet
senior vice president of current pro- provide the text with valuable informa-
gramming at CBS; Martin Carlson, vice tion and insights. We thank Jon Hughes
president of business affairs at Fox; for the photo of Ira Glass. We also
David Castler, president and CEO of greatly appreciate the suggestions given
ASI; Kevin Cooper, an agent at CAA; by the reviewers: Susan Baerwald,
Olivia Cohen-Cutler, senior vice presi- American Film Institute; Sylvia M.
dent of broadcast standards and practices Chan-Olmsted, University of Florida,
at ABC; Erica Farber, publisher and Gainesville; Joyce Chen, University of
CEO of Radio & Records; Scott Gimple, Northern Iowa; Tim Frye, Purdue
creator of “Fillmore”; Robert Green- University; Louisa Ha, Bowling Green

State University; Matt Jackson, Pennsyl- wish to thank the students at California
vania State University; Jong G. Kang, State University, Fullerton, who read a
Illinois State University; and Sam draft of this text and provided valuable
Lovato, University of South Colorado. suggestions. A special thanks to Philip S.
And we are grateful for the support Mastroianni for his computer knowl-
offered by the staff at Focal Press, specif- edge and his work on the index.
ically that of our editor, Amy Jollymore,
who was always there with encourage- Philippe Perebinossoff, Brian Gross,
ment and thoughtful guidance. We also and Lynne S. Gross
1 The History of

In this chapter you will learn about the in the mediums of radio, television, and
following: now the Internet, the demands of the
marketplace continue to increase, with
• Early radio and television program-
no end in sight to the quest for material.
ming strategies
With nearly 14,000 AM and FM
• Advertising’s relationship to program-
radio stations broadcasting across the
ming through the years
United States today, most of them 24-
• The golden age of network radio
hour operations, simple math shows
programming and the effect the
that stations must find a staggering
introduction of television had on
122,640,000 hours of material to air
each year. Most of that material is new
• The switch from advertiser-controlled
or original. Add to that the 100 chan-
to network-controlled programming
nels that now broadcast 24 hours a day
• The legacy of the golden age of
on two satellite radio services, and you
get a sense of the appetite that radio
• Cable and satellite television’s effect
alone has for program material.
on programming
In television, the National Broadcast-
• What future programmers need to
ing Company (NBC), which began
know about the cyclical nature of
televised broadcasts April 30, 1939, aired
601 hours of programming in its first
• The influence of shorter audience
year.1 Forty years later, in 1979, the
attention spans, interactive content,
number of hours NBC was airing per
and new technologies on current
year had risen to 5,000.2 With the
explosion of cable and satellite television
• Major trends and developments in
services and the subsequent increase in
the number of channels available, as well
• The effect of global markets and gov-
as the adoption of year-round original
ernment regulations on programming
programming, the need for material
continues its dramatic rise.
THE NEED FOR Now, enter the Internet, with theo-
PROGRAMMING retically limitless storage and delivery
capacity. With a steadily growing
Broadcast media has an insatiable number of consumers possessing broad-
appetite for programming content. With band Internet connections, a new
ever more distribution outlets available pipeline and hunger for audio, video,


phones and huge battery-operated sets

just to “hear Pittsburgh,” that is, hear
the call letters and phonograph music
coming from station KDKA in Pitts-
burgh (Figure 1.1), generally regarded as
the first radio station.
The early stations were supported
primarily by companies that manufac-
tured and sold radio sets, and they pro-
grammed whatever free talent wandered
into the studio. For most stations, this
included a preponderance of would-be
operatic sopranos. The goal was to have
something on the air to encourage
people to buy radios. Eventually, the
novelty of radio wore off and per-
formers wanted to be paid, so some
Figure 1.1 and interactive programming is coming economic means of supporting radio
KDKA in online. had to be found.
Pittsburgh launched All the available outlets clamor for American Telephone and Telegraph
its radio product. Where does all this program- (AT&T) hit upon an economic idea
programming on ming come from, and how does it find based on its telephone experience. It
November 2, its way to an increasingly elusive and established station WEAF as a toll
1920, with this
fragmented audience? station. People would be required to
broadcast of the
Warren Harding–
This chapter provides a brief history pay a toll to broadcast some message to
James Cox election of radio, television, and Internet pro- all radio listeners in the same way that
results. (Photo gramming. In our quest to demystify they paid a toll to send a private message
courtesy programming, we examine early pro- from a phone booth.The company built
Westinghouse gramming strategies and describe some a studio about the size and shape of a
Broadcasting of the major developments and trends phone booth and waited for people to
Company.) that affect programming today. We do come and pay to send their messages.
not seek to provide a complete history No one did. After a long struggle,
of radio, television, and Internet broad- WEAF, in August 1922, finally sold its
casting here, but rather to provide ex- first message, a 10-minute announce-
amples of some key programming cycles ment from a Long Island real estate
and strategies. Because broadcast media company that paid $50.
programming is in constant flux, it is Even after this initial commercial,
important to have a sense of the past to advertising was not viewed as a primary
understand the present and anticipate source of income for broadcasting.
the future. Herbert Hoover, who was Secretary of
Commerce during the 1920s, said that
THE EARLY DAYS OF “ether advertising” was possible, but he
PROGRAMMING quickly dismissed the idea. “It is incon-
ceivable that we should allow so great a
Early radio did not have programming possibility for service to be drowned in
departments. The novelty of the advertising chatter,” he said.3
medium was exciting enough that But the production of radio mater-
people would stay glued to their ear- ial wasn’t going to pay for itself. As
1 The History of Programming 3

Figure 1.2
KFI, Los Angeles’s
first radio station,
which began
broadcasting in
1922, had this
rather elaborate
studio. Most early
studios, although
unseen by the
listening audience,
had elaborate decors
that included
potted palms,
common foliage of
the 1920s. (Photo
courtesy KFI.)

producers innovated the medium THE BEGINNING OF

with live music, drama, complicated NETWORK PROGRAMMING:
sound effects, up-to-date news gather- A NEW LEASE FOR RADIO
ing, and even unnecessary elaborate sets
(Figure 1.2), the quality of radio pro- The answer the radio industry came up
gramming improved and the expense with to maximize its resources was the
increased. network. The network system involved
Bringing in more income could be producing programs that could be used
accomplished by bringing in more by a number of stations, thus reducing
advertising. But as late as 1930, by which the cost for each station. Wires could
time the airwaves were drenched with carry the signal of the program pro-
advertising, the industry was still pro- duced in New York, networking it
fessing its commercial virginity. Before to stations in Boston, Philadelphia,
a Senate committee, Merlin Aylesworth, Washington, and beyond. The first
president of NBC, testified, “I am network to be established was NBC,
opposed to direct advertising on the air.” which in 1926 broadcast its debut
When a senator asked him what he program (an orchestra from New York,
meant by direct advertising, he replied, a singer from Chicago, comedian Will
“I mean stating prices.”4 The following Rogers from Kansas City, and dance bands
year that distinction fell by the wayside from other cities) to 22 local stations.
as advertising established itself as the Radio’s Golden Age:
means to keep radio growing. The Advertising Agency Years
There was a limit, though, to how
much advertising the listening public When NBC was formed, it purchased
could stomach. Somehow the industry WEAF from AT&T and continued a
would have to find a way to stretch its variation of the toll station concept,
resources further. wherein advertising agencies bought

blocks of time for their clients and filled on radio from 1932 until the mid-1950s
this time with programming and men- at 7:30 Sunday evening. For much of
tions of the sponsor and of its product his reign, he was sponsored by Jell-O.
line. Sometimes the product became George Burns and Gracie Allen were on
part of the story line—the announcer from 1933 to 1951, primarily sponsored
would visit Fibber McGee and Molly by Robert Burns cigars. Dramas, come-
and talk about waxing the floor with dies, children’s programs, soap operas—
Johnson’s Wax. all were handled by advertising agencies.
The advertisers and their agencies The only exception was news, which
made almost all of the programming the networks produced and controlled.
decisions, keeping top-level radio The stability of this system led to
network executives informed as needed. what is often referred to as the golden
The advertisers came up with the con- age of radio. Radio listeners loyal to
cepts, hired the talent, and oversaw the this exciting new medium tuned in
production (Figure 1.3). The networks unfailingly to their favorite shows.
provided the facilities for distributing Writers and performers rose to the chal-
the programming around the country. lenges of entertaining this rapt audience
Of course, the advertisers paid the net- and, with shows continuing for years,
works for these services. were able to constantly add to and
Under this arrangement, the networks modify the formula of their craft. The
did little programming decision making. golden age of radio also allowed
As long as the advertiser was happy with unprecedented events to be staged across
the program and its time slot and the the country, uniting individuals in the
material conformed to the network’s nation unlike any other media ever had
standards and policies, it was left alone. before.The most striking of these events
The networks distributed the programs occurred in 1938, when Orson Welles’
and collected their money. As a result, exceedingly realistic radio adaptation of
many programs aired on radio for years H. G.Wells’s 1898 novel War of the Worlds
in the same time slot. Jack Benny was aired. Under Welles’ direction, the play
Figure 1.3
The Tommy
Dorsey Band was
obviously sponsored
by cigarettes.
Although the home
audience couldn’t
see them, the
enlarged cigarette
boxes were
prominently placed
on stage. Because
this program was
performed before a
live audience, the
sponsor’s product
was constantly seen
by the studio
audience. (Photo
courtesy KFI.)
1 The History of Programming 5

was performed and written so that it both sight and sound is a long one
would sound like a real news broadcast (Figure 1.4).
of an invasion of the Earth by Martians. Television’s early duplication of radio
A short notice that the production was shows caused radio to take a downturn.
fiction played at the beginning of show, Newer and engaging audiences in both
not repeated again until nearly 40 sight and sound, television siphoned off
minutes into the show. The broadcast radio listeners, giving credence to the
created mass, if not universal, panic. fears radio harbored about the threat of
Streets were packed with panicked radio television.
listeners, people hid in cellars and loaded While radio was floundering, televi-
guns, and some even wrapped their sion was experimenting with its poten-
heads in wet towels as protection from tial. Not content to merely have
poisonous Martian gas. television become “radio with pictures,”
This was the power and reach of the early television pioneers, such as
radio networks into people’s lives. Leonard Goldenson, who founded the
Because most stations of the day were American Broadcasting Company
affiliated with one of the four networks (ABC) in 1953, sought to make televi-
(NBC, CBS, ABC, or the ill-fated sion unique from radio. Goldenson
Mutual Broadcasting System), stations wanted to emphasize television as a
mostly transmitted network program- visual medium and sought a movie
ming with scant locally produced mate- format instead of a radio format. In his
rial. The little the individual stations autobiography, aptly titled Beating the
produced on their own was mainly of Odds, he describes his plan: “We would
a public service or phonograph music put programs on film and show them on
nature. the network the same way we showed
feature films in theaters.”5 In so doing,
THE INTRODUCTION OF he looked to Hollywood for inspiration
TELEVISION AND ITS EFFECT instead of New York, where radio had
ON RADIO been king.
Figure 1.4
When television broadcasting started to Included here are
take off in the late 1940s and early “The Ed Sullivan Show” (1948, 1932)
some programs that
1950s, television producers adopted the “The Lone Ranger” (1949, 1933) transferred from
network programming methods used in radio to television
radio. Once again, advertising agencies “Your Hit Parade” (1950, 1935) during the early
provided programs and paid for them in days of television,
“You Bet Your Life” (1950, 1947)
their entirety—such as “Philco Televi- illustrating how
sion Playhouse,” “Kraft Television “The George Burn and Gracie Allen Show” (1950, 1935) radio supplied
Theater,” and “Texaco Star Theater.” TV television with
adopted not only the programming “The Jack Benny Show” (1950, 1932) some of the new
medium’s signature
process of radio but also its stars and “The Guiding Light” (1952, 1937)
programming. The
“My Friend Irma” (1952, 1947)
first date indicates
Numerous radio programs made the when the program
transition to television, where they suc- “Our Miss Brooks” (1952, 1948) appeared on
cessfully established themselves—many television; the
becoming some of early television’s “Gunsmoke” (1955, 1952) second date shows
favorite shows. The list of transfers from “The Grand Ole Opry” (1955, 1925)
when it started on
radio to the medium that featured radio.

ABC had Goldenson as its visionary station owner Todd Storz was in a bar
in the early days. He was not alone, one night in the early 1950s, trying to
however, in seeing the potential that drown his sorrows about the decreasing
television offered.The Columbia Broad- income of his radio stations. He noticed
casting System (CBS) had the legendary that the same musical selections from
William Paley whose vision and impec- the jukebox were played over and over.
cable taste helped him turn CBS into After almost everyone had left, one of
the “Tiffany” network, a symbol of the bar waitresses went to the jukebox
quality in news and entertainment pro- and, instead of playing something that
gramming. NBC had the skillful entre- hadn’t been heard all evening, inserted
preneur David Sarnoff who saw the her nickel and played one of the songs
future of television in color. that had been heard over and over. This
gave Storz the idea for Top 40 radio,
PROGRAMMING CYCLES which he and several other station
AND TRENDS owners used to revitalize radio.
Obviously, Storz’s “vision,” by itself,
True to his vision, Goldenson con- did not revive radio. Another important
tracted with Warner Bros., which pro- factor was the rise of rock and roll
duced programming for ABC including, music, which gave radio a new sound
in 1955, “Cheyenne,” the first prime- and a new audience—teenagers. Thus,
time western. By 1959, there were 28 recorded music became the primary fare
prime-time westerns on television, illus- of radio and led to a new structure for
trating the important tenet that pro- radio programming. Importantly, radio
gramming tends to move through became a local rather than a national
cycles. medium. Characteristics of the local
Anticipating the appeal younger community and the selection of a rigid,
viewers offered advertisers, which we daylong format became major factors
describe later in this chapter, Goldenson in programming decisions. Advertisers
sought to program shows that would no longer supplied entire programs: they
attract a younger audience. He did this merely bought commercials within
because he was convinced that younger news or music programs. Programming
viewers would be more open to change, decision making rested with the local
that they would be more willing to turn program managers and station managers,
the dial to ABC than older viewers not with advertising agencies as before.
reluctant to alter their habits. This kind
of counterprogramming strategy TELEVISION’S GOLDEN AGE
remains a useful weapon in a program- OF DRAMA
mer’s arsenal some 50 years later, not just
in television but also in radio and on the The golden age of television is con-
Internet. sidered the 1950s, when programs such
as “Kraft Theater,” “Alcoa Hour,”
RADIO REDUX: THE SWITCH “General Electric Theater,”“Philco Tele-
FROM SHOWS TO FORMATS vision Playhouse,” “Playhouse 90,” and
“The Texaco Star Theater” flourished,
Radio needed to fight back to survive seeking to make television the “theater
the threat of television. According to in the home” so many had envisioned.
radio lore, the move to bring radio back In keeping with its connection to live
to health began when radio group theater and because there was no way to
1 The History of Programming 7

record program material in the early audience. Everett saw Paddy Chayefsky’s
days, these shows were almost always teleplay “Marty” as the “quintessential”
performed live. The actors, director, and work of the golden age and thought
production team rehearsed for 10 days that the title character’s quest to be his
and then went on the air live, ready to own man and to “embrace his uncertain
conquer the viewing public. future resonated with many of the new
One of the reasons the golden age suburban viewers” facing similar chal-
figures so prominently in America’s lenges.7 Indeed, “Marty” connected
cultural history is that it broke in many with television viewers and went on to
performers, writers, and directors who further fame as an Academy Award-
went on to significant careers. Actors, winning feature, strengthening televi-
for example, include Dustin Hoffman, sion’s position as a place where quality
Robert Redford, James Dean, Jon Voigt, mattered.
Eva Marie Saint, Marlon Brando, and This view of early television’s golden
Paul Newman. Major writers such as age may put too rosy a tint on the pro-
Paddy Chayefsky, Rod Serling, Horton gramming of the 1950s, ignoring, for
Foote, Gore Vidal, and Tad Mosel wrote example, the control and censorship that
teleplays during this time, many of them advertisers exercised. For example,
working with legendary television Alcoa, the sponsor of the “Alcoa Hour,”
producer Fred Coe, who wanted to in 1956 did not want a lynching in the
use television to bring Broadway to teleplay “Tragedy in a Temporary Town”
America. Directors such as John to be set in a trailer park because most
Frankenheimer, Sidney Lumet, Sidney mobile homes were made of aluminum,
Pollack, and Dan Petrie got their start an Alcoa product. Wooden shacks thus
during the golden age. had to be substituted for the mobile
Drama programming, in particular, park.8 Indeed, not everything on televi-
was at this time motivated by a desire to sion during this age was of golden
make television be all that it could be quality.
by bringing new and established talent During any age, what resonates with
into people’s homes. Media observer the public, as we have noted, tends to
Anna Everett notes that during the occur in cycles. Many programmers
1950s, “as the nation’s economy grew maintain the quality exemplified by TV’s
and the population expanded, television golden age, proving the one constant
and advertising executives turned to that matters in programming: quality
dramatic shows as a programming strat- depends upon your point of view.
egy to elevate the status of television Indeed, some of today’s “quality shows,”
and to attract the growing and increas- such as “The West Wing,” “24,” and
ingly important suburban family audi- “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” recall televi-
ence. ‘Golden age’ dramas quickly sion’s golden age, delivering prestige and
became the ideal marketing vehicle for audiences.
major U.S. corporations seeking to But from the viewpoint of advertis-
display their products favorably before a ing, the entity that pays for most media
national audience.”6 programming, shows with mass appeal,
Everett saw advertisers using quality although attracting many consumers,
dramas to cater to the growing sub- tend to charge the highest rates for
urban population. As more middle-class advertising time. If an advertiser’s
Americans purchased television sets, product is targeted to a specific group
programming appealed to this growing of people, advertising on a quality show
1 The History of Programming 9

the control room and saw that one of cast her in the “Robert Montgomery
the technicians was smoking a ciga- Presents” production he was directing.
rette that was not the brand sponsor- Sherwood needed work, but Petrie
ing the show. Petrie was called over knew that she could not be cleared.
and told to have the man get rid of the Still, he thought casting her as an extra
cigarette or be fired. Petrie understood might slip her under the radar. During
that if he did not follow through and a rehearsal, however, the agency
have the man get rid of the cigarette, representative showed up, zoomed
he too would be fired, even though in on Sherwood, and demanded that
what was going on in the control room Petrie “get rid of her.” Again, it was
would never be seen by viewers. understood by Petrie that if he did not
For Petrie, the advertisers’ greatest get rid of her, he would be fired as well.
interference in the creative process Petrie is not sure if the sponsor com-
was the blacklist, a list of performers plained or if legendary television
deemed un-American for alleged golden-age producer Robert Mont-
Communist ties. All performers had to gomery (father of “Bewitched” televi-
be “cleared” of any association with sion star Elizabeth Montgomery) was
Communism before they could be offended, but he was fired after his
cast, and no one on the list could be second assignment directing a “Robert
cleared. Petrie remembered being Montgomery Presents” because he
called by blacklisted actress Madeleine cast a black actor as the roommate of
Sherwood, essentially begging him to a white man.

QUIZ SHOWS TAKE radio and some of the single-sponsored

CENTER STAGE presentations of the golden age of tele-
vision, but it temporarily solved the
The idea of advertisers supplying pro- budget problem.
gramming did not work as well in tele- In addition, strong-minded TV execu-
vision as it once had in radio. There tives were becoming more interested
were several reasons. For one, television in controlling their own programs.
programming was much more expensive Sylvester L. “Pat” Weaver, while presi-
than radio programming. Advertisers dent of NBC from 1953 to 1955,
who had easily been able to underwrite devised what he called the magazine
the costs of several actors capable of concept. Advertisers bought commer-
changing voices to play several parts, a cial insertions in programs such as
sound effects person, a small core of “Today” and “Tonight” but had no say
audio technicians, a few writers, and a about program content. Those decisions
director found the visual demands for were in the hands of the networks.
scenery, props, and additional actors and The trend toward complete network
behind-the-scenes personnel more than control was accelerated in 1959 when
they could handle financially. As a result, the quiz show scandals broke. Quiz
cosponsorship sprang up.Two or more programs on which contestants won
companies would share the costs of large amounts of money had become
producing and distributing a television extremely popular. Contestants on “The
series. Programs would be “brought to $64,000 Question” and “Twenty-One”
you by Colgate toothpaste, Oldsmobile, were locked in soundproof booths
and Marlboro cigarettes.” This form of where they agonized and perspired as
advertising made it harder for the viewer they tried to answer very difficult ques-
to identify the program with a specific tions.The programs were so popular that
product than it had been with early Revlon, the company that produced
1 The History of Programming 11

As Goodwin writes, the “exposure of ceasing to rely on advertisers and adver-

the quiz show fraud took on monstrous tising agencies for programming, it was
proportions.”11 It was seen as a massive only after the quiz show scandals that
betrayal of public trust, America’s loss of television fully embraced a new way of
innocence. Much to Goodwin’s displea- programming. After the scandals, the
sure, the networks did not reap most networks, which were already on their
of the blame, claiming they also were way to controlling programming, really
deceived and blaming the producers and took over. They began selling commer-
advertisers. cial time in most of their shows rather
Goodwin believes the networks knew than allowing advertisers to sponsor
what was being done. He accuses the them.
networks of cowardice on a grand scale, This change led to a new philosophy
quoting critic John Crosby who wrote of program decision making. Networks
that “the moral squalor of the quiz show began to consider their programming
mess reaches through the whole indus- schedule as an overall entity. Previously,
try. Nothing is what it seems in televi- a network generally continued to air a
sion . . . the feeling of high purpose, of program as long as the advertiser was
manifest destiny that lit the industry satisfied with it. But after the quiz show
when it was young . . . is long gone.”12 scandals, networks had to take responsi-
Indeed, the networks fired anyone, bility for the programs they broadcast—
guilty or innocent, who was publicly and they started to exercise authority
associated with the quiz shows. over them, using programming to opti-
mize profits from advertising. By the
THE TELEVISION NETWORKS 1960s, the amount of money a network
TAKE OVER PROGRAMMING could charge for a commercial
depended on its rating. Networks,
For our purposes, the effect of the quiz instead of depending on advertisers,
show scandals cannot be overempha- depended on the public; the networks
sized. Tabloid headlines proclaimed tele- wanted shows that produced ratings and
vision’s betrayal of the bond between thus allowed higher advertising rates.
the broadcasters and the public, fueling Even if an advertiser wanted to pay the
the furor. As people became increasingly total cost of a program, the network
cynical about television, trust needed to might not want the program because it
be restored. One ready solution was proved to be a poor lead-in to another
to create broadcast standards and program that contained commercials
practices departments to function as from several advertisers.
overseers that censored objectionable This happened in 1963 when the
programming, thus reassuring the public “Voice of Firestone” was canceled. The
that responsible people were minding Firestone Tire Company was the sole
the store. More importantly, television sponsor of this half-hour classical music
changed the way it operated; specifically, TV program on ABC on Monday nights
advertisers who had controlled televi- at 8:30. The audience was small but
sion programming during its infancy, appreciative, and Firestone wanted to
including television’s golden age, lost continue sponsoring the program.
their status as the primary programmers Unfortunately, the low rating for the
at the networks. show provided a poor lead-in for the
Whereas radio networks had already show that aired at 9:00 P.M. After
revitalized their programming strategies, Harvey Firestone, the chairman of the

advertisers. Both public radio and tele-

vision had been around earlier than the
1960s in a weak form usually called
“educational broadcasting.” The govern-
ment had set aside part of the FM band,
88.1 to 91.9, for noncommercial radio
services and had reserved specific TV
channels in each major market for edu-
cational TV. Programming decisions
for all educational stations were made
locally. Most of the radio stations played
classical music and produced talk shows
that featured one or two people plus
some programs from other local educa-
tional stations supplied through an
Figure 1.5 company, refused to move the show to exchange that mailed programs from
Public television’s Sunday afternoons, ABC cut its losses station to station.
first big hit was and canceled the show. Although there was some excellent
“Sesame Street,” In the 1960s, network programmers programming such as “The Great Amer-
which reflected the started exercising their muscle by con- ican Dream Machine,” “The NET Play-
changes to quality trolling what shows would air. Using house,” and “Black Journal,” produced
brought about by
available research sources, they deter- by African-Americans, most of the
the Public
Broadcasting Act of
mined what the public wanted to see: product that aired as educational broad-
1967. The selecting a program such as “Batman,” casting was extremely dull.
children’s program which became the first midseason show Then, in 1967, Congress passed the
was produced by in 1965, or a program such as “The Public Broadcasting Act, which imple-
the Children’s Fugitive,” which portrayed in a sympa- mented most of the recommendations
Television thetic manner a man convicted of a made by a blue-ribbon Carnegie Com-
Workshop and crime. mission set up to develop improvements
began airing in Radio too had started researching its for educational broadcasting. The Cor-
1969. (Photo programming decisions—which songs poration for Public Broadcasting (CPB)
courtesy to play for which audiences and how was devised to receive funding from
Children’s often. More about the development of the government and apportion it among
testing and evaluation strategies is local public TV stations, the Public
covered in subsequent chapters. Broadcasting Service (PBS) TV net-
Termine.) work, local public radio stations, and a
THE DEVELOPMENT OF radio network, National Public Radio
PUBLIC BROADCASTING (NPR). With this infusion of money
from the government, the quality of
The purest version of network pro- public broadcasting programming
gramming began in the 1960s when improved significantly (Figure 1.5).
public broadcasting of radio and televi- The noncommercial programming
sion started. By “pure” we mean that the structure is different from that of the
content and shows produced and aired commercial networks. In television, PBS
by public broadcasting, at least as it was does not produce any programming
first envisioned, were determined by the itself but rather relies upon its affiliated
network without concern for the wants “member” stations to produce shows
of advertisers—because there were no that it can offer to other stations. Some
1 The History of Programming 13

examples of affiliate-created shows are message is coming across. In brief, they

the popular “Antiques Roadshow,” and cannot ignore ratings and want to know
the critically acclaimed “Frontline,” pro- that the shows they are underwriting are
duced by WGBH in Boston, and delivering an audience.Thus, contrary to
“Frontier House” and “Charlie Rose,” the original intent of public broadcast-
produced by WNET in New York. PBS ing, ratings have come into play, espe-
also acquires programming from foreign cially as audiences have become more
countries, such as “Teletubbies” pro- fragmented and some cable stations have
duced by the British Broadcasting Cor- adopted some of public television’s fare.
poration (BBC), and from independent Reluctantly, PBS head Pat Mitchell
producers, as evidenced in PBS’s show- acknowledged the quest for ratings on
ing of many independent short films public broadcasting and tried to mini-
and documentaries. mize reports of declining ratings for
In public radio, on the other hand, PBS. Underwriters also want their
NPR produces much of its own pro- “message of support” to avoid being too
gramming—which sets it apart from discreet. ExxonMobil requested full 30-
commercial radio networks that often second spots to continue underwriting
make programming decisions and do “Masterpiece Theatre,” and even when
much production at the local level. this concession was granted, they pulled
NPR also acquires limited material from out, looking for other avenues to
other sources, such as from its member explore. ExxonMobil may have chosen
stations. It may acquire shows to make to explore other avenues, but 30-second
them national, as it did with WBUR in spots, which are increasingly like com-
Boston’s “Car Talk,” or air shows such as mercial advertisements, are now more
“Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” produced common on public broadcasting. PBS is
by WHYY in Philadelphia. NPR’s adamant that its messages are not adver-
reluctance to air material from public tisements, insisting it is careful not to
radio stations led several of these stations cross the line because its messages do
to form a competing network in 1983, not mention prices, price comparisons,
American Public Radio, which, in 1994, or inducements to buy and do not
after taking a more global stance, include jingles or location information.
changed its name to Public Radio Inter- However, Jeffrey Chester of the Center
national (PRI). NPR and PRI, however, for Digital Democracy said that it is
are not mutually exclusive organiza- wrong for PBS to insist that its under-
tions—many local public radio stations, writing messages are not advertisements,
such as KCRW in Los Angeles, program blaming the FCC for laxity. He says,
material from both networks in their “but even if it walks and quacks like an
daily schedules, such as NPR’s “All ad, the FCC says it’s not an ad.”13
Things Considered” news program and
PRI’s “Marketplace” financial show. THE FINANCIAL INTEREST
Public broadcasting has significantly AND DOMESTIC
changed in recent years, causing some SYNDICATION RULE
observers to question whether the
Federal Communications Commission When advertising agencies were phased
(FCC) qualified too many stations into out as suppliers of programs, the net-
existence. Because money is tighter and works found other means of obtaining
underwriters want to know their money program material.They produced a great
is properly allocated and that their deal of it themselves and bought from

established feature production compa- inserted into their network reruns, but
nies. They also started buying from many independent stations saw that
new independent production companies, much more advertising money would be
such as Mary Tyler Moore’s MTM, available to them if they could compete
Norman Lear’s Tandem-TAT, and Aaron with network programs instead of just
Spelling Production that had formed rerunning them.
specifically to produce programs for With the power of the networks
television. The networks underwrote diminished as a result of fin-syn, and
most of the cost of production for the with the FCC’s simultaneous authoriza-
right to air the program and to sell tion of more broadcast television
commercials within it. In addition, the stations, the role and presence of
networks received part of the profit independent stations expanded. In
from the sale of the show in the syndi- 1961, before fin-syn, there were only 28
cation or rerun markets. With all of stations unaffiliated with one of the
these revenue sources, television net- major networks. In 1979 there were
works started to look like fat cats getting 103, in 1989 there were 339,14 and in
rich off of the “public” airwaves. 1994 there were 400.15
In 1970, the FCC took a hard look These independent stations, although
at this situation, declaring that the net- still showing network reruns, began to
works had too much power. As a result, struggle to offer the public something
the FCC instituted financial interest different and to fill the remaining hours
and domestic syndication (fin-syn) of their broadcast day. Initially, indepen-
rules that barred networks from having dents started running theatrical films
a financial interest in programs produced broken by commercials. They later
by outside production companies. The branched out to original, first-run pro-
networks could no longer receive part grams, usually produced by third-party
of the profits when the programs were production companies called “syndica-
sold to stations as syndicated reruns. tors” who sold product to stations as
Rules were also instituted that limited opposed to networks. With so many
the amount of programming networks independent stations on the air, hungry
could produce themselves. for programming, and with fin-syn laws
requiring the networks to purchase pro-
THE RISE OF INDEPENDENT grams from third-party syndicators,
STATIONS AND SYNDICATORS syndication blossomed into a big and
diverse business.
A handful of independent television
stations unaffiliated with one of the THE EXPLOSION OF CABLE
major networks—NBC, CBS, or ABC—
had existed since early television. Until Meanwhile, a sleeping giant was about
the 1970s, the programming on inde- to awaken in the middle of the already
pendent stations was confined mainly to rapidly changing television landscape.
reruns of network shows. These inde- Cable television had been around since
pendent stations seemed to the public to the early days of television broadcasting.
be little more than younger siblings trot- No one knows exactly how it began,
ting out worn, hand-me-down clothes but one story says that it was started by
that the networks had outgrown. The the owner of a little appliance store in
independent stations collected limited central Pennsylvania around 1947. He
revenues from local commercial spots noticed that he was selling sets only to
1 The History of Programming 15

people who lived on one side of the

town. When he investigated, he found
that people on the other side could not
receive a good signal. So he placed an
antenna on top of the hill and ran the
signals through a cable down the hill to
the homes with poor reception. When
someone on the weak side bought a TV
set from him, he hooked them to the
cable (Figure 1.6).
Cable grew during the early days
because the only way communities
without TV stations were able to obtain
TV programs was to put up an antenna,
catch the signals as they traveled through
the air, and run a cable, often strung from
tree to tree, to individual homes. From
the 1940s to the 1970s, cable TV was
mainly used to retransmit signals from cable systems showed a distant channel Figure 1.6
existing TV stations. Usually these were playing the same program (e.g., the same Early cable TV
local stations, but as time passed cable “I Love Lucy” episode) as the local systems placed an
companies imported station signals from station because this practice obviously antenna on top of
distant areas to provide their customers lessened the audience size for the local a hill to catch
television station
with a wider variety of programming. station. The FCC responded by estab-
signals. Then a
Because the cable signals traveled lishing a rule called syndicated exclu-
wire with the
though wire and not through the air- sivity, which said that cable systems had station signals in
waves, cable systems had more usable to black out the distant station when the it, was run down
channels than broadcasting could programming was the same. But gener- the hill and
accommodate. For example, no local ally the FCC left cable alone to grow attached to various
area could air broadcast stations on both on the fringes of the rapidly expanding homes.
channel 5 and channel 6 because the television universe, and local govern-
two signals would interfere. But on ments granted numerous cable
cable, where the signals were shielded, franchises.
all the channels (then 2 through 13) But all this changed in the late 1970s
could be used. As a result, some of the when Home Box Office (HBO) began
cable systems provided viewers with selling a satellite-delivered movie service
inexpensive “local programming” placed to local cable systems. Although this was
on one of the extra unused channels. a difficult sell at first, mainly because
The most common form of this “pro- cable systems did not want to invest in
gramming” was a thermometer and the satellite dish needed to receive the
barometer with a camera focused on signal, once the idea caught on, the
them to allow local residents to see the floodgates opened. A variety of cable
temperature and barometric pressure. networks sprung up, offering program-
Not much was needed in the way of ming to be placed on the spare channels
program decision making. of the cable systems. So much program-
Not much was needed in the way of ming became available that engineers
regulation either. Broadcast stations devised ways to show more than 12
complained to the FCC when some channels through the TV set.

Between 1980 and 2003, the number local radio stations—they provide
of households subscribing to cable TV content, such as national news reports
(and its subsequent companion, satellite and other programs that appeal to local
TV) grew from 22% to 80%. From 1980 audiences in many locations.
to 2001, the advertising dollars spent
went from a meager $53 million to a NEW NETWORKS WITH
robust $14.5 billion, and the number of TARGETED AND NICHE
programming networks from 1980 to PROGRAMMING
2003 rose from 8 to 290.16 Cities that
had not needed cable TV because the While networks were losing their defi-
reception was excellent suddenly found nition in radio, new networks were
numerous companies pounding on the developing in television. The first of
doors of city hall—all begging for fran- these networks, the Fox Broadcasting
chises to lay cable in the area and collect Company, started operation in 1987.
their part of the pot of gold at the end The WB (1990), Universal–Paramount
of what seemed to be a promising Network (UPN, 1995), and PAX (1998)
rainbow. followed.
Essentially, cable television services When Fox began, it was not officially
added more independent channels to a network because it did not broadcast
the already expanding listing of inde- more than 15 hours of programming a
pendents. Though some of the new week (the legal amount needed to be
channels, such as ESPN and Cable considered a network). It nevertheless
News Network (CNN), produced most provided a large block of programming
of their own programming, many of for many independent stations and cut
the new cable stations clamored for down on their immediate need for syn-
more programming from syndicators, dicated material.
further strengthening the business of Standing in the shadow of the three
syndication. big networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC,
these fledgling networks, if they were
SYNDICATION IN RADIO to survive, had to find a way to wean
advertisers from their longstanding rela-
Strong national networks, of the kind tionships with the majors. Instead of
that persisted in television, were a thing trying to compete head to head, these
of the past for radio—it evolved into upstarts focused on creating program-
a local medium. But although there ming that appealed to specific groups of
were no laws like fin-syn governing viewers. The initial lineup at Fox, for
where radio stations obtained their pro- example, was geared toward urban hip-
gramming, radio stations started to pur- sters. PAX appealed to viewers seeking
chase programming from third-party wholesome family entertainment; UPN
syndicators. to urban audiences seeking comedies
In radio, the line between a network with an ethnic vibe; and the WB to
and a syndicator has blurred. Radio sta- teens, teens, and more teens.
tions select material provided by net- On cable television, a similar, though
works, syndicators, and their own local more focused, change occurred as pro-
programmers and mesh it into a unified gramming executives sought to give their
whole with a local feel. In other words, networks a clear identity. If the majors
both networks and syndicators serve the were broadcasters seeking the widest pos-
same purpose to the programming of sible audiences, the cable networks went
1 The History of Programming 17

after the smaller, targeted audience (a Heaven,” and “One Tree Hill.” What the
technique known as narrowcasting). WB is proclaiming loudly and con-
This became known as the search for the sistently is that its shows attract the
“niche” audience—committed viewers desirable younger viewers; that the
who identified with the programming of household ratings may not be in the top
a particular cable network. 10 or the top 20 is secondary, because
These changes forced the big three to it is the young demographic that counts,
change, too, as you will observe in the not the household rating.
next section, where we examine some Ron Kobata, formerly a WB/KTLA
key broadcasting trends. sales executive, says that the WB appeals
to younger viewers. Younger viewers
THE QUEST FOR A YOUNG are what advertisers want, not entire
DEMOGRAPHIC households.
Even syndication, which has tradi-
Following the arrival of cable and niche tionally been viewed as a haven for older
programming, mass appeal ceased to be viewers, wants to lay claim to young
the primary goal of the majors. No viewers. A study by Nielsen Media
longer were they competing simply for Research, released in July 2003 by the
a broad audience. It was the right audi- Syndicated Network Association, says
ence that became the key to success. that “About 72% of the audience watch-
Many advertisers started to favor certain ing sitcoms in syndication is in the adult
groups, or demographics, of con- 18–49 demographic, compared to 61%
sumers. The coveted demographic of the sitcom audience on cable TV.”17
quickly became 18 to 49 year olds, This quest for young viewers signifi-
ideally 18 to 34. The assumption behind cantly affected today’s programming. If
this thinking is that young viewers are a program tests “old” or is perceived to
freer with their disposable income and appeal only to older viewers, chances are
that it is important for advertisers to it will have a hard time getting on or
establish brand loyalty early. For staying on a schedule. A show such as
example, young people may not be able CBS’s “The Guardian,” which, according
to afford a new car, but when they can to researchers, was not watched by many
afford one they will purchase the car under 50, could not remain on the air
they are aware of through advertising indefinitely; it was canceled before the
and they will be loyal to that brand start of the 2004–2005 season. The
throughout their lives. So goes the desire for the young demographic influ-
thinking, and finding shows that appeal ences story selection, language, and most
to a young audience has become a pro- notably pacing. The strategies or types
grammer’s primary mission. of programming that proved effective
This belief in the power and attrac- with the 18 to 49 demographic are
tiveness of the young demographic taken into account when developing
helped Fox when it first aired. The new programming.
ratings were not stellar, but young
people were watching Fox. This became VIEWING PATTERNS AND
a point of pride, something positive that CHANGING AUDIENCE
Fox could say about its slate of shows. ATTENTION SPANS
Similarly, the WB has received strong
advertising dollars for shows such as In 1983, a new cable network, Music
“Smallville,” “Gilmore Girls,” “7th Television (MTV), caught fire with the

18 to 49 demographic. Some people expository scenes. Likewise, in radio,

credit (or discredit) MTV’s success in talk show hosts go for the controversial,
this demographic with subsequent explosive comment, frequently ignoring
changes in the pacing and cohesion (or the background information. Or, in the
incoherence) of television program- case of so-called shock jocks, such as
ming. The fledgling network featured Howard Stern, programmers and pro-
back-to-back 3-minute music videos, ducers assure that each moment of
turning the longstanding television material is so inflammatory that it
staple of hour or half-hour shows on needs no introduction or denouement
its ear. to catch—and hook—a listeners’ ear. In
Not only were the “shows” short, but 2003, there were more than 1300 talk
they often sacrificed storylines in favor stations in the country,18 most of them
of spectacle. In some ways, this was the employing such attention-getting
nature of the music video beast. How tactics.
do you make a story out of a song Many point to the 1986 debut of
with a single sentiment, such as Cyndi Steven Bochco’s NBC show “LA Law”
Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” as the start of the trend toward short,
or the Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me action-packed scenes in traditional tele-
Now”? The nonstop spectacle of the vision drama. Programmers think they
music video, many cultural critics have have to keep it moving to keep the
suggested, reduced viewers’ attention viewer from using the dreaded remote.
spans—accustoming them to non- A show such as Fox’s short-lived “30
stop action rather than nuanced Seconds to Fame,” on which contestants
development. performed for a mere 30 seconds to
To be fair, nonstop action was not a compete for a $25,000 prize, did indeed
new development with MTV or a new keep it moving. In the half-hour show,
concern in television. Programs such as 24 hopefuls had a half-minute each to
“I Love Lucy” put a high premium on, make an impression. The creators of this
as Lucille Ball put it, not “losing” the show assumed that viewers could not
audience by keeping things moving.The get bored in 30 seconds.
criticism that many levy at today’s Shorter attention spans have created a
action, though, is that it often relies on new viewing style called dropping in,
simple visual stimulation rather than the which takes place when viewers choose
dramatic tension that “I Love Lucy” to view only a short sequence of a the-
used. In the late 1990s, some shows, atrical movie that has aired several times
especially children’s cartoons, became so on television. Many viewers are too rest-
reliant on quick cuts and flashy graph- less to watch all of a repeat airing of
ics that they were linked to causing Pretty Woman, a favorite drop-in movie,
epileptic seizures in their young viewers. but they are willing to tune in for a
With so many entertainment choices favorite scene—for example, when Julia
available on the networks, independents, Roberts puts down the salesgirl who
and cable, programmers believe that they had been rude to her.
cannot risk losing their targeted audi- Producers are challenged by the quest
ence because a show is not moving for numerous short scenes. For example,
quickly enough. Quick action scenes are a television movie in the early 1980s
often substituted for fully developed might have had 80 scenes in it. Today,
ones. In television, it is assumed viewers that same movie would be likely to have
would rather see the action than several 150 scenes, with no increase in the
1 The History of Programming 19

license fee or in the number of shoot- THE DECLINE OF LONGFORM

ing days. How is a producer to make this PROGRAMMING
work? Additional scenes require time
and money, and neither is available in The decline of longform programming
the current market. It is not easy to keep that started in the early 1990s is another
adding new scenes, and it requires a lot significant change in the broadcasting
of inventiveness on the part of the pro- landscape, one directly connected to
duction team to make a tighter, more viewers’ shorter attention spans (Figure
complicated schedule work. But pro- 1.7).Viewers find it increasingly difficult
grammers are ever fearful of losing the to commit to watching a 2-hour block.
audience’s attention, and one way to By the 1990s, programmers might have
guard against this is to pack more action questioned whether viewers would
and less talk or introspection into a commit to a miniseries that lasted
scene. more than 4 hours, such as “Roots,”
Shorter attention spans coupled with “The Winds of War,” or “Shogun,” but
the large number of people who multi- now it is considered iffy to expect a
task while watching television make pro- viewer to invest even 2 hours in a tele-
grammers think they have to bombard vision movie that is not presold with
the audience with action to keep them name recognition much less to commit
interested. The threats of video games to a 4 or more hour miniseries spread
and Internet activity make programming over several days or weeks (see the
an increasingly difficult task. miniseries sidebar).

Figure 1.7
The telefilm
“Dallas Cowboys
directed by Bruce
Bilson, was the
highest rated TV
movie of the
season. It aired
when longform
programming was
at its peak.
(Photo courtesy
Bruce Bilson.)
1 The History of Programming 21

the World Wide Web, which started delayed broadcast on ABC. Audience
entering the mass culture of the United members with tape recorders, of course,
States in the mid-1990s. With hypertext, also had the option to record radio pro-
links, and ever-present search engines, the grams and listen to them again, but this
audience can wander off as quickly, as capacity did not have a marked effect on
often, and as far as they wish. radio programming strategies.
The key for programmers of web Likewise, in 1980 the videocassette
content is to make a website sticky— recorder (VCR) was introduced into the
in other words, not necessarily to keep commercial market, and by the late
viewers on one page of the site but to 1990s it was nearly as common a fixture
give the viewer a diverse buffet of in consumer’s homes as television sets.
content that will keep them moving Programmers first saw the VCR as a
from one page to another without click- danger to their carefully laid program-
ing to another site. Though modes for ming choices. Members of the public
advertising on websites, and therefore no longer needed to watch programs
generating direct revenue, are still when the network executives wanted
developing, advertisements are generally them to; they could tape them and
placed as banners along the periphery of watch at their own convenience,
each page. This mode of advertising, skipping through commercials. But
unlike channel changing with radio and notorious interface challenges with
television, makes audience choices to setting up a VCR’s record timer dulled
move to other content desirable because the device’s promise—and threat.
it exposes viewers to new advertise- Although many people learned to
ments—as long as they stay “stuck” in operate their VCRs, the device’s main
the domain. effect was to draw viewers’ attention
Equally important for web program- from broadcast programming. Video
mers is giving the visitor the impression rental stores sprung up everywhere,
that content on the site is regularly giving audiences more choice about
updated, thus giving them a reason to what to watch at home.
return. Through experience, web pro- The late 1990s and early 2000s saw
grammers have found that users are not the introduction of souped-up digital
shy about complaining if a site is not versions of the videotape and VCR.
updated often enough. Digital video discs (DVDs) offer higher-
quality reproduction of video material
NEW MEDIA RECORDING than videotape, and set-top hard-disk
TECHNOLOGIES video-recording devices, such as TIVO,
have user interfaces that make recording
Although less interactive than the Inter- programs for later viewing much easier
net, many other new technologies have than the VCR did. With this new tech-
and are affecting television and radio nology, programmers are wringing their
programming. hands as they did with the introduction
Magnetic audio tape was introduced in of the VCR. And advertisers worry that
the late 1940s, but its effect on radio was the ease with which hard-disk video
most noticed on the production side. recorders can skip commercials will
Shows could now be prerecorded for force them to reconsider the traditional
later broadcast. Bing Crosby was the first commercial break advertising strategy—
to use this technology, recording 26 moving toward conspicuous product
shows for the 1947–1948 season on a placement and product integration
Magnetophon recording device for in program material.

Cashing in on viewers’ short attention middle of the night to the horse enthu-
spans and the new technologies, both siast’s recorder, which would then store
NBC and ABC aired 1- to 3-minute it until the viewer is ready to see it.
movies in 2003–2004, NBC hoping that
inserting 1-minute movies into com- THE RISE OF CONSUMER-
mercial clusters will keep audiences SUPPORTED MEDIA
from switching the dial. Some of 1-
minute movies aired in four parts. Tele- Although the future of many aspects of
vision commercials are able to present a programming may be up in the air, it
full story in 30 seconds, so why should is certain that the viewing audience for
a 1-minute movie not be able to do the traditional advertiser-supported radio
same, particularly when viewers have and television has been, at least partly,
such short attention spans? And why not eroded by increasing consumer-
have 1-minute soap operas, as Soapnet supported media offerings.
tried in 2003–2004? When television was introduced, the
By 2002, there were more than film industry feared for its life as more
800,000 households with hard-disk people stayed home to watch the new
video recorders. With many consumers, theater beamed into their living rooms
especially the prized younger demo- for “free.” Although the audience for
graphic, turning to their computers as films took a hit as a result of television,
the hub of media consumption, many television no more killed film than film
manufacturing companies are experi- killed live performances. Each medium
menting with ways to seamlessly pack has its own pull on audiences. Just
television, radio, and the Internet into because audiences may have new
one multimedia box—with one hard- choices does not mean that they will
disk onto which viewers can record abandon the old options.
media from any broadcast medium. Still, the number of available con-
With all of these technological pos- sumer-supported media options, such
sibilities looming, the art of program- as pay-cable networks, DVDs, and video
ming may be affected in innumerable games, is becoming more attractive to
unknowable ways. What used to be consumers, especially if they have
niche markets may become big business. become weary of advertising. In 2002,
For example, there are undoubtedly a according to the Communications
large group of people who are horse Industry Forecast by merchant bank
enthusiasts in the United States. Veronis Suhler Stevenson, U.S. con-
However, the number of horse enthusi- sumers spent an average of 3,599 hours
asts may not be large enough to make with the various forms of media. Time
it a sound financial decision for a cable spent with advertiser-supported media,
or satellite company to set aside one of such as traditional radio and television,
their 100 or so channels for a 24-hour accounted for 57.8% with consumer-
horse channel. But with TIVO or other supported media, such as DVD, pay-
computer-augmented recording systems, cable networks, and video games,
a de facto horse channel could be accounting for the remaining 42.2%.
offered to horse enthusiasts without This is a marked change from just 5
setting aside an actual channel for it. years earlier, in 1997, when the distri-
Horse programming could be trans- bution was roughly 68% advertiser-
mitted as data in the background, over supported to 32% consumer-supported
the Internet, or during off hours in the media.20
1 The History of Programming 23

THE VIDEO GAME EXPLOSION ∑ Three quarters of Nielsen TV households with a male between 8 and 34

years own a video game system.

Video games, which generate more
income per year than theatrical films, ∑ TV viewership among male gamers age 18 to 34 appears to be slightly
allow players to control the action,
lower than among males age 18 to 34 in general.
playing the game when and how they
wish, in the process having a direct ∑ The average male gamer plays video games about 5 times per week and
effect on programming. A video game
spends at least 30 minutes doing so each time he sits down to play.
such as “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”
sold nearly 3 million copies in its first ∑ Nearly as many males 8 to 34 say they prefer playing video games (29%)
month on the market in 2003, and the
as say they prefer watching TV (33%). This group also prefers playing sports
gaming industry as a whole had sales of
more than $6.5 billion in 2002. There is (48%) and going to the movies (26%) over video games (13%).
no evidence that the video game indus- ∑ More than one quarter (27%) of active male gamers noticed advertising
try has reached its peak (Figure 1.8).
These dollar figures did not go unno- in the last video game they played, with heavy (31%) and older (35%) gamers

ticed by the entertainment industry as being the most likely to recall advertising.
video games became an increasingly
∑ Heavy gamers are particularly enthusiastic about product integration;
integral part of people’s lives, revealing
how the public wants to spend its leisure more than half (52%) like games to contain real products and most (70%) feel
time. With the VCR, video games, that real products make a game more “genuine.”
TIVO, and the Internet, it is increasingly
clear that the public wants to control its
programming choices. have attempted to capture the feel of Figure 1.8
A study released in July 2003 by the video games by adopting the same visual Some of the key
Pew Internet & American Life project look and narrative style, much in the findings of a 2004
suggests that the public is capable of way feature films such as The Matrix and study conducted by
exercising this control. The study found the video-game-based Lara Croft Activision and
that both male and female students who movies starring Angelina Jolie are struc-
play electronic games are able to do tured like video games.
so without neglecting their studies or
becoming loners.21 Television, which REGULATIONS
began as a family viewing activity, has
become the solitary activity, and video After the fin-syn regulations limiting
gaming with friends has replaced it as the television network’s financial rewards
the communal viewing activity. were imposed in 1970, there was, as
Video game players are used to greater noted, a proliferation of independent
interactivity and to faster action, something stations and independent producers
programmers are aware of as they seek to ready to cash in on the lucrative distri-
retain an audience.Wanting and needing to bution market. As the number of broad-
capture some of the excitement that video cast choices increased with cable and
games provide, programmers would love to satellite distribution, an argument sur-
bring groups of viewers to the television faced suggesting that strict regulations
set in the same way games attract groups were no longer needed. The networks
of friends. lobbied hard that mergers did not hurt
To accomplish this, television shows program diversity and did not eliminate
such as TNT’s “Witchblade,” “Dark local coverage. They did not want to be
Angel,” and “Super Mario Brothers” hurt financially, claiming that continued

∑ In 2002, Warner Bros. Television and in-house studio Turner Television of programs owned wholly or partly
by the networks airing the shows
were behind 15 of the 18 pilots ordered by the WB.
(Figure 1.9).
∑ Walt Disney-owned Touchstone Television produced or coproduced all of Others, such as television critic
Alessandra Stanley, disagree vehemently
ABC’s comedies and had a piece of at least 21 of 23 pilots.
that consolidation of ownership destroys
∑ NBC Studios produced or had a piece of 17 of the 20 pilots that NBC ordered. programming creativity. She cites “The
Wire” on HBO, a gritty police show set
∑ At Fox, at least 5 of 10 pilots were from parent company News Corp.22
in Baltimore created by David Simon.
HBO is owned by media conglomerate
Figure 1.9 regulations would destroy them. Con- Time Warner, and for Stanley, “The
Ownership of glomerate mergers became the norm for Wire” is a risk-taking, worthy show that
programming. both television and radio as the FCC has not suffered by the Time Warner
surveyed the marketplace, agreeing with ownership. She believes that television
the networks and deciding that greater has never been more diverse and that
deregulation was in order. dramas in particular are taking many
The result of this deliberation was the chances under consolidation.23
Telecommunications Act of 1996, which Consolidation in the ownership of
increased the number of radio stations a radio stations raises concerns because of
single owner could own. In June 2003, radio’s local reach. Independent musical
the FCC got rid of the cross-owner- artists worry about the centralization
ship rules that prevented a broadcaster of programming and music selection
from owning a newspaper and a televi- decisions, combined with efforts to
sion station in the same market and maximize profits to keep corporate
allowed a broadcaster to increase hold- stockholders happy. Local artists, in the
ings to cover 45% of the country from past, counted on local radio stations to
the 35% that the 1996 Telecommunica- help “break” local talent—to either a
tions Act permitted. Following much local or a national audience. Radio
debate and controversy, the cap was corporation executives—such as John
changed to 39% with further modifica- Hogan, chief executive of Clear
tions likely. Other chapters will examine Channel Radio, which owned nearly
the role of the FCC in detail, but it will 10% of all radio stations in the United
suffice here to note that the concentra- States in 2003—insist that although
tion of broadcast ownership has signifi- ownership may be centralized, program-
cantly affected programming. ming decisions are left to local pro-
Many people, producers and govern- gramming directors. They admit,
ment representatives alike, believe that however, that their operations are pri-
consolidation, which results in fewer marily concerned with economics and
owners, has a negative effect on pro- giving the public what they want—not,
gramming diversity. They worry that as may have been true in the more
programming will become homoge- autonomous past, a passion for exposing
nized as fewer different voices are the public to inventive or “new”
allowed into the tent. They see fewer music.24
risks being taken and argue that hit This controversy about the influence
shows of the past, such as “The Mary of deregulation on programming is not
Tyler Moore Show” or “Seinfeld,” likely to go away soon. Too much
would never have gotten on the air. money is at stake for both the owners
They also object to the growing number and the independent producers. As
1 The History of Programming 25

independents continue to lose ground strong as it was. In addition to produc-

to the conglomerates, will creativity and ing their own programming and resist-
diversity suffer? This heated debate con- ing American product, several foreign
tinues on many fronts. governments, such as China and France,
have imposed severe limits on the
GLOBALIZATION number of hours of foreign program-
ming that can be aired, thus hampering
From the 1970s through the beginning the American seller. When foreign
of the 1990s, the active foreign market broadcasters adapt successful shows that
eased the way for producers and pro- aired in America, they must adjust the
grammers. Significant money could be formats to suit local customs. For
made through foreign distribution, example, Dubai failed to adjust the
enabling programmers to relax a bit reality show “Big Brother” to local
about budgets as they anticipated that standards in 2003, and the show was
the foreign dollars would provide ade- canceled within a month. When this
quate money to produce a quality pro- happens, the negative influence of
duction. Likewise, producers were more Western culture is blamed, making it
willing to take on large deficits because even more difficult for American pro-
they would recoup their investment gramming to sell abroad.
abroad. Germany used to be a major market
Shows that portrayed Americans in a for Americans, but it no longer buys
particular light sold well abroad and at the rate it used to. One has only to
made international stars of the cast attend a National Association of Televi-
members. Many times, a performer sion Program Executives (NATPE)
whose star had faded in the United convention, where producers and dis-
States remained a significant draw abroad tributors meet to sell their programs, to
and a major selling point for foreign realize how difficult it is to make deals
sales, though of little value to American abroad.The convention center floors are
network executives. Oftentimes, pro- quiet, and cash registers do not ring. For
grammers still have to swallow casting example, a television movie that would
such performers in a project simply to have generated in excess of $1 million
keep the foreign potential alive. in foreign sales several years ago will be
Shows such as “Baywatch,” which lucky to bring in $400,000—and that
featured beautiful people doing heroic is little cause for joy. Often, there is
actions; “Beverly Hills, 90210,” which no sale, particularly if the program is
revealed American teenagers at their deemed too soft, as is the case with
photogenic best; and “Twin Peaks,” many movies made for Lifetime, the
which revealed a quirkier side of the network for women. Even if there is a
American way of life performed well sale, it is often the poorer countries that
abroad. But the foreign market dried up continue to buy American shows at low
in the last part of the 20th century, rates; the richer countries focus on local
hurting both the networks and the productions.
producers. Interestingly, the tighter foreign
Foreign countries increasingly seek to market dovetails with the push toward
produce their own programming, but deregulation. Conglomerates point to
U.S. broadcasters are nevertheless forced the softening of the foreign markets as
to continue to look abroad for revenue, justification for all the financial assis-
even if the foreign market is not as tance they can get.
2 Sources of

In this chapter you will learn about the Merv liked the idea, and “Jeopardy”
following: recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.
A big-name independent producer
• The primary suppliers of television driving to work may hear a radio story
programming content about surrogate mothers and think of a
• The effect of the 1996 Telecommuni- heart-tugging idea for a movie-of-the-
cations Act on the distributors and week. Writers may formulate ideas for
creators of programming content a children’s program while reading
• The role of the public, stars, agents, bedtime stories to their children. Early
and managers as sources of morning disc jockeys have been known
programming to plan skits based on the dreams they
• What future programmers need to had the night before. A soap opera
know to succeed as suppliers of writer has confessed to gaining ideas by
programming going to bars and encouraging people to
dump their problems on him. A group
Regardless of the electronic media of students developed sketches about
form, the person in charge of program- college dorm life for a public access
ming must figure out how to fill the cable series. You have, no doubt, had
hours of the day with specific shows, a several ideas that you felt would make a
daunting task. For example, an indepen- wonderful TV show, radio program, or
dent station on the air 20 hours a day, website.
7 days a week must schedule 7300 hours
of programming a year. In 2003, the BEYOND THE IDEA—INTO
average home received more than 100 THE “DEEP POCKETS”
channels. Where does all the program-
ming come from? Simply having a good idea does not a
The answer is complex. Ideas for TV series make. Most ideas must be
programs can originate from just about funneled through an organized structure
anywhere. For example, legend has it of suppliers. These companies provide
that one night Mrs. Merv Griffin said to the money and the technical and pro-
her husband,“Why don’t you do a game duction know-how to make program-
where the contestants get the answers ming a reality. Despite the massive need
and have to give you the questions?” for product at networks and stations, the


Network Studio
come up with $50,000 to close a license
fee?” It is thus extremely difficult for
FOX 20th Century Fox newcomers to get in the game.
NBC Universal With the increased number of
mergers that have taken place in the
ABC Disney
world of entertainment since the
CBS Paramount deregulation in the 1980s, vertical
integration has become the standard
The WB Warner Bros.
for corporate achievement. With the
UPN CBS/Paramount expanded role of conglomerates, a
company can now control both the pro-
duction of programs and the distribu-
Figure 2.1 number of supply sources is surprisingly tion systems of those programs, making
Network affiliations limited. vertical integration extremely attractive
with major studios. The financial risks of making a to stockholders and division heads alike
program are high. Few companies have (Figure 2.1). For example, NBC’s strate-
the “deep pockets” to suffer significant gic alliance with Universal Television in
financial reversals while waiting for the 2003 gave NBC a source of program-
next project to take off and earn money ming that the network could subse-
in syndication and subsidiary markets. quently distribute over the airwaves.
Buyers tend to rely on suppliers that NBC, owned by General Electric, had
have delivered successes in the past and been the last major network that did not
have a strong financial basis to survive have a studio alliance.
for more than a season. Because the networks are parts of
A supplier who has not previously companies that now own major studios,
deficit financed a program, that is, pro- the role of “the majors” as sources of
vided the funds that covered the deficit programming continues to increase
between what the network paid for the dramatically.
program and the cost of production, will
generally not be allowed to function as MAJOR PRODUCTION
the sole production entity. Such sup- COMPANIES
pliers are traditionally partnered with a
company that has previously supplied Large companies such as Universal
deficit financing because networks do Studios, Paramount Pictures, Warner
not cover the full cost of production. In Bros., Fox, and Disney have the
recent years, the deficits have markedly resources to staff several departments
increased, more frequently necessitating to develop and produce product for
those deep pockets. commercial and cable television. These
Programming executives are warned majors are the key suppliers of programs
against getting into business with sup- for broadcasters. To maintain their
pliers who lack a substantial track dominant positions, many majors strike
record, both in creating successful shows umbrella deals with creative indi-
and in having established a sound finan- viduals housed at the studio. It is the
cial base. Fledgling executives are fre- studio’s hope that these deals will lead
quently challenged by business affairs to the creation of hits, as exemplified by
negotiators: “Why would you want to John Wells’s deal at Warner Bros., which
do business with companies whose resulted in “ER,” “The West Wing,” and
finances are so shaky that they can’t “Third Watch,” among others.
2 Sources of Television Programming 31

Broadcast and cable networks, station

groups, and stations like to do business
with these companies, not only because
they have a history of success and access
to some of the best producers, writers,
performers, and craftspeople but also
because they are financially sound and
will not have to default on a commit-
ment if unforeseen and expensive
hurdles arise. Buyers know that if a
program is not coming together well,
Figure 2.2
the majors have the resources to do The series
whatever is necessary to fix it. “Everwood”
Every year, a close tally is kept of the exemplifies the
number of pilots and shows a company dominance of
has received. Bragging rights are at stake; Warner Bros. as a
careers hang on these numbers, and a source of
company’s financial well-being hangs in programming.
the balance. (Globe Photos,
Warner Bros. Television, under the Inc.)
leadership of Peter Roth and Susan
Rovner, achieved impressive results with the amount of time that transpires as the
shows such as “Third Watch.” Granted, film is released to different media forms.
Warner Bros. has the WB network ready, Often a movie will have a 6-month
willing, and able to embrace its devel- window between the time it finishes its
opment of shows such as “Smallville,” theatrical run and the time it is available
and “Everwood” (Figure 2.2), but the to cable TV pay-per-view systems.
success rate of Warner Bros. is neverthe- Then it has another window of a month
less extremely impressive, a testament to or two before it is distributed in video
sound programming instincts. stores. Following this is a window that
Individuals with an interest in pro- leads to the pay cable services such as
gramming as a career might be wise to HBO and Showtime. Only after all of
consider associating with one of the these stages are films made available to
majors early in their careers. Not only commercial networks. Even further
will they learn the intricacies of the down the pecking order are local TV
business but they also will be working stations and basic cable networks such as
with companies that have many off- USA Network and Lifetime. The length
shoots, one or more of which might of time of the various windows differs
lead to several different employment from film to film. On rare occasions, the
opportunities. order of the releases varies and com-
Feature films, produced by major mercial TV may obtain a movie before
companies, are also a source of pro- it is shown on cable. Sometimes the net-
gramming for networks and stations. works and stations buy the rights to air
After a movie has finished its theatrical the films from the major production
run, it is released to television. However, companies, and sometimes they buy
networks and stations do not get first them through syndicators.
crack at it. The distribution is under- A successful, or unsuccessful, showing
taken through a series of windows— at the U.S. box office is no clear

winner. Also, to show that a network is

“in the game,” executives may pay a
large amount for a “must-have” film,
such as Spiderman, making it difficult
to have money left over to buy a lot
of other films for the network. For
example, Spiderman II sold to Fox and
FX for approximately $50 million, a lot
of money by any standard. Adding to the
complexity of the theatrical acquisition
game is the cyclical nature of theatrical
films on television. At times, feature
films are seen as good fillers for the
commercial networks because they tend
to perform within a given range; at
other times, they are deemed to be “not
working.” Cable networks such as HBO,
Figure 2.3 indicator of how a feature film will Cinemax, The Movie Channel, Starz,
ABC’s perennial perform on television. Oftentimes, a or Showtime always want to be able to
ratings workhorse, film with strong buzz before it opens announce a strong slate of movies, the
The Ten theatrically will command a high price very movies that everyone wants to see.
Commandments. from the commercial or cable networks Direct TV and the other direct broad-
(Photo © ABC
only to fail both at the box office and cast satellite services (DBSs) also play a
with television viewers. For example, significant role in the airing of theatri-
The Bonfire of the Vanities, sold to ABC cal films, touting their film offerings in
at a high price before opening in competition with the other distribution
theaters, disappointed at the box office, outlets.
and subsequently performed poorly on Feature films also have been the basis
the air. for many TV series developed by the
On the other hand, a film that disap- same major production companies.
points at the box office can be a sur- Before the picture is made, the company
prise hit on television, such as the Julia will usually negotiate the right to
Roberts/Nick Nolte romantic comedy produce a TV version if it seems to lend
I Love Trouble or The Shawshank Redemp- itself to that medium. Years ago, a small
tion, about a prison uprising. Then film, Moonrunners (1975), written and
there is the perennial favorite, The Ten directed by Gy Waldron, led to the suc-
Commandments (1956), which defies all cessful series, “The Dukes of Hazard,”
analysis, having aired on ABC for more which Waldron created. Similarly, we
than 30 years around Easter and never cannot forget the granddaddy of them
failed to generate impressive ratings, all, “M*A*S*H,” or “9 to 5” and “Buffy
proving that new is not always best and the Vampire Slayer.” Also memorable are
that a classic film can bring viewers to a host of television failures such as
the set year after year (Figure 2.3). “Clueless,” “Dirty Dancing,” and the
Sometimes networks will have too big 2002–2003 failure of “My Big, Fat
large an inventory of theatrical films, Greek Life,” based on the surprise hit
preventing them from acquiring addi- independent movie, My Big, Fat Greek
tional films, possibly missing out on a Wedding.
2 Sources of Television Programming 33

Both the majors and the independents creative contributors. Indies such as the
(see the next section) borrow from them- one formed in 1970 by actress Mary
selves to develop new shows. Many Tyler Moore and her then-husband
successful programs contain subsidiary Grant Tinker made significant contribu-
characters who have the potential to tions to television. Named MTM, its
carry a new program. Called spin-offs, impressive credits include “The Mary
these shows are frequently scheduled Tyler Moore Show,” “Hill Street Blues,”
immediately following the parent “St. Elsewhere,”“WKRP in Cincinnati,”
program to maintain continuity with “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Lou
the established audience. “Laverne and Grant,” “Phyllis,” and “Rhoda,” the last
Shirley” was spun off from “Happy Days,” three being spin-offs of “The Mary Tyler
which also spun off “Mork & Mindy.”“A Moore Show.”
Different World” was spun off from “The Notable independents in the 1980s
Cosby Show,” “Frasier” from “Cheers,” and 1990s include Witt/Thomas/Harris,
and “The Ropers” from “Three’s who created “Soap,” “Empty Nest,” and
Company.” (Not all work: stars on one “The Golden Girls,” and the incredibly
show do not always succeed the next successful team of Marcy Carsey and
time around. For example, look at the Tom Werner. Former colleagues at ABC,
victims of the so-called “Seinfeld” curse, Carsey and Werner’s hits include “The
which predicts future failures for the Cosby Show,” which sold into syndica-
“Seinfeld” cast, such as Michael Richards tion with an initial offering of more
of “The Michael Richards Show,” Jason than $500 million; “A Different World”;
Alexander of “Bob Patterson,” and Julia “Roseanne”; “That ’70s Show,” which
Louis-Dreyfuss of “Watching Ellie.”) produced superstar Ashton Kutcher; and
In terms of successful spin-offs, few “That ’80s Show” (once again, every-
can rival Dick Wolf ’s “Law & Order,” thing cannot succeed).
which spun off “Law & Order: Crimi- Since the deregulation that culmi-
nal Intent” and “Law & Order: Special nated with the 1996 Telecommunica-
Victims Unit.” In 2002–2003, CBS spun tions Act, however, it has become
off “CSI: Miami” and in 2004–2005, increasingly difficult for indies to survive
“CSI: New York” from the Jerry as prolific suppliers. Because the broad-
Bruckheimer series “CSI: Crime Scene casters can own the syndication rights,
Investigation,” a surprise success for indies often find it difficult to make a go
CBS, which had expected “The of it financially. Several years ago,Tinker,
Fugitive,” not “CSI,” to dominate. “The independent producer and former
Fugitive” failed and “CSI” went on to president of MTM, foresaw the diffi-
monster-hit status. culties facing independent producers.
“I don’t know if the business even
exists anymore . . . in a way that I would
INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION like to be in it,” he said in reference to
COMPANIES the already receding network audience,
the lower license fees granted to pro-
Until deregulation, independent pro- ducers, and the rising costs of produc-
duction companies were a prolific tion. Add mergers, consolidation, and
source of shows. Known as indies, these the abolishment of fin-syn (see fin-syn
are usually small companies whose sidebar) and you have the bleak realities
owners frequently function as the chief that indies face.
2 Sources of Television Programming 35

had been producing movies and tele- rules. In a spirit of collegiality, it also
vision series for many years. When asked that NBC, CBS, and ABC be
the Fox Broadcasting Company was given a “waiver.” Valenti and company
formed to distribute programs to inde- saw through this maneuver and quickly
pendent stations, the Fox production objected. The FCC gave the waiver to
company provided some of the pro- Fox but not to the other three.
gramming, as did other production “Wait a minute,” said the networks.
companies such as Columbia Pictures “This doesn’t seem fair.” The FCC,
(“Married . . . With Children”). In no tired of the bickering, told the networks
way did Fox want to lose out on the and the Hollywood community to hold
money it was making from syndicating meetings on their own and come up
its TV series, which included, among with a solution. “If you can’t agree,”
others, the highly profitable “M*A*S*H.” said the commissioners, “we’ll get back
So Fox Broadcasting Company said it into the fray and come up with some-
was not a network. According to the thing no one likes.” Truer words were
FCC rules, a network had to “deliver at never spoken. The two sides stale-
least 15 hours of programming a week mated, and, in April 1991, the FCC
to at least 25 affiliates in 10 or more came up with new rules, which, indeed,
states.” For several years, Fox kept its no one liked.
program offerings below 15 hours. Then the 1996 Telecommunications
Then in 1990, Fox decided it would like Act abolished fin-syn, making things
to program 18.5 hours, so it petitioned more difficult for indies, particularly in
the FCC for a waiver from the fin-syn connection with syndication.

Some independents have succeeded insisting on some type of ownership to

in adapting to the changing climate. cash in on syndication and foreign sales,
Writer and producer Steven Bocho, for but that same producer might prefer
one, has been consistently rewarded a fee to ownership in the post-1996
with hefty development deals based on Telecommunications Act climate.
his ability to generate quality shows
such as “NYPD Blue,” which provided
ABC with one of its highest-rated
shows year after year.
Robert Greenwald, a prolific producer
of long standing whose credits include
the groundbreaking telefilm “The
Burning Bed” (1984), about spousal
abuse, and “Blonde” (2001), based on
Joyce Carol Oates’s interpretation of the
life of Marilyn Monroe, said that for an
indie to survive it must explore creative
financial arrangements, such as previ- Figure 2.4
Robert Greenwald’s
ously untapped tax credits or filming in
production of “The
different locales (Figure 2.4).
Audrey Hepburn
Greenwald notes that the syndication Story” starring
and foreign markets have declined and Jennifer Love
production costs have risen, yet license Hewitt was filmed
fees have not. At one time, a producer in Montreal.
might have scoffed at the idea of simply (Globe Photos,
receiving a fee to produce a project, Inc.)

after everything hoping that something

“will stick.” After some 20 years in the
business, he also knows the kinds of proj-
ects the networks will develop as opposed
to the kinds of projects the networks will
make and air. Thus, Robinson will not
pursue stories he believes will not be pro-
duced. He notes that some producers
have numerous projects in development,
priding themselves on having “30” proj-
ects in development, whereas he concen-
trates on a few projects that he knows
have a good chance of being made. This
philosophy keeps him focused, enabling
him to keep his overhead under control.
Robinson has carved out a niche
making movies that are “slightly outside
the box.”Therefore, he is often called by
executives who steer him into key proj-
ects. For example, he was once con-
tacted by an executive at CBS who told
him he wanted to “gift him into” a
project because of his reputation as a
niche supplier. Robinson does double
duty: he develops and he is on the set
Figure 2.5 One specific adjustment Philip Klein- every day unlike producers who are
A photo of the bart, Greenwald’s producing partner, has either creative producers (development
phenomenally made is to pay more money to secure the only) or physical producers (involved in
successful “CSI,” services of a star. He feels that the net- production on the set). These factors
one of Jerry works are more interested than ever in enable Randwell to survive.
star power.Thus, if the network says they Clearly, Jerry Bruckheimer is one
television hits.
will pay no more than, say, $300,000 for of the most successful independent pro-
(Globe Photos,
Inc.) a star and the star’s representatives want ducers working in television in the early
$350,000, Kleinbart may step up to cover 21st century. When this high-voltage
the difference. This is not something he film producer with a knack for intuiting
would have done previously. In the past, what audiences want turned his atten-
he would have simply “moved on,” but tion to television, he and his producing
that is no longer possible because a partner, Jonathan Littman, struck televi-
backup star may not have the pull to sion gold. In 2003, his series “CSI”
interest investors and the networks in (Figure 2.5) was broadcast in 175 coun-
paying for the movie to be made. The tries, becoming the most-watched tele-
whole endeavor and the costs of devel- vision program in the world. As a point
opment up to that point may be lost. of comparison, at its height in the 1960s
Randy Robinson, whose company, and early 1970s,“Bonanza” aired in only
Randwell Productions, produced “Pro- 70 countries.1
foundly Normal” (2003) with Kirstie According to Rich Bilotti, a media
Alley, has survived in a down market by analyst at Morgan Stanley,“CSI” in 2003
keeping a “tight focus.” He does not go supplied more than 24% of CBS’s total
2 Sources of Television Programming 37

Figure 2.6
“From the Earth
to the Moon”
HBO’s hold on
quality longform
(Photo courtesy
the Academy of
Television Arts &

profit from prime-time programming, When it comes to public television,

about $259 million.2 When CBS the indies, as well as the majors, have
launched the spin-off “CSI: Miami” in little involvement. The structure and
2003, the results were again impressive, programming needs of public television
making it the most highly rated new are so different from the commercial
show of the season. In addition, and cable outlook that production com-
Bruckheimer’s “Without a Trace” and panies do not really fit in.
“Cold Case” both served CBS well, There are, however, some companies
clearly establishing Bruckheimer as the (most of them nonprofit) that supply
producer of the moment. shows to public broadcasting. One of
In cable, few producers have achieved them, Children’s Television Workshop,
the success of Tom Hanks and his started in the late 1960s, is in a class by
company. His Emmy wins for both itself. This organization, which has pro-
“From the Earth to the Moon” (Figure duced such highly acclaimed children’s
2.6) and “Band of Brothers” attest to series as “Sesame Street,” “Electric
how high a bar he has established, Company,” and “3-2-1 Contact,” is sep-
helping HBO to have a near-lock on arate from PBS but is so closely tied to
high caliber longform programming. it that it could not exist in its present
The producing team of Robert Green- form without the public TV structure.
blatt and David Janollari also had great A newer production company, Ken
success on cable with another award- Burns Enterprises, has supplied public
winning HBO program, “Six Feet television with some highly rated docu-
Under.” mentary series, including “The Civil

channels in particular are receptive to

material from the BBC.
It is also interesting to note that the
show that launched the prime-time
reality game-show craze in 1999,
“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” orig-
inated in England. “The Weakest Link,”
which had a shorter run in prime-time
before moving to daytime TV, also orig-
Figure 2.7 inated in England. A particularly suc-
Ken Burns, an cessful longer-form reality game show,
independent “American Idol,” also was adapted by
producer, has Fox from a U.K. show. And “Big
supplied PBS with Brother,” which became a summer staple
highly regarded
on CBS, was adapted from a show that
series including the
originally ran successfully in Holland.
“The Civil War.” It is rare for a show from another
(Photo courtesy country to play unchanged on Ameri-
Florentine Films.) can commercial television, even if it is
in the English language. The sense of
pace, the foreign accent of the actors,
and the subtle language differences are
War,” “Baseball,” “Mark Twain,” and difficult for American audiences to
“Jazz,” many of which were gathered in accept. As always, there are exceptions,
PBS’s “American Stories” (Figure 2.7). such as the bawdy English BBC comedy
Burns’s company, although it is techni- “Absolutely Fabulous” and the Canadian
cally independent, has partnered with comedy “The Kids in the Hall,” both of
WETA in Washington, D.C., on five which have had successful runs on the
projects. Comedy Central cable network in the
United States. However, American pro-
FOREIGN PRODUCTION ducers are willing to buy good ideas
SOURCES from foreign creators and “Ameri-
canize” them for U.S. viewers.
American companies are ever alert to Turning to public television, for
the possibility of adapting a foreign years PBS broadcast so many BBC pro-
success to the tastes of American grams that people quipped that “PBS”
viewers. Although America is the largest really stood for “primarily British
exporter of programs, exporting more shows.” This no longer holds true; PBS
shows than it imports, two of the biggest has sought to “Americanize” itself with
TV hits of the 1970s were modifications more programs from and set in the
of British comedies: “All in the Family” United States. For example, PBS’s
and “Sanford and Son.” Many British “Mystery” has featured more thrillers
shows have crossed the Atlantic to such as the American Elizabeth George’s
America, for example, “Queer as Folk” “The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: A
on Showtime, “Trading Spaces” on the Great Deliverance.” And what could be
Discovery Channel, and the quickly more American than PBS’s “Ben
departed “Coupling” on NBC. Cable Franklin” (2002)?
2 Sources of Television Programming 39

A popular approach in commercial NETWORKS

television of recent years has been to
develop coproductions. In previous Sometimes networks are the source of
decades, this most often meant a foreign programming for other networks. Gone
company contributed money to an are the days when a show on one net-
American production in exchange for work would not be allowed to have a
certain distribution rights overseas. “Not guest performer from another network.
anymore,” said David Gerber, the leg- One network often develops shows
endary former chairman of MGM/UA for other networks. For example, Fox
Television in charge of worldwide pro- Studios regularly develops shows for the
duction. “From now on, if we do some- broadcast competition, as do NBC Pro-
thing together, it’s going to have to be ductions and HBO Productions.
a global partnership.” By this he means With the explosion of cable and the
the foreign contributors will participate trend toward mergers, cross-fertilization
in story development, casting, and dis- of programming sources continues to
tribution strategy, as well as in the divi- take place, with the Disney production
sion of profits. company providing programs for
The appeal of a coproduction is Disney-owned ABC and the Disney
that a much larger pool of money is Channel, Fox for FX, and Warner Bros.
available to the production. A movie for the WB. Bravo provides successful
of the week that might normally be shows to NBC (both are owned by
budgeted at $2 to $2.5 million could General Electric), such as 2003’s “Queer
go twice that high with foreign invest- Eye for the Straight Guy,” which NBC
ments. These additional funds can give added to its schedule to capitalize on the
the movie a much larger and richer Bravo show’s high cable ratings and
look and make it more attractive to national media buzz.
viewers all over the world. Furthermore, As a result of this cross-pollination, a
most countries outside the United new form of program sharing, known as
States have limitations (quotas) on the repurposing, has developed. Repur-
amount of foreign production that can posing is not the same as rerunning a
be imported each year. The goal is to show on the same outlet or at a much
protect their actors, producers, directors, later date in syndication. Nor does it
and production companies. However, apply to shows that finish their run on
any program partially owned by a one network then “travel” to another
company of that country has a much network for another run, such as “JAG,”
better chance to come in under the which went from NBC to CBS, or
quota rules. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which went
There are some drawbacks to copro- from the WB to UPN. It is important
ductions. Not all types of shows are suc- to note that repurposing takes place
cessful overseas. Comedies, in particular, during a show’s run, not after it. What
do not travel well. Frequently, the lan- repurposing does is maximize a show’s
guage and situations are too uniquely worth by broadcasting it on a different
American to interest or amuse foreign outlet shortly after its initial airing.
audiences. But as the financial crunch The first show to engage in repur-
continues to hurt American producers, posing was ABC’s “Once and Again”
the search for foreign partners in copro- in 1999, which aired a couple of days
ductions will accelerate. later on the Lifetime cable channel

shows may allow them to reach an

audience they may not usually attract,
an audience that might then be more
willing to give a second thought to a
network’s other programming.The cable
networks are also satisfied, not only
because network audiences, aware of
where the program came from, might
seek out the original cable network but
also because the rebroadcasting fees
Figure 2.8 received from networks allow the cable
ABC’s “Once and
companies to improve production values.
Again” starring
The main purpose of broadcast net-
Sela Ward
(pictured) and Billy works is to supply material to broadcast
Campbell was the stations and the main purpose of cable
first show to be networks is to provide material to cable
repurposed. (Photo systems. Nevertheless, repurposing is a
courtesy the nice extra for both in a difficult eco-
Academy of nomic climate.
Television Arts &
Some stations supply programming to
other stations. This is particularly
common among group-owned stations,
the owned and operated stations.
Frequently, a station group will try out
a program on one of its stations to test
its appeal. If it shows promise, it will be
extended to the other stations in the
group. Finally, if it scores well in these
owned markets, it will be offered to
other stations around the country. The
dating show “Studs” was an example of
this gradual “rollout.” The program was
initially broadcast on Fox’s Los Angeles
Figure 2.9 (Figure 2.8). Similarly, USA Network’s outlet, KTTV. When it enjoyed early
Oprah Winfrey’s “Monk” aired on ABC after its initial success, it was sold to a limited number
show has been one showing in 2002. Thus, as demands of stations. By 1992, it was available for
of the most for programming content increase and sale to all stations.
successful syndicated money becomes tighter, repurposing The industry has also come up with
programs in allows one channel’s programming to variations on this process. In 1991,
television history.
become another outlet’s offering. The Group W and the NBC-owned and
(Photo courtesy
the Academy of
major networks like this arrangement operated stations agreed to cooperate on
Television Arts & because they do not consider the joint development ventures that, if suc-
Sciences.) generally small, niche-like cable ratings cessful, would be distributed nationally
to be significant competition and they by Group W. The incredibly successful
think that airing successful cable niche “Oprah Winfrey Show” (Figure 2.9)
2 Sources of Television Programming 41

began as a local production of the ABC- with ideas. They would rather generate
owned Chicago station WLS-TV. The their own ideas and then find the cre-
station licensed King World to distribute ative team to execute the concept. For
the show nationally, and it now claims a example, when Lindy de Koven was
lineup of more than 200 stations. head of the longform department at
A unique but growing station-to- NBC in the late 1990s, all members of
station trend involves affiliated stations her staff were expected to come to
producing news programs for indepen- meetings with several ideas that could
dents in the same area. For example, be turned into television movies. Susan
WPEC, a CBS affiliate in West Palm Lyne at ABC and Eric Poticha at Fox
Beach, Florida, produced the 10:00 P.M. also saw it as their responsibility to gen-
newscast for independent station WFLX erate the ideas that would end up on
in the same market. WFLX paid WPEC the air. Similarly, Michael Sluchan at
for the program, enabling WPEC to Universal sees it as his responsibility as
increase its staff by 15 people. The situ- a development executive to suggest to
ation is viewed as a win by both sta- other departments how his show should
tions. WFLX’s general manager, Murray be marketed and publicized.
Green, said, “If our station started a Independent producers resent this
newscast from scratch, it would take 3 trend among programmers because it
years to get credibility.”3 minimizes their contribution. They also
A small core of public television sta- think that programmers who dictate the
tions produces much of what is aired on ideas are merely protecting their own
the other public stations. Leading the jobs by taking away the producer’s role
way are WGBH in Boston, which pro- and giving themselves more to do.
duces the popular children’s show Nevertheless, you might consider that
“Arthur” and “Nova,” among others, and individuals who wait for producers to
WNET in New York, which produces come to them with the good ideas will
“American Masters” and “Nature,” probably be seen as lazy, lacking the
among others. Not everything on PBS is drive and energy to meet the needs of
produced by a few stations. For example, the marketplace.
2002’s “Ben Franklin” was produced by For producers, the flip side of this is
Twin Cities Public Television. With the that an idea generated by the network
financial crunch in public broadcasting, it stands a good chance of getting on the
helps greatly if a station raises a substan- air. If you are lucky enough to be “kissed
tial part of the financing before submit- into a project,” why should you com-
ting a proposal to PBS for consideration. plain? So what if it was not your idea
and you had to stoke the ego of the
BUYERS network executives for their “brilliant
insights;” you got the job, right?
It is a truism that buyers are most recep- The trend toward buyer-generated
tive to their own ideas. Because broad- ideas is not new, although its practice is
cast buyers are often the owners of a clearly on the ascent. In his book Three
show, it follows that they would look Blind Mice, author Ken Auletta states that
kindly upon their own creations, cre- in the early 1980s Brandon Tartikoff,
ations over which they can exercise president of NBC Entertainment, jotted
complete control. Increasingly, program- down the phrase “MTV cops” and
ming executives are no longer content passed it on to writer Tony Yerkovich
to wait for producers to come to them and executive producer Michael Mann.

That thought blossomed into “Miami programs. The viewers are the same and
Vice.” Another time,Tartikoff visited “an are not easier on shows simply because
aunt in Miami and came back with the the budgets of syndicated shows may
germ for ‘The Golden Girls.’ ” Auletta be less than those of their network
goes on to quote Tartikoff as saying, counterparts.
“Ten years ago 90 percent of the The bellwether forms for Monday-
[program] ideas came from the creative to-Friday syndication have been talk,
community. Now [1987] it’s only 20 talk-variety, games, service, and tabloid
percent.”4 Legendary programmer news. Aside from shows that contain a
Tartikoff, regarded by many as the pro- news element, for example, “Entertain-
grammer’s programmer for his repeated ment Tonight,” the forms are all capable
successes, clearly saw the future. of multiple productions per day. For
The American Music Awards illus- example, hour-long talk shows are shot
trates how the buyer-to-producer at least on a two-a-day schedule with
process worked and continues to work. separate producers responsible for the
In 1973, ABC’s 5-year contract to individual shows. The point is to keep
present the Grammy Awards expired. In the costs down so that a program can be
the judgment of network executives, the competitive in the rough-and-tumble
rights fees and other requirements for a syndicated marketplace.
renewal were too demanding and they In one season in the mid-1980s, the
elected not to meet the conditions. syndicators went overboard on game
Instead, they decided to compete with shows; in another there was a super-
an awards show of their own but with a abundance of children’s cartoon pro-
format more suitable for the viewer and grams. In the early 1990s, talk shows
less encumbered by the rituals and polit- were the rage. And there is the trend for
ical necessities of the National Associa- court shows, started by the success of
tion of Recording Arts and Sciences, the “Judge Judy.” In the late 1990s and early
Grammys’ parent organization. 2000s, the syndication market was in a
ABC programmers asked Dick Clark bit of a slump, but it came back strongly
to develop a format that would fulfill in 2002 with the success of “Dr. Phil,”
the goals of the show. Although he had coproduced by Oprah Winfrey.
never previously produced a prime-time The following first-run syndicated
special, Clark was selected because of his shows generally appear at the top of the
success with “American Bandstand” and household ratings charts. In parentheses
his familiarity with the music scene.The is the number of years the show has
American Music Awards pulled in sig- been on the air as of 2004:
nificant ratings for many years.
• “Wheel of Fortune” (21 years)
SYNDICATORS • “Jeopardy” (20 years)
• “The Oprah Winfrey Show” (18
Syndicators supply a great deal of years)
program material for local commercial • “Entertainment Tonight” (23 years)
stations. Some of this material is pro- • “Extra” (9 years)
duced by the syndicators (first run), some • “Judge Judy” (8 years)
consists of programs that have already • “Dr. Phil” (2 years)
run on the commercial networks (off • “Live with Regis and Kelly” (15
net), and the rest is movie packages. years)
First-run syndicated shows must meet • “Inside Edition” (16 years)
the same creative criteria as network • “Maury” (13 years)

At the station level and at cable net- station managers decides what will and
works, large numbers of programming will not be produced. The number of
heads are accepting infomercials. programs, the content of the programs,
These are 30-minute advertisements and the budget for each must be
masquerading as informative shows. decided in-house.
They use interviews, demonstrations, Live sports events are expensive for
and sometimes even dramas to extol the networks and local stations because they
virtues of a particular diet plan, baldness must pay for the rights to air the games
treatment, kitchen gadget, or brand of and cover the costs for the people and
sunglasses.The advertiser pays the station equipment needed to televise the events.
for the airtime and provides the For many years, sports programming was
program. an unqualified moneymaker. Networks
and stations bid against each other for
IN-HOUSE PRODUCTION the rights in often bitter battles. But the
advertising payments became insuffi-
Most networks and stations have their cient to cover the costs, and the audi-
own on-staff news personnel who see ence seems to be tiring of the huge
that the news is produced each day. amount of sports available on TV.This is
Reporters hired by the station or why so much sports programming has
network cover specific beats (city hall, left the major networks and gone to
Congress, the Middle East) and tape cable, where audiences can be smaller
stories about significant events. and costs can be contained. The rising
The news department also uses infor- costs of sports have caused a great deal
mation that comes over wire services of friction between the networks and
such as Associated Press and United their affiliates because the networks have
Press International, tips or camcorder requested that the affiliates cover part of
footage from individual citizens, stories the costs of broadcasting sports.
in newspapers, and information from House-produced documentaries and
various databanks. The news business is public affairs shows can also lead to their
rather incestuous in that stations and own brand of problems. For example,
networks obtain information by listen- after CBS produced and aired “The
ing to each other. CNN, for example, Uncounted Enemy” in 1982, it found
has become a major source of news itself engaged in a libel lawsuit against
ideas for other networks and stations. General William Westmoreland. The
Often, the news department is auton- documentary had accused Westmoreland
omous from the programming depart- of purposely deceiving President
ment. In these cases, the program Lyndon Johnson by estimating that the
director has no say over what happens enemy troop strength in Vietnam was
in the news department; the news direc- much lower than it really was. Although
tor makes the decisions. In other orga- the case was settled out of court with
nizations, news falls under the aegis of no clear victor, it demonstrated the dif-
the program director. ficulties documentaries can cause. Iron-
The other types of programs most ically, this is one of the reasons networks
likely to be produced in-house are prefer to produce their own documen-
news-oriented shows such as sports taries rather than buy them from outside
events, documentaries, and public affairs. sources. At least the networks know the
The news director, the program direc- quality of research and the source of the
tor, or a committee of network or ideas and can defend themselves. If they
2 Sources of Television Programming 45

accept work from outsiders, they are shows as “Lizzie McGuire,” “SpongeBob
liable but have less knowledge about the SquarePants,” “Rugrats,” and “Fairly
process of production. Odd Parents.” Starting in 2002, the
Documentaries and public affairs pro- commercial networks essentially got out
grams are broadcast to serve the public of the children’s television business.
interest. Rarely do they recover their NBC turned over its block of children’s
costs. Advertisers do not like to sponsor programming to the Discovery network;
what might be controversial, and audi- Fox contracted with the toy manufac-
ence members often prefer to watch turer 4 Kids to handle children’s pro-
entertainment shows. Public television, gramming; and CBS turned to sister
not beholden as much to sponsors or cable company Nickelodeon to provide
underwriters, ventures further than the children’s programming required by
commercial television into documen- the FCC.
taries and controversial issues, such as Some of the cable networks, however,
those covered each week by “Frontline” employ their in-house units on a full-
or Bill Moyers’ “NOW.” time basis. ESPN and the regional cable
Networks and stations also produce networks oversee most of their sports-
some of their own children’s programs. casts. CNN has charge of the content of
The extent of in-house production is a its news, and the same is true of The
function of the FCC’s mood regarding Weather Channel. MTV produces its
the content of children’s programs. video-jock programs, but the videos are
When deregulation is in vogue and pro- provided for free by the record compa-
grammers are not required to consider nies. C-SPAN produces its own politi-
the educational content of children’s cal material. Other networks produce
programs, many buy standard animated some of their own material. When you
material from production companies see a stand-up comic on any channel,
and syndicators. When regulations that program has probably been pro-
require that children’s programs contain duced in-house. Public affairs and talk
certain educational or social content, the shows are also likely to be undertaken
networks and stations often prefer to by a resident production crew.
produce their own so that they can Cable systems also use in-house pro-
guarantee the needed elements. duction for local origination shows. A
A 1990 FCC ruling, the Children’s local crew will cover news, much as a
Television Act, made station license local TV station does, and cable system
renewals partly depend on the quality equipment and studios will be used for
and frequency of children’s programs, public affairs programs. In-house pro-
changing the relationship between in- duction is also used to produce inserts
house production units and the world of for some of the cable networks. CNN
children’s television programming. and The Weather Channel, for example,
Although this ruling might have been leave time for systems to provide infor-
expected to increase the number of chil- mation about local news and weather if
dren’s shows produced in-house, this has they so desire. The same cable system
not happened. staff that produces local origination pro-
In the years following the 1990 duces these inserts.
ruling, children’s programming on the Public broadcasting stations also
commercial networks became increas- produce their own programs, although
ingly unprofitable, and cable established less than they used to because of declin-
a stronghold in the genre with such ing economics. For example, Los

Angeles’s KCET produces the popular the individual submitting an idea will
series “Life & Times” locally. charge that a future show stole their idea
without proper compensation. Although
MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC networks and production companies
take extensive precautions to avoid
Shows such as the seemingly perennial plagiarism cases, they are troubled with
“America’s Funniest Home Videos,” suits year after year. Many are of the
composed of home videos submitted by nuisance variety and can be quickly dis-
the viewing audience, make it seem posed of. Others are more serious and
as if members of the public could easily require the expensive efforts of a battery
function as programmers. During the of lawyers to refute.
height of the reality craze in 2003, some There is one area in cable, however,
cynics voiced the opinion that anybody where members of the public have
could come up with a reality show easier access, that is, cable’s public
concept because there were so many on access channels where the individual
the air and “unbelievably bad.” reigns supreme. Of all areas of the elec-
The reality is that it always has been, tronic media, public access is the most
and remains today, extremely difficult receptive to ideas stemming from the
for an individual to break in. Generally, minds of members of the public. Public
commercial networks and stations do access is truly a democratized concept.
not accept programming concepts that Anyone with an idea who can pull
originate from members of the public. together cast, crew, a little money, and
This is not because the talent is not enough time to produce a show may do
there or the ideas are atrocious but so. Some people (including any number
because of legal reasons. Programmers of college students) have started in
have discovered that the simplest way to public access, learned a great deal,
avoid litigation for plagiarism is to refuse proven themselves, and then moved on
any submission from an unaccredited to paying jobs in the broadcast or cable
source. worlds.
Generally, an unacceptable contribu-
tor is defined as one who does not have NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES,
an agent recognized within the industry. AND BOOKS
When unsolicited program ideas arrive
in the mail, network and station Although programming ideas can come
employees are instructed to send back from anywhere, some of the most
the package unopened. If the envelope common sources are newspapers, maga-
is not detectable as a program submis- zines, and books, which you should be
sion and the seal is broken, the company checking constantly.
will return the contents with a release Many producers scour newspapers
form that assigns virtually all the rights religiously, always on the prowl for a
to the production company. The terms story. Sometimes the story can be a
are so burdensome that the sender is small item on the bottom of a page;
usually never heard from again. other times it can be a lead story with
The primary reason commercial and explosive headlines. One producer,
cable networks, as well as production Joseph Nasser, who had great success in
companies, are reluctant to get into the 1980s and 1990s with true-story
business with individuals is that they television movies, impressed the net-
are afraid of plagiarism—specifically, that works and jealous producers alike with

small screen on public and commercial

television and on cable. The books of
Stephen King, for example, were a big
part of ABC’s programming strategy for
many years. Also, some books are too big
for the running time of a theatrical
movie, needing the hours that a mini-
series can provide (Figure 2.11). Could
Figure 2.11 James Haley’s Roots, for example, have
Dean Koontz’s made television history packed into a 2-
Mr. Murder or 4-hour time span? Probably not.
starring Stephen Unfortunately, as explained in
Baldwin is an Chapter 1, viewer attention spans today
example of a best- make the airing of longform program-
selling book well ming iffy, and book sales to television
suited to a often suffer. There are exceptions, such
television as HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” but it has
adaptation. (Photo
been a down cycle for books over the
courtesy Patchett
last few years. Although Michael
Entertainment.) O’Hara’s adaptation of James Patterson’s
First to Die was a surprise critical and
ratings success in 2003, it was cut from
cover article almost guaranteed a “yes” 4 to 3 hours because it was feared that
from the network, again instilling a rush audiences would not stick around for
to acquire the rights. Vanity Fair also had 2 nights. Cycles change, however, and
a period in which it was deemed a reli- some producers think the book business
able source, possibly before it was deter- could come back strong because studios
mined around 2003 that being on the are not buying as many books for fea-
cover of the magazine was a curse, spoil- tures. It would be a mistake for you to
ing actor Josh Hartnett’s meteoric career ignore the potential of books.
rise once he became a Vanity Fair cover
The New Yorker and Texas Monthly AND STARS
have also proved to be fertile suppliers
of articles that made the transition to the Managers cannot solicit work for their
small screen. Interestingly, one of the clients as agents can, but because
best television movies, 1983’s “Who Will their job is to guide the careers of their
Love My Children,” starring Ann Mar- clients, they often locate the material
garet and supervised by ABC program- that their clients undertake. It often
ming executive Ilene Amy Berg, came works like this: A manager interests his
from an article in the often overlooked, client in a piece of material. The client
“unsexy” Reader’s Digest. becomes committed to the material, and
Blockbuster books such as The God- the client’s “passion” for the project
father, The World According to Garp, Seabis- attracts studio interest. Then the
cuit, and Memoirs of a Geisha are usually manager, to the consternation of many
sold to the movies, but some best-selling producers, becomes a “producer” on the
books nevertheless have made it to the project when it is made.
2 Sources of Television Programming 49

Agents also exercise a great deal of formers have created shows. These
control over programming sources.They entrepreneurial stars survey the market-
represent most books, both big and place, decide what is needed, and use
small, and have deals to represent key their clout to push their projects
magazines and newspapers. Agents will forward.Teen heartthrob Ashton Kutcher
often package properties they represent created “Punk’d” for MTV, where his
with their writers, directors, or stars, friends, such as singer Justin Timberlake,
formulating an attractive combination are the butt of televised pranks.
for the marketplace. In one instance, an Another way cable and commercial
agent felt a book his agency controlled networks have entered business with
would appeal to one of the agency’s star high-voltage talent is to ask artists about
clients, a writer-director, and this mar- their pet projects. Some of these projects
riage led to the creation of a successful might not be right for the big screen,
television program. This kind of mix- but they might be just the ticket for the
and-match technique allows agencies small screen. For example, when pro-
to be powerful originators of ducer Kim Rubin learned that Jennifer
programming. Love Hewitt had always dreamed of
Agents are well connected and can playing Audrey Hepburn, Rubin and
quickly get to rights holders to encour- Hewitt ran with the idea and “The
age them to be represented by their Audrey Hepburn Story” aired on ABC
companies, again limiting access. It is a to strong ratings and favorable reviews.
double-edged sword for producers: If There is also the example of Selma
the person whose story you want is not Hayek directing “The Maldonado
represented or is represented by home- Miracle” for Showtime in 2003. Many
town lawyers, the negotiations can prove stars create their own companies, some-
to be difficult because “nobody knows times unfavorably and unfairly dismissed
how the system works.” If, on the other as vanity efforts, to make sure that the
hand, a major agency gets involved, projects they generate will see the light
there is likely going to be a bidding war, of day reflecting their particular vision.
the price will go up, and somebody
represented by that agency will proba- In this chapter, we have examined the
bly get the rights. different sources of television program-
Some stars, such as Roseanne Barr in ming. In Chapter 3, we turn our atten-
“Roseanne,” have had significant cre- tion to the sources of radio and Internet
ative input on their shows; other per- programming.
3 Sources of Radio
and Internet

In this chapter you will learn about the mainly focusing on broadcasting music,
following: news, and talk. Radio, although it does
not have as high a public profile as tele-
• The primary suppliers of radio and
vision, does have a high presence. In
Internet programming content
2002, Arbitron reported that there were
• The effect of the 1996 Telecommuni-
more than 13,500 radio stations operat-
cations Act on the distributors and
ing in the United States. With most sta-
creators of programming content
tions broadcasting 24 hours a day, that
• The role of the public and stars as
means the radio airwaves of the nation
sources of programming
consume a staggering 118.3 million
• What future programmers need to
hours of programming each year. Even
know to succeed as suppliers of
with the addition of the many television
stations available through cable and satel-
• Different radio formats
lite, television cannot possibly match the
• Voice tracking
sheer bulk of radio’s programming. This
• The influence of payola on radio
is partly a matter of available bandwidth
Radio and television share a common for broadcasting, but it is even more a
past in their golden ages of drama pro- matter of economics. Television produc-
gramming, but radio’s trajectory was tion requires scripts, lighting, camera
forever changed by the advent of televi- operators, makeup, wardrobe, sets, props,
sion. The coming of the Internet, directors, grips, catering, actors, studios,
although perhaps more of a creeping editors—the list goes on. Some radio
phenomenon than television, already has programs, on the other hand, are now
profoundly changed the way that media produced in a spare bedroom at the
consumers view their media meals. The on-air personality’s home, rigged with a
strategies that web programmers employ microphone and little else.
may make it necessary for programmers Like television, however, many radio
of all mediums to adjust their recipes. programs are produced once to be
broadcast many times or, more often, on
SOURCES OF PROGRAMMING many stations simultaneously. So, as with
FOR RADIO television, the sources of radio program-
ming include a system of network- and
Radio, after the coming of television, syndicator-produced materials and local
became a medium with a local flavor, sources of programming.


Syndicator/Network Programming Metro Networks/Shadow Broadcast

Services, provide syndicated material to
Although in television, as you saw in stations; others operate stations (which
Chapter 2, there is a relatively clean may purchase syndicated material from
delineation between a network and a still other companies). As if that was not
syndicator, in radio the distinction is complicated enough, Westwood One
murky—especially because of the is a subsidiary of Infinity Broadcasting,
unprecedented media mergers after the bringing still more stations and services
1996 Telecommunications Act. Major into the mix. But it does not end there;
companies such as Clear Channel Com- Infinity Broadcasting is owned by media
munications, Cumulus Media, and Infin- giant Viacom, which also owns the CBS
ity Broadcasting each own radio stations and UPN television networks; cable
broadcasting a range of formats, from channels such as MTV, Showtime, Nick-
talk to pop to alternative. But these elodeon, and Black Entertainment Tele-
companies do not only provide content vision; and film’s Paramount Studios.
to their own stations—they also create All of this is subject to change at any
syndicated content for other stations. moment as media companies spin off
For example, Metro Networks/ subsidiaries and acquire others.
Shadow Broadcast Services provides Once you get past the definition of
local traffic reports to thousands of radio radio networks and syndicators, you are
stations across the country. Metro Net- faced with two types of syndicated/
works/Shadow Broadcast Services is a network programming that these entities
subsidiary of Westwood One, which provide to local stations.
calls itself a network and comprises eight
additional subsidiaries (CNN Max, Types of Syndication. Some syndi-
Source Max, CBS, NBC, Next, WONE, cated/network material for radio is pro-
Blaise, and Navigator). Some, such as duced once to be broadcast many times
or on many stations at the same time.
Examples of this kind of material are
“The Howard Stern Show” (Figure 3.1),
Ryan Seacrest’s “Weekly Top 40,”
national and international news broad-
casts “at the top of the hour,” and
nationwide talk shows such as those
featuring Rush Limbaugh and Dr.
Laura. On public radio, there are also
many syndicated/network programs, such
as NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All
Things Considered” news programs or
the lighter fare of “Car Talk” and “This
American Life.”
Figure 3.1
Then there is customized syndi-
Howard Stern’s
weekday radio cated/network material tailored to each
program is aired in station. Scanning through radio stations
major markets in in a major radio market during rush
the United States. hour, you might come across the same
(Globe Photos, traffic reporter describing the latest
Inc.) freeway conditions on several stations.
3 Sources of Radio and Internet Programming 53

The reporter may assume a different for completely automating radio stations
tone for each station to match that using prerecorded talent and computers
station’s tone. to cue songs, commercials, and deejay
banter has been around for decades but
Voice Tracking. Another type of syndi- has seen only limited success. Audiences
cated/network programming is voice may catch on to the prepackaged quality
tracking. This process is aimed at taking of the material and do not tend to
one radio personality and using him or respond well. Radio, for many people, is
her in many markets but retaining a not just a content-providing service—
“local” feel. The deejay’s banter may they rely on it to keep them company
be recorded in two types of segments: when they commute or do chores
general segments and localized seg- around the house. It is hard to feel
ments. The general segments make no comforted by the company of radio
reference to local events or information, content that is perceptibly predeter-
so they can be played in every market. mined or preproduced.
For the local segments, the deejay will
record material specifically targeted to The Purpose of Today’s Radio
each market in which it will be broad- Networks/Syndicators
cast. Every station receives the general
segments, and each local station gets Radio audiences tend to perceive sta-
segments created specifically for the tions as separate entities rather than part
station; it then compiles the show for of a network brand. Notable exceptions
broadcast from the combination of the exist, however. In public radio, audiences
two. In some cases, voice talent only often associate individual stations with
records general segments and the local the NPR network even if many pro-
segments are provided by third parties, grams on the station originate from the
such as syndicated local traffic, weather, local station or PRI. Pacifica Radio, a
news services, or a combination of these. network of left-leaning radio stations,
With computer programs specifically also has a strong network identity for its
designed for voice tracking, deejays can small but loyal audience.
often record a 5-hour show in 1 hour In the commercial world, radio
or less because the program skips songs network identity faded with the arrival
and commercial breaks, only playing the of television but may be making a
beginning and end of material for the comeback as part of the aftermath
deejay’s reference. With this sped up of deregulation, particularly the 1996
production method, a deejay in one city Telecommunications Act. The act
can create original voice-tracked shows removed the 40-station cap on nation-
for several other markets in the course wide ownership by a single company
of an afternoon, earning additional per- and allowed companies to own up to 8
sonal income and saving money for the stations in a single market, twice the
radio company, which would not only previous limit. Several companies took
have to pay the salary but also the advantage of the new rules, buying
benefits for what may be a less effective stations across the country.
deejay with less sophisticated production By far the most ambitious of these
techniques. companies, owning more than 1200
But voice tracking can be a compli- radio stations in 2003 (around 10% of
cated business. In addition, it has not all radio stations), is Clear Channel.
always been successful. The technology Its biggest rival, Cumulus only owns

around 300 stations. With several of its has aroused considerable controversy in
stations, Clear Channel has started to the industry. How, many wonder, can
develop a national brand with a federal one management team negotiate the
trademark. Its KISS stations are spread peculiarities of both a decidedly non-
across the country.Although each station controversial soft hits station aimed at
includes some locally created programs adult women and the raucous format of
in its lineup each day, much of the an alternative rock station aimed at
stations’ content, especially in smaller teenage males?
markets, is voice-tracked by deejays in
other locations. Randy Michaels, former From Town to City to Metropolis
CEO of the company’s radio unit, and Syndication
likened their strategy to McDonald’s
franchise system. “A McDonald’s Radio is similar to television news and
manager may get his arms around the talk shows in the manner in which on-
local community, but there are certain air personalities and producers are sea-
elements of the product that are con- soned into the business. Although there
stant,” he said. “You may in some parts are notable exceptions, most people
of the country get chicken, but the Big who want to get into radio have to start
Mac is the Big Mac.”1 in minor markets, where audiences are
This new franchise system is in its small and pay is even smaller. On-air
early stages. For most stations, brand personalities in minor markets make
recognition is still not an important demo tapes of their broadcasts and try
issue.What then is the benefit that com- to use them to secure positions in larger
panies receive in owning multiple markets. To gain the attention of the
stations? programming directors in larger
If a network owns, as is often the case, markets, they must have something on
a talk radio, a pop music, and an adult their demo reels that distinguishes them
contemporary format station in the from the other applicants. Thus, out of
same city, there will be little, if any, the necessity to rise from the below-
content produced that could be broad- poverty wages of a small market, radio
cast on all three stations. There is scarce personalities must innovate and hone
financial advantage to the network in their skills and on-air personas.
content development and production It is not usually until after an on-air
because each station must create content personality makes it to a major market
appropriate to its own format. that radio executives feel that he or she
The benefit a network gains by may be ready for syndication, where a
owning many stations is less in terms of show will be broadcast in numerous
sharing production costs and more in markets across the country. In this way,
terms of sharing administrative costs. the small markets, where on-air person-
Many stations in a network may, for alities and producers cut their teeth and
example, operate out of the same build- then move on, may later regain what
ing, sharing facilities and management. they lost in the form of a syndicated
This shared management arrangement show from the same on-air personality.

still in existence to a limited extent,

mostly on public radio and college
stations. KCRW in Los Angeles, for
example, offers numerous musical pro-
grams whose deejays have found loyal
listeners both in the local market and on
the Internet, such as their musically
diverse morning program “Morning
Becomes Eclectic,” hosted by Nic Har-
court. Such deejay-driven programs
have often introduced and popularized
Figure 3.2 Sources of Music Programming new artists, whose songs have then been
Radio music picked up by commercial stations. In
formats and the The main product on most radio sta- 1993, for example, “Morning Becomes
percentage of the tions is music. The source for the Eclectic” was the first to broadcast the
market they occupy. music is record companies that will- song “Loser” by then-unknown musical
(Source: ingly donate copies of their new artist Beck.
http://www.cyber releases to stations likely to program Most stations, however, rely on
college.com/frtv/ them. Although the records are free, program directors who select a consis-
frtv022b.htm. stations must pay license fees to play tent genre of music so that audiences
Accessed July 22, music. These fees are paid to The know what they will hear from the
2004.) American Society of Composers, station no matter when they tune in
Authors and Publishers; Broadcast (Figure 3.2). Local radio stations
Music, Inc.; and the Society of Euro- conduct extensive testing and evaluation
pean Stage Authors and Composers, to discover what is hot and what is not
music licensing organizations that with audiences, because songs tend to
collect money from stations and pay it have a limited shelf life, especially in Top
to music composers and publishers. 40 radio. More on this process will be
The amount collected is an annual fee covered in the chapters on testing and
based on the station’s overall revenue— evaluation.
about 1.4%. Each of these licensing
organizations has jurisdiction over dif- Radio Consolidation and Music Pro-
ferent music. Most stations find they gramming. With the consolidation of
must pay all three so that they can air radio station ownership that occurred
whatever music they want. The licens- after the 1996 Telecommunications Act,
ing agencies periodically collect some worry that local programming
playlists from a representative sample decisions might be affected by a station’s
of stations and feed into a computer parent company. For example, in the
the entries of musical selections from lead-up to the 2003 war in Iraq, the
each playlist. Based on these, the agen- country trio The Dixie Chicks made
cies decide how much of the money disparaging comments about President
collected should go to each composer George W. Bush at a concert in Europe.
and publisher. Nearly overnight, their songs were
In the early days of musical program- dropped from many radio stations.
ming in radio, playlists were mostly Cumulus Media, which owns nearly 300
determined by the deejays that spun the radio stations across the nation, briefly
records. This deejay-driven strategy is but officially banned The Dixie Chicks
3 Sources of Radio and Internet Programming 57

(Figure 3.3) from the airwaves of their

country music stations. Critics pointed
out that many stations owned by the far
bigger Clear Channel were no longer
playing the until-then best-selling band.
Critics also noted that some Clear
Channel stations were taking part in war
rallies, charging that the company had
a right-wing political agenda. Clear
Channel Radio CEO John Hogan, in a
July 23 interview on the NPR program
“Fresh Air,” denied that Clear Channel
or its stations were responding to any-
thing other than local market forces
when they stopped playing The Dixie Figure 3.3
Chicks. Hogan claims that all music pro- The Dixie Chicks
saw their airplay
gramming decisions are left to the dis-
diminish after they
cretion of local program directors, based
made controversial
on research about what local audiences comments. (Globe
want and do not want to hear, and that Photos, Inc.)
there was therefore no concerted effort
to ban the band. In fact, Hogan said,
many Clear Channel stations continued tors give money or special favors to those
to play the band’s songs after their con- in radio programming in exchange for
troversial statements. airing their music. Radio exposure is
Nevertheless, media observers worry such an important factor in a record’s
that radio music diversity will, whether success that distributors are willing to do
by design or by circumstance, be stulti- almost anything to receive favorable, fre-
fied by the conglomeration of radio quent airings. Payola was made illegal in
ownership. As editorial observer Brent the 1950s after it was discovered to be
Staples wrote in The New York Times in rampant in the radio business. But the
February 2003, “independent radio sta- antipayola laws only made it illegal for
tions that once would have played edgy, record distributors to pay stations for
political music have been gobbled up by airing specific songs.
corporations that control hundreds of Soon, a new payola scheme was
stations and have no wish to rock the devised, that of the “independent pro-
boat.” moter.” In this scheme, the independent
promoter is paid by a record company
Payola. Although program directors to promote the company’s songs and
insist that their playlists are influenced artists to radio stations.The independent
only by audience preferences, this is not promoter, in turn, pays an annual fee to
always the case. Throughout the history radio stations to have the “right” to
of music programming on radio, record promote songs to the station. In this
companies have, to a greater or lesser way, record companies and radio stations
extent, tried to influence which songs are can make two claims: (1) The record
broadcast, when, and how often—a prac- company and the radio station are not
tice known as payola. Record distribu- negotiating directly—instead, they are

is paid to a middleman. And what

happens after that is very privileged
information. But I know that these
things exist.”2
Henley’s appearance before the
Senate committee was partly credited
for the vow of the largest U.S. radio
station owner, Clear Channel, to bar its
radio stations from accepting money
from independent promoters. Some
lawmakers, however, looked upon this
announcement with a jaundiced eye,
having seen how quickly and consis-
tently radio stations and record com-
Figure 3.4 panies had circumnavigated the
Don Henley original intent of the payola laws.
testified in the Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin)
Senate about said, “I hope that Clear Channel con-
modern-day siders this a first step toward reforming
equivalents to the industry, not a single concession
payola. (Globe
aimed at pacifying Congress.”3
Photos, Inc.)
Henley also warned against a new
potential player in the payola game—the
going through an “independent” third concert promoter. Record companies
party. (2) The third party is not paying claim that profits have been hobbled in
the station to play specific songs; it is the late 1990s and early 2000s by illegal
only paying an annual promotion fee. MP3 song file swapping over the Inter-
Complaints about this new payola net. Some critics say, however, that
scheme have surfaced many times since mergers in the record industry are to
the 1960s, but evidence about the prac- blame for sagging profits because they
tice and how rampant it may be is hard have made it difficult for interesting
to come by because those involved are new musical acts to break into the
not eager to disclose details. At one business. As a result, these critics say,
point, singer/songwriter Don Henley the public has soured on cookie-cutter
(Figure 3.4), best known as a member megamusical artists who are more sheen
of the Eagles rock band, appeared before than substance. Whatever the reason for
the Senate Commerce, Science, and drooping profits, the music industry has
Transportation Committee’s hearing on increasingly turned to live concerts for
media ownership. When asked about his revenue, raising ticket prices markedly
firsthand knowledge of payola, Henley in recent years. To drive consumers to
said,“I know there’s payola because I get concerts, Henley warns that concert
billed for it. My record company bills promoters might be trying to get the
me back for the independent promotion songs from touring artists into heavy
monies they have to give to the inde- rotation on radio stations. An ominous
pendent promoter. And they have sign that Henley points to is that Clear
worked out a very sophisticated system Channel has become the biggest player
to skirt the current payola laws; a very not only in radio but also in concert
sophisticated system where the money promotion—and that its song playlists
3 Sources of Radio and Internet Programming 59

may therefore be determined, at least Sources of Talk Radio

partly, by self-interest to support its Programming
touring artists.
Nearly every radio station has an
element of talk radio programming in it,
Sources of News Programming whether it is a Top 40 music station
All-news radio stations have the same with a special guest interview of a hot
elaborate source structure as major TV pop star, a soft hits station that reads
news outlets.They subscribe to wire ser- romantic dedications at night, or one of
vices, networks, and databanks, and they the staple all-talk stations. All-talk sta-
hire numerous reporters to roam the tions have taken off in the last 20 years.
local streets and even travel nationally In 1980, there were only 75 all-talk
and internationally to cover stories.They stations in the United States. By 2003,
must have a well-organized but flexible there were more than 1300.5
infrastructure to incorporate and update
the latest happenings. Members of the Public. Unlike televi-
However, on many music-oriented sion, many radio programs depend
stations, news is downplayed. Since the heavily upon audience contributions—
deregulation in the 1980s, radio stations call-in talk shows are built completely
are not required to program news, so around audience contributions, even if
many of them provide only a minimal only a tiny percentage of listeners call.
amount. They do not have their own This is not to say that call-in talk shows
full-blown news staffs and choose just open the phone lines and sit back.
instead to subscribe to a network (or The content is driven by the produc-
several) to receive news. Sometimes the tion team and the on-air personality.
stations use the network newscasts just Listeners tune in not to hear what callers
as they are, and sometimes they use will say but rather to hear how their
the network actualities (interviews with favorite on-air personality will react.
people in the news) but surround them Although there are many types of
with copy read by a local announcer. call-in shows, they usually involve the
The downplaying of news, decreasing on-air host introducing a topic “ripped
local origination and increasing automa- from the headlines,” whether the head-
tion in radio stations has meant that lines of a newspaper, a tabloid, or even
radio’s place as a resource for timely or an obscure article from a small publica-
urgent local news has diminished. David tion. Often there is also an expert or
K. Dunaway, an English professor and someone directly related to the topic
media analyst at the University of New with whom the on-air personality dis-
Mexico, cites the derailment of a train cusses various aspects of the issue before
as an example: “The best example of the throwing it open to audience comments
importance and decline of local origi- or questions. Rarely do call-in shows
nation happened in a town of Minot, simply go from caller to caller. Instead,
North Dakota, where last January a train the host, expert, or both have pre-
derailment released a toxic cloud of arranged talking points about the topic
ammonia . . . Emergency workers called to discuss between calls. In addition,
the stations, but Clear Channel had fired there is usually a vigorous call-screening
the local reporters, and no one could process because the point of call-in
notify the public about the toxic shows is less to let callers say their
cloud.”4 piece and more to provide interesting

eventually was broadcast to about 125

stations nationwide. But in 1999 they
ended their syndication run, concluding
that they are most comfortable and
effective when dealing with local and
state issues.6
Other call-in shows, such as help or
advice shows like the nationally syndi-
cated “Dr. Laura” or “Loveline” with Dr.
Figure 3.5 Drew Pinsky (Figure 3.5) and Adam
Dr. Drew Pinsky Carolla are driven less by host-derived
plays the straight topics and more by the personal prob-
man to Adam
lems that callers bring to the shows.
Carolla’s riffs on
Again, call screening plays an important
sexual topics in
their syndicated role in providing variety and interest
talk show, to the content, and the hosts often talk
“Loveline,” but the between calls to comment on a topic
show mainly brought up by a caller or to talk of other
focuses on call-ins. issues of interest to their target audience.
(Globe Photos, As noted before, most music format
Inc.) stations also include elements of talk
derived from members of the public.
material for listeners—especially in Audience members request songs or
commercial radio. Some shows stick dedicate them to loved (or hated) ones.
with topics for long periods; others Again, call screening plays an important
might rifle through a dozen topics in an role. Stations do not put on callers who
hour. Often the amount of time spent request songs that diverge greatly from
depends on the complexities of the the station’s format. WHOM-FM in
topic. Portland, Maine, for example, has run
Some nationally syndicated examples a show “Love Songs at Night” with
of this type of call-in show are “The Sandra Harris since the early 1990s.The
Rush Limbaugh Show,” “Radio Factor operations and program manager at
with Bill O’Reilly,” NPR’s “Talk of the WHOM,Tim Moore, said that although
Nation,” and the fringe “Coast to Coast the songs the station plays in the “Love
AM.” Nearly every major market, and Songs at Night” show are not that dif-
many smaller markets, also have their ferent from those it plays during the day,
own homegrown local call-in shows. “There is a different flavor at night and
Many nationally syndicated shows Sandra’s sending it out specifically to
started out as local shows that caught one person with that message is what
fire and then were retooled to appeal to makes it magical.”7
larger audiences. Some talk show hosts, Many radio shows also have sketches
such as John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou that play tricks on audience members or
of the “John and Ken Show” from KFI on the behalf of audience members.The
in Los Angeles, have made the trip from syndicated “Phil Hendrie Show,” for
local to syndicated and back to local example, is an often-outrageous parody
again. The pair’s show, which started out of a talk radio show. Unwitting listeners
in New Jersey, began syndication after sometimes chance upon the show and
they came to Los Angeles in 1992 and are incensed by its farfetched content,
3 Sources of Radio and Internet Programming 61

calling in to lodge their complaints

or spar with outlandishly concocted
“guests.” Hendrie and his “guests” then
take the opportunity to milk these
callers for all the comic, if off-color,
interactions they can. In Rick Dees’s
“Candid Phone” sketch, an audience
member calls in to request that Dees
make a crank call to a friend or family
member—providing Dees with infor-
mation about the person that he can use
to bait his victim.
Figure 3.6
Stars. Another source that radio taps In addition to his
for programming is known personalities, MTV show, “Total
usually from television. With recent Request Live,”
media mergers, this “transplanting” of Carson Daly
talent is becoming more prevalent. Per- parlays his celebrity
sonalities who have developed national into radio gold.
followings on television, such as Carson (Globe Photos,
Daly (Figure 3.6) of MTV’s “Total Inc.)
Request Live,” now have syndicated
daily radio programs, such as Daly’s 2000. Although her radio program,
“Most Requested” and “Most which has been syndicated since 1994,
Requested Rhythmic” shows. (Interest- is the second most listened to talk radio
ingly, Daly started out in radio before program on the air, it has stirred
being picked up by MTV at age 24.) up considerable controversy—especially
But this phenomenon is not limited to concerning comments she made about
national television and radio. Many local homosexuals, labeling them “biological
television news personalities, after they errors.”This pot of controversy, although
are done with their morning television simmering before, began to boil once
broadcasts then host radio programs. For plans for her television show were
example, Sam Rubin, an entertainment announced. A group of activists set
reporter for KTLA in Los Angeles’s up a website, StopDrLaura.com, and
morning television news program, also arranged for protests outside of the
has a 1-hour entertainment radio Paramount Studios, where the show was
program on Los Angeles’s 97.1 FM talk being taped. The protests and website
station. received considerable media attention,
On the other side of the coin, many scaring advertisers both from Sch-
radio personalities have made the jump lessinger’s new television show and her
from radio to television, although the longstanding radio program. Less than a
results there have not been particularly year after the television show began
impressive, showing that radio and tele- airing, it was canceled. The activists at
vision are very different mediums. Dr. StopDrLaura.com claimed victory,
Laura Schlessinger, whose radio talk although Dr. Laura continues to broad-
show is syndicated on more than 300 cast her daily radio program and it still
AM stations across the country, made holds its place as the number two talk
the move to television in September show on radio behind Rush Limbaugh’s

program, who also had his own short- inherent in film and television produc-
lived television show in 1995 and 1996. tion. Although radio dramas are less
Shock jock Howard Stern, however, expensive to produce than TV or film
has had moderate and longstanding ones, they are still more expensive and
success on cable television’s E! Enter- labor intensive than most radio content.
tainment Television network since 1994. However, with the burgeoning billion-
His show, unlike the Schlessinger and dollar “books on tape” market, often
Limbaugh shows, was hardly modified dramas produced for radio can see addi-
for television. Instead, cameras simply tional revenue in a CD after market or,
capture the radio show as it is produced, more recently, on satellite radio.
perhaps with a few “behind-the-scenes”
sketches and interviews with guests Sources of Satellite Radio
before they enter the studio. Programming

Sources of Other Programming Unlike terrestrial radio, satellite radio

closely resembles television. As a sub-
Most radio programming falls into the scription service, the brand of the
formats of music, news, and talk, but other satellite radio network is extremely
programming exists on the periphery. important. In 2003 there were only two
Many stations air play-by-play sports network brands: XM Radio and Sirius.
coverage of local teams on weekends. With upward of 100 channels to fill
Play-by-play sports can be supplied with content, these networks use both
locally, regionally, or nationally. Stations self-produced and syndicated material,
that program only sports use all three, some of which is also broadcast on ter-
but most stations, if they program sports, restrial radio stations or the Internet.
either produce the game coverage in- XM Radio, for example, broadcasts a
house or use the services of one feed of Los Angeles’s KIIS-FM Top 40
network. station and NPR’s daily offerings.
Radio drama never fell completely Satellite radio features some stations
off of the airwaves. Golden-age radio that are wall-to-wall genre-specific
dramas are still replayed in syndication. music. Other stations include deejay
Equity Radio Network, for example, has chatter between music and exclusive
agreements with 22 stations across the interviews or live performances by
country. Equity Radio Network’s presi- recording artists. Many talk radio, news,
dent, Gary Nice, explained his interest and sports stations are available. But
in the shows from the 1930s and 1940s satellite radio also provides stations that
by saying, “I wanted to syndicate some- contain material not offered elsewhere,
thing different. I wanted to find a niche. such as nonstop stand-up comedians,
Originally, I was syndicating talk shows, radio dramas, and niche programming,
but they’re a dime a dozen nowadays— like Sirius’s OutQ station, a channel of
especially conservative talk shows.”8 news, information, and entertainment
New radio dramas have also been programming aimed at the gay, lesbian,
produced throughout the years, mostly bisexual, and transgender communities.
on public radio. For writers and actors, XM Radio also features Playboy Radio,
radio drama can be an attractive a premium channel that subscribers
medium in which to try something new must pay extra to listen to. Although
without the budgetary nightmares many stations are commercial free,
3 Sources of Radio and Internet Programming 63

others include commercials to augment Despite its establishment of not-for-

listener subscription fees. profit and community-based media
opportunities such as LPFM, many have
Sources of Low-Power FM criticized the 1996 Telecommunications
Programming Act and other more recent deregulation
of broadcast ownership because it allows
Provided for in the 1996 Telecommuni- much of traditional broadcast media to
cations Act, low-power FM (LPFM) be swallowed by a few big corporations.
radio stations have a small broadcast Critics argue that fewer media owners
radius, usually of about 10 miles. They means fewer sources of programming
are meant to provide opportunities for and fewer points of view expressed in
schools, churches, and other local orga- the media. Publicly traded companies,
nizations to use the public airwaves to many caution, have only three con-
make their voices heard. cerns—minimizing costs, maximizing
The FCC’s eligibility criteria for revenues, and therefore generating profit.
LPFM require the applicant organiza- Supporters of the 1996 Telecommu-
tion be a not-for-profit educational nications Act say that without it, tradi-
institution or organization or an entity tional media would have fallen into the
that has proposed a noncommercial red as a result of competition and the
public-safety radio service to protect the fracturing of the marketplace. Erica
safety of life, health, or property. The Farber, president and publisher of Radio
applicant cannot have financial interest & Records, said when she spoke at
in any other television, radio, newspaper, California State University, Fullerton,
or cable television operation (excluding that the 1996 Telecommunications Act
public access) and must agree to broad- allowed radio to “finally function as a
cast a minimum of 36 hours per week, real business.”
much of which must be locally pro- Although many supporters of the
duced programming. Therefore, sources 1996 Telecommunications Act and sub-
of LPFM programming are mostly local, sequent deregulation agree that tradi-
independent, and not for profit.9 tional media may see less diversity, at
The National Association of Broad- least in ownership, as a result of media
casters and even NPR have lobbied for mergers, they point to the new media
strict controls to limit the proliferation opportunities available to the public,
of these stations, pointing to the possi- specifically the Internet.
ble signal interference that low-power
stations might have on their own signals. SOURCES OF INTERNET
Studies on signal interference by LPFM PROGRAMMING
stations have been mixed, but they
suggest that interference, in most cases, With the Internet, supporters of
is insignificant. Some media watchers media deregulation say, diversity of
question whether established radio’s viewpoints and sources of programming
objections to LPFM may be based more can grow exponentially. Indeed, the
on wanting to eliminate possible com- number of unique websites on the
petition than avoiding signal interfer- Internet, according to the Online
ence. As of July 2003, there were 744 Computer Library Center, continues
LPFM permits issued and 220 stations to grow—from 2,636,000 in 1998 to
on the air, according to the FCC.10 8,712,000 in 2002.11

Every Computer a Potential Part of the problem with adoption of

Source of Programming the Internet by the masses is inherent in
the technology and the medium of the
The Internet, developed by the U.S. Internet. Radio and television receivers
government in 1969, is a vast network require little technical know-how or
of computers that can, with permission, training to operate. The same cannot be
connect to each other to share digital said for the Internet, which, in most cases,
files. Unlike radio or television, which is must be received through a computer.
broadcast from one location to be Many people’s computer skills and espe-
received in the surrounding area, any cially troubleshooting skills are limited.
computer connected to the Internet can When a computer problem occurs,
serve as both a broadcaster and a which it inevitably does, users may be
receiver. Anyone with an Internet con- turned off, especially if they are using the
nection who follows the correct World computer during their leisure time.
Wide Web protocols can create content Although creating and publishing
in the form of web pages. These can be websites and Internet programming for
viewed by anyone else with an Internet consumption by others can be far less
connection—provided that they know expensive and difficult than producing
the correct uniform resource locator and broadcasting television and radio
or address of the desired website. programs, it is still no walk in the park.
The Internet was started as a military Once Internet content is produced and
tool and soon spread to universities to aid made available to web surfers, there is
in research. It did not really start gaining still the problem of letting people know
exposure to the general public until the that the site exists and how to get
early 1990s, but use and access to the to it. Web producers must submit their
Internet has quickly grown ever since. In sites to search engine services, such
1995, Nielsen estimated the number of as Google.com, AltaVista.com, and
people in the United States with access Ask.com. With millions of sites on the
to the Internet at 18 million, or 6.7% of Internet, web producers must optimize
the U.S. population. In April 2002, that their sites so that search engines can
number had risen to 167 million, or effectively index them—increasing the
59.1% of the U.S. population.12 possibility that the site will be listed in
the first few results in a search. In short,
Obstacles to Internet Mass Usage although the Internet certainly guaran-
tees the opportunity for expression to
These numbers, however, may be anyone with a computer and an Internet
deceiving; they include people who use connection, it does not as easily guaran-
the Internet at work, at home, in Inter- tee an audience for that expression.
net cafes, and in public libraries. Only an
estimated 32% of the U.S. population Traditional Media Sources
had Internet access in their homes
in April 2002. Comparing that to the Nowadays, nearly every media outlet,
98.9% of households with a color tele- whether a newspaper, television
vision and the nearly ubiquitous pres- network, or radio station, has a website.
ence of radios in U.S. households, the These websites may range from the per-
growth of the Internet, although impres- functory one-page site that serves as an
sive, has not been as quick or universal online brochure to a full-featured, inter-
as that of early radio or television.13 active website with regularly updated
3 Sources of Radio and Internet Programming 65

text, photos, audio, video, and motion video on the Internet is becoming more
graphic content. robust, but it still has a long way to go.
Oftentimes, traditional media sources One type of video Internet program-
populate their websites with materials ming has taken off in recent years: music
taken directly from their traditional videos. As music video networks such as
outlets. A radio station may provide a MTV and VH1 have moved toward pro-
live stream of the station’s broadcast gramming shows, rather than the wall-
online or archived files of previous to-wall videos they started out playing,
shows to which visitors to the site can viewers have turned more to the Inter-
listen on demand. This is especially net to watch the latest videos of their
true with talk radio programs, which are favorite artists.Yahoo’s Launch.com fea-
often broken into several files, each rep- tures thousands of music videos dating
resenting one of the topics covered in back as far as “Video Killed the Radio
the live show. Star,” the video by The Buggles, which
For television, connection speeds are inaugurated MTV in 1983.
not yet fast enough to stream quality Another type of content that tradi-
live video to most viewers. Television tional media outlets provide on their
networks may provide short on-demand websites is material that supplements
video clips of recent or archived shows. their regular programming. Radio sta-
But it is often preferable to create video tions may feature biographies of on-air
content specifically for the web. The personalities, “unedited” versions of
file compression process used to make interviews broadcast over the airwaves,
video files small enough for efficient or other resources for their listener
Internet transmission favors images with community, such as calendars of events,
minimal movement and detail. Although chat rooms, and message boards. Televi-
on television the busy background of sion networks may provide “back-
CNN’s newsroom provides an interest- grounders” on specific shows. The
ing visual environment, after file com- website for CBS’s hit show “CSI: Crime
pression, most of the moving details in Scene Investigation” contains a section
the background would look like dis- called Case Files, which shows details of
tracting, blurry splotches (Figure 3.7). each of the crime scenes featured on the
For this reason, video created specifically show. A Personnel section gives back-
for the web usually consists of the ground about each of the show’s char-
proverbial talking head with a mono- acters. Among other content on the site
chrome background. As better compres- is a Handbook with definitions and
sion programs (codecs) are developed, descriptions of the various methods

Figure 3.7
Compression can
significantly degrade
the quality of video
streamed over the

and tools of crime scene investigation folio, expressing opinions or observa-

and pictorial maps of crime labs. On tions, or broadcasting personally pro-
some television shows, characters duced forms of entertainment, perhaps
mention fictitious website addresses and with the aim of gaining notice from
viewers flock to the addresses to see traditional media, making money off of
what is there, just as they inevitably call the endeavor, or both.
phone numbers mentioned on television If a person or entity wishes to have
shows, causing nightmares for the an endeavor reach an audience, however,
unlucky individuals or businesses to just as with radio and television net-
whom the numbers belong. On the works and stations, associating with a
NBC show “Will & Grace,” the charac- known quantity on the Internet will
ter Jack mentioned his website Just- greatly help the process. Search engines,
Jack.com several times on one episode. web rings, link sharing, and email
When viewers went to the site, they marketing are just a few ways to asso-
found a modest number of pages detail- ciate websites online.
ing Jack’s frothy “private thoughts.”
Some television and radio shows use Private vs. Public Sources
their Internet sites to allow audience of Programming
members to play along, interact with, or
even determine the direction of a show. In the early days of the Internet, most
The ABC prime-time game show “Who programming was public. Anyone could
Wants to Be a Millionaire” featured an view most websites without permission
option for audience members to play or payment. As the years have gone by,
along at home, and some reality television the percentage of public and private sites
shows have relied on Internet audiences has evened out. In 1998, 55% of all web-
to determine who stays and who goes. sites were public, with 12% private and
News and talk programs on television the remaining 33% “under construc-
and radio often ask their audiences to go tion.” By 2002, the percentage of public
to the show’s Internet site to vote on sites had dipped to 35%, with the private
issues of the day, disclosing the “polling” percentage rising to 29% and “under
results at the end of the program. construction” sites staying nearly
unchanged at 36%.
Internet-Only Sources Often services on the web start out
free; after viewers have become accus-
Outside of traditional media sources, the tomed to the service, the website starts
Internet is host to programming from all to charge a fee for access to the site or
manner of other sources. As stated pre- for access to “premium” content on the
viously, any person who hooks a com- site. Perennial Internet service provider
puter up to the Internet can become a AOL offers its members many services
source of programming—whether text, and content available only to members.
photography, audio, video, static or
motion graphics, or a multimedia com- Thus, the sources of programs are many
bination. Nowadays, nearly every busi- and varied, and ideas are brought to
ness has a website, and increasingly buyers in a range of forms. Sometimes
individuals have set up their own web- they are expressed in a single sentence;
sites. The purposes behind personal more frequently they are typed out in
websites include sharing personal photos two or three pages. Occasionally, a
and other media with friends and family, program creator will present a few
serving as an online resume or port- minutes of tape or film to communicate
4 Development

In this chapter you will learn about the Many people find the development
following: process hellish because it is time inten-
sive and extremely costly. The odds for
• What future programmers need to success are also exceedingly slim. Hits
know about the inner workings of do not come easily, and the mandate of
the development process a programming chief often is to find a
• Ways to pitch a story single hit show, one that functions as a
• The role finance plays in the devel- building block for a network. One hit.
opment process How hard can that be? As the develop-
• Strategies professionals use to get a ment process reveals, it is extremely dif-
project into development ficult. Although the odds of developing
• The role globalization plays in a show that succeeds out of the hun-
development dreds developed each year are not good,
• Format development in radio the few that do succeed keep people
• What development means in public trying to hit the jackpot.
broadcasting Many people are involved in devel-
• How Internet program development opment: programming executives,
is seeking to maximize the potential researchers, producers, showrunners
of the wired world (individuals who are in charge of all
day-to-day aspects of a show), perform-
Development, sometimes called “devel- ers, financial advisors, and, perhaps most
opment hell,” is an essential step in importantly, writers. Writers usually are
readying a program for broadcast. Shows paid once a project is put into develop-
do not appear ready for public con- ment by a network, but producers do
sumption. An idea has to be shaped, not earn money until the start of pro-
fine-tuned, and perfected during the duction, causing some producers to rush
development process. The daunting the development process and to present
blank page that creative people confront a show before it is ready.
has to be filled with ideas that translate Development cycles are also apt to
into an effective radio format, a success- change quickly. What is hot one
ful series that has the potential to make moment can grow cold quickly, leaving
millions of dollars in syndication, a the creative team developing a show that
reality program that can make a network misses the mark. Although development
No. 1 instead of an also-ran, or a way can vary from medium to medium, the
to raise Internet usage to greater levels. process nevertheless consists of a series
Such are the challenges producers, of established steps.These steps are care-
writers, and performers face when fully followed until a buyer believes the
they become sellers seeking entry into project has a chance for success and a
development. green light can be justified.


In this chapter, we examine how many producers do not want to put up

the all-important development process any cash until they know they have a
functions. sale. These producers will often develop
a project and even risk submitting it to
TELEVISION DEVELOPMENT buyers without the necessary rights as
long as they know that the rights are
When producers, writers, and the cre- available.
ative team come up with a concept that How do you know what rights are
seems promising, they spend a great deal needed, and how do you know how to
of time reviewing it. Many questions are acquire those rights? Established pro-
asked. For example, does the idea have ducers have lawyers and business affairs
“legs”? Does the series, for example, executives to advise them. They can also
have the potential to generate enough sometimes get a book agent to give
story lines for 88 episodes, the “magic” them permission to take a book to
number that leads to syndication gold? potential buyers for a limited time
Are the characters strong enough to without putting up option money. But
maintain interest? Can the show be pro- how does a newcomer go about the
duced in a way that makes sense finan- process of securing rights?
cially—that is, will a network determine There are several resources available,
that the show can be produced under its including Howard J. Blumenthal and
budget guidelines? If it is based on a Oliver R. Goodenough’s This Business of
book, an article, or a true story, are the Television1 and Enterprise of Holly-
rights available? How can the concept be wood.2 The latter has sample contracts
made more salable? Is another element for a range of contingencies, including
needed? All these considerations, and the basic option acquisition agreement,
others, have to be taken into account music assignment of all rights agree-
during the development process. ments, and artist performance agree-
ments. Remember to keep any option
Securing the Rights agreement simple to avoid making
individuals wary of signing on the
If your project is based on a book, you dotted line. Once you are comfortable
will need the rights to the book before that you have taken care of the rights,
the start of production. Similarly, if your you can continue the development
project is based on a real person, you process.
will need the rights to that person’s An option acquisition agreement
story—that is, the permission to portray should include the following:
that individual on television.
This seems simple enough, but when • The names of the individuals involved
and how should you go about securing in the agreement
these rights during the development • The date of the agreement
process? It is best to option the neces- • The nature of the option agreement
sary rights before you venture into the and the duration of the option
marketplace. This is the most prudent • The compensation, including how
approach, because it protects you from the compensation will be distributed
having the rights fall out from under • Verification that the individual grant-
you. ing the option has the right to do so
Securing rights options, however, • Agreement about how the credits for
often necessitates up-front money, and the project will read
4 Development 71

• What happens if the individual pur-

Star Program Network Season
chasing the agreement does not pay
on time Sally Field The Court ABC 2001–2002
• Whether the purchaser of the agree- Richard Dreyfuss The Education of Max Bickford CBS 2001–2002
ment can assign the rights to another
party Joan Cusack What About Joan? ABC 2000–2001
• Any miscellaneous stipulations of
importance to either party Jason Alexander Bob Patterson ABC 2001–2002
• Signatures
Geena Davis The Geena Davis Show ABC 2000–2001

Bette Midler Bette CBS 2000–2001

Attaching a Star, Writer, or
Showrunner During the Nathan Lane Encore! Encore! NBC 1998–1999
Development Process
Chevy Chase The Chevy Chase Show Fox 1993–1994
The question of whether to add another
element, such as a star, is a difficult one Also, many believe that television Figure 4.1
to answer. Enlisting the services of a creates its own stars. For example, Recent star failures
major performer may be just the addi- NBC’s hit comedy “Friends” made stars on television.
tion necessary to push the project into of its “unknown” cast, catapulting them
the win column. For example, the word to salaries of $1 million per episode in
on the street may be that Les Moonves the show’s final year. Most mass-market
at CBS is looking for a vehicle to star movies are wary of unknown perform-
Jason Alexander, and thus attaching ers, preferring to cast established names.
Alexander to your show might seem like Many of these became stars through
a good idea. But there are significant television—for example, Robin Williams,
risks to star attachments. The performer, a graduate of ABC’s “Mork & Mindy,”
for example, may not be right for the and Eddie Murphy, a graduate of NBC’s
part.The star in question may not fit the “Saturday Night Live.”
format of the show. Should the entire Similarly, attaching the wrong show-
concept be distorted to accommodate runner or the wrong writer to a project
the style of a star with reputed “heat”? can hurt your chances before you leave
There have been so many star failures the starting gate. For example, a pro-
(Figure 4.1) that attaching even the ducer who did not do his homework
seemingly most-bankable star is risky. about who was “in” and who was “out”
Also, although some networks, such as was surprised that Lifetime passed on his
CBS, are consistently star driven, many, high-profile project based on a best-
such as TBS, do not want stars attached selling book. His project was passed on
during development, making the deci- because he had attached a writer who
sion about attachments even more was out of favor.
complex. If you attach the “wrong” star,
your project is dead at the start. The Role of Agents
Some networks, such as ABC, are
reluctant to entertain projects with stars Agents play a significant role in the early
attached; they do not want to ruffle egos stages of the development process for
by passing on a performer because they cable and commercial television. Agents
do not like a project. They do not want are aware of the needs at the cable
to hurt their chances of casting that per- and commercial networks. If ABC, for
former in a show they like. example, needs a drama for 10:00

Thursday nights, if CBS needs to fill a that the more projects they have, the
hole on Friday nights at 8:00, or if better their chances of striking pay
Showtime wants to get out of the dirt; others internally develop a limited
comedy series business, the agents are number of projects, figuring their
able to guide their clients accordingly. chances are better if they focus on their
Agents also have access to material, and “passion” projects.
they can “package” a program by bring- In recent years, the major studios have
ing key creative elements together. sought to beat the development odds
Packaging is a complex art and a by striking development arrangements
lucrative one for the agencies. Agents known as pod deals. These are seven-
collect a 10% fee for representing a figure deals, such as those Gavin
client, but if a package commission Polone’s Pariah Productions and Dream-
is added, the agency receives additional Works made with NBC Productions
income. For example, if a director, star, in 2002. NBC hopes to get a lock on
and writer are packaged, the agency some successful shows with high-profile,
receives a 10% commission on all three quality production companies, enabling
salaries plus a package fee ranging from it to avoid prolonged stays in develop-
3 to 5%. Many credit the Creative Artists ment hell, although the deal with Pariah
Agency (CAA) under Bill Haber and was terminated in 2004 over disagree-
Mike Ovitz with perfecting the art of ments about comedy development.
When packaging was conceived in Getting Ready for the Pitch:
the 1970s, the package commission Creating a Log Line
was justifiable and generally accepted by
production companies and distributors. Lots of research and planning goes into
But over time, agencies sometimes preparing to pitch. First, all aspects of
insisted on a package commission even the story have to be worked out: What
when they only represented one creative is the genre? What is the opening scene?
element. They reasoned that their client Is the start of the story going to capture
(a major star, for example) made the an audience? Are the conflicts clearly
project viable; therefore, they were enti- established? Is the resolution of the story
tled to a package commission. This was satisfying? Are there any “jumps” in the
interpreted by buyers as a power play in story—that is, logic leaps? The creative
which an agency used the appeal of team has to know all aspects of the story
a client to extract a higher commission to be prepared to answer any questions
for itself. The device still raises hackles that come up in the pitch meeting.
when it is employed with marginal The pitch must then be rehearsed
validity, but most agencies happily and perfected, often in front of a critical
engage in this profitable practice. audience or a mirror. Mock dialogues
are played out: “If we’re asked where
Development Deals the conflict is between the mother and
daughter, Irv will respond by pointing
Everyone in the entertainment business out that . . .” Or, “If we’re asked where
wants to have an edge when it comes the character of Amanda worked before
to development. Producers, in particular, the start of the story, we have to have a
spend many hours figuring how they ready answer: She worked in St. Louis.”
can best beat the system. Some pro- One of the most important things in
ducers develop many projects, figuring preparing a pitch is coming up with a
4 Development 73

strong log line. What exactly is a log interest. For example, “Jaws meets Saving
line? Many writers and producers have Private Ryan” may not make sense, but it
stumbled when it comes to defining a might be enough to get the buyer’s
log line. It is not a straight summary attention. You would hope that no
of the project. It goes to the heart of explanation would be requested about
what a project is about in one or two how that particular meeting works.
sentences, defining the theme of the In one or two sentences, the log line
project. Thus, saying that your project has to suggest change, such as a charac-
“deals with a man who lives in the ter’s growth from one set of values to
woods and finds true love when a another. It also needs to suggest action.
tourist shows up” is more of a plot Starting with the words “when” or
summary than a log line. A log line “after” is helpful in this context. For
would take the same story idea and example, “When a 20-year-old virgin
suggest a bigger meaning. For example, decides to find the perfect man to
“When a man who has lived on his marry, she must reject many inappropri-
own in the wilderness meets a woman ate suitors who are interested in her for
who is on a wilderness trek, he realizes the wrong reasons.” This log line sug-
that his cherished loneliness is a facade gests that changes will take place in the
that hides his fear of commitment. woman’s life.
It’s Jeremiah Johnson meets Sleepless in A log line such as “When a teenager’s
Seattle.” life is threatened, he feels he must take
the law into his own hands until a
Writing an Effective Log Line stranger shows him a better way” sug-
gests change and action: the teenager
Time spent fine-tuning a log line is time will take the law into his own hands
well spent. The log line usually intro- until he learns the better way at a
duces a project; it is extremely impor- turning point in the story. A log line
tant for a seller to get it right. The log such as “After a woman’s husband of
line has to suggest a connection to what nearly 50 years dies, she must learn to
is going on in society and, possibly more live on her own with the help of the
importantly, what is going on in movies neighbor she previously ignored”
and television. This is why so many coupled with “It’s Terms of Endearment
effective sellers describe their projects as meets Driving Miss Daisy” might gener-
“successful movie No. 1 meets success- ate buyer interest because it indicates
ful movie No. 2.” This is shorthand that changes in the woman’s life and because
buyers understand. Referring to success- she will see her neighbor in a new light,
ful television programs can also work something many people can identify
(“Friends” meets “That ’70s Show”), with.
although most “meeting” in television Many successful pitches start with the
pitches is done with theatrical films. words “when” or “after;” a second sen-
Cynics might say this is because buyers tence uses the “meets” analogy. Practic-
do not watch much television and they ing coming up with log lines that “flow”
might miss the intended connection; is worth the time spent. Buyers need a
others believe that a movie reference is strong log line to use with all the people
an easier, more universal connection. who will be evaluating the project’s
Even if the meeting you have selected potential (schedulers, members of the
does not make a great deal of sense promotion department, the business
upon close inspection, it can generate affairs department, the research staff who
4 Development 75

• Prepare “leave behind” pages for challenge the buyer to question why
the buyer that clearly describe the the project is not right or is too edgy,
project. Revise the pages as many enabling you to segue into a strong
times as necessary. pitch. Telling a broadcast network
• Create a solid log line. executive that the project you are
• Get to know your buyers as individ- pitching is too edgy, possibly a better
uals so that you can engage them on fit on HBO, can be effective when the
a topic of mutual interest before you broadcast networks seek to be more
start your pitch. like cable.
• Occasionally, try a “reverse sell” by • Also occasionally, challenge the
teasing the buyer with opening buyer with closing remarks such as
salvos such as “This project may not “I want you to know that I am going
be right for you,” “This project may to sell this project and you will have
be a little highbrow/too edgy for you,” to program against it” or “After you
or “This project is too good for you.” have seen this tape, tell me you don’t
The reverse sell is tricky and it can want to make this movie.”
backfire, but, used effectively, it can

The Pitch Meeting project does not warrant their full

Sellers usually do not have much choice At the appointed hour, the sellers
about to whom they will be pitching. travel to the office of the designated
Most often, the network hierarchy buyer to present their idea. The compo-
determines the protocol, and sellers go sition of the selling team may range
to assigned development executives. If, from two to six people. Small produc-
however, a member of the selling team tion houses will usually be represented
is a major player, appeals can be made by just a major executive of the
to pitch to the executive who has the company and the chief creative person
power to say “yes” in the room. (writer or producer) connected with the
Most sellers agree that pitching to the concept. Large companies will arrive
top gun is best; they will go to great with some combination involving a
lengths, calling in favors and jockeying major executive, a development person,
for position, to get a meeting with the the executive producer, the line pro-
“right person.” For example, when an ducer, the writer, and possibly an agent
agent found out that his client was or, if it is CAA, two agents (CAA likes
going to pitch to a midlevel executive, to show its muscle by frequently sending
he complained that the project was a couple of key agents).
“seriously being undermined” by this The buyer may be represented by just
faux pas. The agent made a quick, per- one person or by an ensemble, usually
sonal call to the head of the department, depending on the stature of the pro-
asking her to sit in on the meeting that ducing company. If a superstar producer
same afternoon as a courtesy to him and or writer is making the presentation, the
to the client. audience can include the president of
There are, however, some sellers who the entertainment division, the head of
prefer to pitch to an underling because all development, and the entire staff
they feel the lower-level executive will of whichever department is appropriate
fight harder on their behalf. They —comedy, drama, reality, etc. Networks
believe that department heads have so are eager to be ingratiating with super-
much on their plates that a single stars, and a large turnout for a pitch

is a way to demonstrate respect and potential. Buyers must train themselves

affection. to pierce through the bungled rhetoric
The meeting never starts immediately. and find the essence of the idea.
No matter how gigantic the project, it Many sellers and some buyers do not
is obligatory that the first few minutes like the pitch process. Even a produc-
be devoted to trivia. (“How ’bout the tion legend such as David Susskind,
breakup of the Lakers?”) Eventually, one whose programs won so many Emmy
of the sellers, most likely the senior awards he was elected to the Television
executive, will begin the presentation Academy’s Hall of Fame, loathed the
with a few scene-setting remarks such as pitch process. He called it “demeaning,
the talent of the writer, the appeal of nerve-wracking, and exhausting.” De-
whatever story form they are about to spite his revulsion, he was an effective
present, or the time needs of the spokesperson for his projects and en-
network. The presentation is then joyed more than 30 years of prosperity
turned over to the principal architect of and prestige.
the show, who describes its concept, Allen Sabinson is a programming
characters, and appeals. executive who has had successful runs
A successful pitch presentation trans- at NBC, ABC, and A&E. Sensitive to
forms a room into the world of the the torment some individuals experience
proposed show, with fully realized pitching, he once cut short a writer’s
characters and well-laid-out sample pitch because the writer was sweating
scenes. The pitch will reveal the show’s profusely, failing to put words together,
solid structure and the potential for and dropping his disorganized notes on
future episodes. Agents often point out the floor. Not wishing to see the writer
why the show has the necessary goods. in such distress, Sabinson offered to read
Everyone on the selling side is there to some pages “as soon as they were ready.”
lend support to the project. Some buyers seriously question the
Most buyers wait for the presentation pitch process. For example, Susan Baer-
to be completed before they offer ques- wald, while head of miniseries at NBC,
tions and observations. At this point, the never embraced pitches as a way to tell
seller’s hours of preparation can pay off. whether a project had the makings of
The more buyer doubt removed, the a successful movie. For her, pitching
better the chance of a pickup. Any sug- reflects a seller’s personality and sales-
gested improvement by the buyer should manship, not a project’s value. Many net-
be treated with the utmost enthusiasm; works and studios internally develop
the time to quibble over changes is after shows, limiting the need for producers
the deal has been secured. to come in and pitch. During internal
Some sellers are brilliant at pitch development, the buyers come up with
meetings and can make a program the concepts and “break down the
sound like another “Frasier.” Frequently, stories,” later “kissing in” an outside pro-
the verbal virtuosity conceals conceptual ducer or turning the project over to a
weaknesses. The buyer is well advised producer with a deal with the studio or
to enjoy the performance but remain network. Nevertheless, pitching remains
vigilant; viewers will be watching the one of the primary ways projects can
flawed show not the dazzling pitch. On ignite the interest of buyers.
the other hand, many program creators For additional information about
are not born sales people, and their pitching, see Kathie Fong Yoneda’s
presentations fall short of the shows’ helpful The Script Selling Game: A Holly-
4 Development 77

wood Insider’s Look at Getting Your Script execution, has a chance, he or she will
Sold and Produced. most likely pitch it to the head of the
department. This leads to another kind
“Laying Pipe” for a Pass of pitch meeting, specifically, a depart-
ment meeting where all the executives
Following the seller’s presentation, the pitch the projects they like to the boss.
buyer will generally ask several questions These midlevel or junior buyers often
and then make some sort of pro- have less time to do their pitching than
nouncement. If the pitch stands little the sellers. They have to select the
chance, the buyer will most often “lay strongest selling points. They also have
pipe,” as the practice is called, by saying to make sure the log line that describes
the project, although “very interesting,” the project’s premise is on target; this
may not be what the network is looking often requires them to revise the seller’s
for at that time. Many buyers prefer to original log line to make it work for the
lay pipe than to “pass in the room.” A boss.
quick pass may be more efficient, but At other times, a detailed bible or
some buyers do not want to burst a treatment that outlines the concept,
seller’s bubble, especially right after a major characters, and future plot lines
heartfelt pitch. is requested by the head buyer. Some-
Some buyers, however, make the times, a follow-up meeting with the
mistake of being too positive at a pitch sellers is required for the pitch to be
meeting by praising the project too repeated for the department or network
highly. This leads sellers to believe that a head. If the show’s potential is sub-
sale has been made when no sale was in sequently embraced, the parties enter
the offing, causing many a disgruntled negotiations to close a deal.
seller to face the reality of a pass several
days after a pitch meeting. Thus, in- Fundamentals of the Deal
experienced programmers are instructed
by their in-house mentors to lay pipe. No money will ever be handed by the
By doing this, the buyer has something buyer to the seller until a contract is in
to fall back on if sellers complain they place. Thus, when an executive says, “I
were misled. like it, let’s go forward,” it means, “Let’s
One producer who heard the head go forward to the business affairs depart-
buyer talking about “finding the right ment where your lawyer and our lawyer
writer” for the proposed project will discuss terms and conditions.” It is
assumed she had a deal.When the junior not within the province of this book to
executive called to pass on the project, cover the range of program deals, some
the producer complained loudly that of which weigh slightly less than an air
there had been no hint of a pass, that conditioner.
everything said by the department head Development is an expensive process.
indicated a “go.” This kind of situation NBC, for example, is estimated to have
benefits no one. Bruised egos ensue, and spent $40 to $50 million on develop-
the authority and management savvy of ment for the 2003–2004 season.3 Buyers
the network come into question, again have many concerns when they seek to
reinforcing the need to lay pipe. protect their investments. These include
If the buyer is convinced there are no license fee cost per episode, the length
fundamental flaws and the production, of time their hold is exclusive (cannot
with proper scripting, casting, and be taken to another buyer), right of

first refusal (the ability to match the “program underwriters,” corporations,

best offer of a competing buyer when and other organizations. Theoretically,
the initial term is completed), who pays the organizations that donate money to
cost overruns, and creative control. The public broadcasting do not influence the
sellers are equally interested in these content of the programs, but sometimes
matters and attempt to preserve their whether or not a program reaches
profit potential. the airwaves depends on the financial
When the contract is essentially resources. So, in that way, the fund-
agreed upon, the project can proceed. In raising undertaken by development
the real world, work gets under way departments affects program decision
long before papers are signed. If it did making.
not, few shows would ever get on the Public television prides itself on being
air. Companies that have dealt with each different from commercial television,
other many times are sufficiently confi- seeking to air programming that avoids
dent that a deal will eventually be sinking to the lowest common denom-
made. Unless substantive disagreements inator; however, the expanding world of
emerge, the parties proceed as though cable has cut into public television’s
the documents will eventually be long-held dominance of quality pro-
signed. At times, the decibel levels go gramming, adding to the difficulties
ballistic and the cage rattling is deafen- public television is experiencing.
ing, but nobody makes money unless A writer or producer seeking to
there is a picture on the screen, a fact develop a show for public television
both sides are aware of. Most deals needs to survey the programming land-
eventually close, although a tight money scape carefully to come up with a show
climate can stymie a deal, greatly concept that coincides with public tele-
increasing everyone’s anxiety level. vision’s mission to promote quality. In
addition, because of the financial crisis
Public Television Development public television is experiencing, it is
becoming almost essential to have the
The word “development” has a different grant money in hand when the proposal
connotation in the noncommercial for a show is made.
structure. Most public broadcasting
organizations have a department of Syndication Development
development that is responsible for
obtaining grant money. This department In syndication, the process is different
is often compared to the sales depart- from that in cable, commercial, and
ment of a commercial broadcaster public television. As explained in
because it is responsible for bringing in Chapter 2, syndicators sell their shows
revenue. As the “public” television name directly to stations. They need to clear
suggests, some of the operating budget close to 80% of national coverage before
is derived from the public (i.e., tax deciding to proceed to full-production
money allocated from the federal gov- mode. According to Mike Stornello,
ernment), but public money has steadily senior vice president of development for
become scarcer. From 1998 to 2003, major syndicator King World Produc-
for example, according to PBS’s annual tions (“The Oprah Winfrey Show,”
report, public funds made up roughly “Dr. Phil,” “Jeopardy,” and “Wheel of
10% of the network’s operating budget.4 Fortune”), it takes most of 2 years
Most funds (more than 60%) came from to develop a show for syndication.
4 Development 79

Stornello adds that there is lots of that will overrun the convention. To
tweaking and changing during develop- encourage this momentum, syndicators
ment to ensure success. Syndication make frequent and imaginative use of
development often revolves around a hyperbole. Every show is “snowballing,”
strong personality in a talk format, but all station lineups and coverage are
syndication development can also focus “growing too fast to calculate,” and
on a strong idea as syndication seeks to every “I’ll think about it” becomes “It’s
move into cable.5 a wrap.” Announcements at NATPE can
Once the prototype of the show is be politely referred to as an excess of
completed and the decision has been exuberance.
made to go to market, the show is basi- In recent years, the convention has
cally in the hands of the marketing spe- become somewhat less pivotal to a syn-
cialists. Occasionally, the programmers dicator’s survival. Many distributors
will be asked to participate in the selling discovered that if they waited for the
effort, particularly with executives of convention (usually held in January or
station groups or stations in large cities. February) to launch their major sales
These buyers like to hear about series effort, they would be too late. Com-
plans directly from those responsible for petitors would have contacted key
the production. The programmers will markets months earlier and picked up all
no doubt have to attend the NATPE the best clearances. At NATPE, syndica-
convention. tors often do not set up exhibition
NATPE was founded in 1963 to booths on the convention floor and
bring together station program directors instead hold meetings in suites at the
for an exchange of ideas and viewpoints. convention hotels. This practice reduces
By the mid-1970s, the NATPE conven- costs and lessens the carnival atmosphere
tion had become the most important that characterized NATPE for so many
event in the business life of syndication years.
producers and distributors. All pilots, Now NATPE is used more for
demonstrators, and promotion cam- muscling the wafflers and establishing
paigns were geared for the big push those all-important relationships, be-
at the convention. With such spirited cause the entertainment business still
competition among highly creative and operates in terms of who you know and
aggressive personalities, the convention who will take your calls. For in-studio
gradually took on a carnival atmosphere. producers who are attending their
A buyer could not walk 30 paces first NATPE, it can become puzzling.
without being invited to a seller’s suite When they hear that the syndicator
by a trio of sideshow barkers, models in cleared Chicago, they become euphoric.
nuns’ habits, or a pair of gorillas. The Then they notice that the sales staff is
taste level plunged to unacceptable somber.
depths, and in the 1980s, NATPE offi-
cials took steps to curb some of the
“Why aren’t you excited?”
more outrageous promotions.
“Because it’s a tier deal.”
Syndicators have spent hundreds of “What’s that?”
thousands, even millions, of dollars to “It means we’ve got prices for six differ-
construct exhibition areas designed to ent time periods.”
attract buyers into screening rooms “So?”
to view pilots. A syndicator’s principal “So, if they run it at 2:00 A.M., you won’t
objective is to build a sales momentum get any viewers and we won’t make a dime.”
4 Development 81

advance copy of the manuscript of house. The revised pages did the trick
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom and the project was put into develop-
about his relationship with his former ment. A-list writer Tom Rickman,
teacher, Morrie Schwartz. Forte sent it whose credits include Coal Miner’s
to her executive at ABC with a note Daughter and Everybody’s All
saying she saw something special in American, was hired to write the tele-
the book and wondered whether ABC play. After the book became a best-
would be interested in putting it into seller and Harpo was wooed to
development. abandon television and produce the
The executive agreed and pitched it film as a feature, Forte refused, saying
to his boss, who passed on it, saying it ABC had backed the project when only
was about two men sitting in a room a manuscript existed and she was not
talking and would be of little interest going to switch from television to fea-
to viewers. Refusing to take no for an tures. The movie went on to win an
answer, the executive and Harpo’s Emmy Award as the best television
director of development, Susan Heyer, movie of the 1999–2000 season,
redid the pitch pages, stressing helping ABC break HBO’s hold on the
Albom’s life as a sports writer to “open category.
up” the movie and get it out of Morrie’s

The Pilot network’s financial contribution. The

production company must either cut
Once the buyers in cable and commer- corners to deliver the pilot within
cial television are satisfied that the budget or cover the additional costs.
program is fundamentally sound, the Usually they choose the latter. A down-
creative team is equal to the creative sized, on-the-cheap pilot might quickly
challenge, and the script is in shooting become a dead pilot. Because this is the
shape, they face a key decision: to make only sales opportunity the project will
or not to make a pilot, that is, an have, the producers, amid much mutter-
episode that will enable buyers to judge ing, often spend the extra money.
how the executed script plays on the However, because costs have risen so
small screen.This decision is not an easy drastically and network revenues have
one. At risk is an enormous outlay of dropped so precipitously in recent years,
money. A half-hour pilot in 2003 cost network executives increasingly order
between $1.6 million and $2 million.6 minipilots, or presentations, (selected
Pilots cost more than the average scenes) instead of full episodes. The
episode of a series because there are argument in favor of these truncated
no economies of scale and anything prototypes is that they reveal enough of
done for the first time is more time- the core idea and the staff ’s execution to
consuming and expensive. Furthermore, make a sound judgment at a substan-
if a pilot goes to series, the cost of the tially reduced price tag. The argument
sets and props can be amortized, that is, against them is that the chosen sample
spread out over the length of the com- may be “loaded” (with guest stars, action
mitment. But if the show is not picked scenes, etc.) and not be indicative of the
up for more episodes, the entire expense series. Minipilots sometimes become
of the pilot must be laid against the more useful as sales tools than as a basis
program development budget. for program decisions. “I’d much rather
It is not uncommon for the cost do a minipilot,” said Saul Turteltaub,
of the pilot to be greater than the veteran writer–producer of network

but some failed pilots air on cable

channel Trio’s “Brilliant, But Cancelled”
or as summer “specials;” most of the
time, however, they simply disappear,
failures on the development highway.
Clearly, the pilot process is fickle, expen-
sive, and draining, rather like gambling
in Las Vegas. Sometimes it takes a lot
of spins before hitting the jackpot. For
example, George Clooney was cast in 15
failed pilots before he hit television gold
with “ER” in 1994, and Don Johnson
was in 5 before “Miami Vice.”8 But
when the right pilot comes along, the
payoff can be huge, which is why so
many producers, writers, and performers
continue to put themselves through pilot
hell every year.

Figure 4.3 comedies. “It’s much easier to be terrific Development Ratios

ABC developed for 8 minutes than for 30.”
“Karen Sisco” for Even though the minipilot has its Broadcast outlets develop on different
the 2003–2004 flaws and can lead to blundered program ratios depending on their specific needs.
season, hoping that choices, it is here to stay because of The standard development ratio used
it would appeal to
the new economic realities facing the to be four shows for every one that
its target audience.
industry. makes the final cut, but the development
(Photo © ABC
Photography In his article “The Wasteland,” about ratios can vary greatly. For example, in
Archives.) the 2001 pilot season, Austin Bunn pro- 2002, ABC developed about 90 drama
vided an in-depth examination of the scripts for possibly four or five slots
pilot process. He wrote, “A network will because the network needed a bona fide
buy 100 pitches to make into scripts and drama hit. For the 2002–2003 season,
spend millions turning 20 into ‘pilots.’ NBC heard more than 200 comedy
These pilots are all made during the pitches, 54 scripts were ordered, and 15
same three months in the spring, which pilots were made.9 For the 2003–2004
creates, as one producer called it, ‘a season, ABC was still in need of a hit
climate of fear’ that descends on Los and had high hopes for its series “Karen
Angeles—‘fear’ because in that mad dash Sisco” (Figure 4.3), although it turned
to delivery, these pilots, despite stagger- out that its comedy development got
ing infant-mortality rates, begin better viewer response.
inevitably to matter to their creators. In Some networks tend to go overboard
mid-May, each network usually ‘picks when it comes to pilot development.
up’ somewhere between 5 and 10 pilots Allison Romano, in “MTV: Operat-
to become series for the fall. Roughly ing Without a Net,” observes MTV’s
two thirds of the pilots, the best efforts unconventional style. She writes, “In a
of each network, are stillborn.”7 busy year, most basic-cable networks
Presentations cannot be broadcast might greenlight just five pilots, putting
because they are not polished enough, two or three on the air as regular series.
4 Development 83

A broadcast network might make 20

pilots. MTV moves at lightning speed,
pumping out 50 potential projects.
The mantra, quite simply, is that more
is more.”10 This method produced the
biggest hit of the 2001–2002 cable
television season, the reality series “The
Osbournes” (Figure 4.4).

Gone are the days of the fabled, gut- Figure 4.4
instinct buyers who watched a pilot and “The Osbournes”
before the lights came up said, “I like it. was a phenomenon
Put it on,” or “It’s lousy. Bury it.” Today when it aired on
when the pilot or minipilot is screened MTV, changing the
by network executives, it is just the face of reality
start of a lengthy process of assessment television. (Globe
through research. This phase of program Photos, Inc.)
selection is dealt with in detail in
Chapter 5.
The reasons buyers require extensive
statistical support before they make a The Decision
program choice has been the subject of
many conferences, panel discussions, In most cases, before a final judgment
and print interviews. The cynics say the is made, several company executives are
buyers have no faith in their own consulted. These usually include people
judgments and need mounds of data from programming, sales, research, pro-
to justify their decisions. They also motion, production, scheduling, finance,
claim buyers engage in research to planning, and top management.
avoid later criticism. If a program goes The need for each of these disciplines
on the air and bombs, their excuse is is obvious. The show is worthless if the
that the research was faulty and sales department cannot sell it, the
misleading. promotion department has no hook on
Not so, counter the defenders. The which to hang a campaign, or both.
stakes are high and the criteria for There is no sense in proceeding if the
success are inexact. Furthermore, as finance people say it is too expensive to
objective as network executives try to ever be profitable or if the research staff
be, they are products of their back- says there is only a small audience avail-
grounds, which may not be representa- able at the intended time. In many
tive of national tastes and interests. Why instances, experts in a specialized aspect
should they not sound out the opinions of the company need to be consulted,
of those who will be watching (or ignor- for example, the standards and practices
ing) the product? Every manufacturer in division if the program contains border-
the country test-markets products before line scenes and language. Although
launching them nationally—why not censors are involved in the pilot process,
networks? the finished product can often present

unforeseen concerns that need to be up in approximately 19 countries, some

addressed before a show is given a 13- key changes to the format had to be
week order. made to avoid clashing with local
But the pilot process, as unwieldy as customs. As Charles Goldsmith points
it may seem, is soundly constructed. out in his article “How ‘Idols’ Around
Without input from all affected parties, the World Harmonize with Local
a programmer could blunder fatally Viewers,” the word “idol” cannot be
because of some overlooked item. Still, used in Germany because it carries
the final decision is rarely a consensus of Hitler-like connotations. Thus, the show
all the viewpoints. Often, there are two is called “Germany Seeks the Super-
or more screening rooms; senior execu- star.”11 Each version of “American Idol”
tives are situated in the A room and needs to be adapted to suit local tastes
junior executives are in the B room.The “while keeping the show recognizable as
executives in the B room may have lots the ‘Idol’ franchise.” Savvy producers
of opinions and be willing to voice who envision franchises around the
them with passion, but it is what goes globe have to develop a concept that
on in the A room that matters. After a can successfully be adapted for many
program has been thoroughly discussed countries, as with the 100 or so versions
in both the A and the B rooms, two or of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” that
three top members of the inner circle existed in 2003–2004.
will usually go off for a private conclave Similarly, the $25 billion video game
where the decision is made. industry has to adjust its games to meet
the demands of individual countries.
Globalization Topless women in games distributed
in Europe sport bikini tops in the
Although the global market may not be American versions.12 Violent sex scenes
the primary concern during the devel- in the games distributed in Japan are
opment process, it should never be toned down for the American versions.
ignored. Success abroad is necessary for Sellers lucky enough to see their
a show to generate positive cash flow. shows journey successfully through the
The foreign market may be in constant development process may not readily
flux, but, as explained previously, it admit to the networks that the “tweaks”
should not be overlooked. To do so made during production are being done
limits a producer’s financial options. to adjust to the foreign market, but this
Some markets, such as China, are tol- is often the case. Network programming
erant of violence but adverse to sex and executives care about the audiences in
nudity. In Germany, bloody scenes are America, not the audiences abroad, but
taboo but even frontal nudity is fine. savvy producers have to adjust their
During the development process, pro- development toward foreign audiences.
ducers have to be aware of the adjust- This is particularly true in the develop-
ments that might be needed for different ment of one-shot television movies,
markets to maximize foreign sales. where introducing a German character
This holds true for franchises and as the fourth or fifth lead can help the
video games. For example, “American German sale. It also applies to series
Idol” started in the United Kingdom as development—an element introduced in
“Pop Idol.” It was a major success, a pilot that makes it to air could turn
becoming a likely candidate for export. out to be the key ingredient that guar-
When franchises of this show were set antees success abroad.
4 Development 85

Format Number of Number of % Change Formats from fall 1996 Formats in fall 2001 that
Stations Stations that no longer existed in did not exist in fall 1996
March 1996 March 2001 fall 2001

Country 45 30 -33.3 ’70s hits ’70s and ’80s

Urban adult contemporary 11 12 +9.1 Adult hits ’80s and ’90s

Hot adult contemporary 20 20 0
Black adult contemporary ’80s hits
Alternative 40 39 -2.5
Christian country Classic middle of the road
Urban 28 28 0
Urban inspirational Hip-hop
Contemporary hit radio—Rhythm 15 15 0

Rock 20 20 0 Kids

Adult contemporary 18 20 +11.1 Mix adult contemporary

Active rock 20 19 -5.0
Modern adult contemporary
Adult alternative 20 20 0
New age
Contemporary hit radio—Pop 45 45 0
New rock
Jazz 20 20 0

TOTALS 302 288 -4.6 Tropical

(a) (b)

RADIO DEVELOPMENT (hard rock, soft rock, classic rock, album- Figure 4.5
oriented rock, etc.) so that stations can (a) Music formats
Development in radio deals more with have a unique sound. through the years.
formats than with individual shows. Nevertheless, format names exist, The major music
Much of the programming develops and format changes are made with fairly formats and the
itself once the format is decided. For regular frequency, partly to take into approximate
most radio stations, the format is a par- number of major
account the newer forms of music.
ticular type of music, but talk formats market stations
The job of determining format is usually playing them in
such as all news, all sports, and all talk undertaken by top management that
can be chosen. Selecting a format 1996 and 2001,
may or may not include the head of as compiled by the
involves thinking about the type of programming. Often the program direc- FCC. The “%
peripheries, such as news and features, tor is hired after the format decision is Change” column
that will be used with the basic format. made so that someone with knowledge illustrates the shifts
about that particular type of music can in formats over
be chosen. In some stations, a format time. Some formats
Developing a Format have seen much
change is made without the program
One of the problems with selecting (or director’s involvement. If, for example, a change; others have
maintaining) a music format is that station switches from easy listening to seen none.
(b) Some radio
music is constantly evolving. “New country, it simply fires the old program
formats have
wave” does not stay “new,” “progressive director (and disc jockeys) and hires a disappeared from
rock” might not “progress,” and “alter- new one. the airwaves
native music” may enter the mainstream When a station first comes on the air, between 1996 and
(Figure 4.5). When a particular type of it must select a format. Few open fre- 2001; others have
music, such as rock, becomes popular, it quencies are left in the United States, been added.
tends to be subdivided into categories however, so few new stations come from
4 Development 87

formats they may be overseeing, from 2. Lifestyles—If the schools are on a

adult contemporary to pop to talk radio. split shift and, as a result, young
Many smaller radio station owners or people are available as listeners during
general managers do their own research the morning, this could affect the
to determine what format would be format and its accompanying features.
best, but some hire one of the consult- If a city has massive traffic jams, this
ing firms to assist.These consulting com- could mean more time needs to be
panies, or their equivalents within large devoted to traffic information than
companies, have run research studies in might otherwise be planned. Inter-
many cities and have developed a basic views with station management and
procedure that usually works. with citizens of the community and
They have developed a knowledge trips to shopping malls, restaurants,
of the radio business that includes the and parks can give insight into
following: lifestyles.
3. Sales of records and CDs—Although
1. The appeals of various formats— Internet sales and illegal swapping of
They know, from studies they have music has cut severely into the busi-
conducted and from general industry ness of local music stores, consultants
reading, the pros and cons of the may nonetheless visit music stores and
various formats and the type of talk to employees and customers to
people each appeals to. determine who is buying what type
2. Cost effectiveness of the various of music when and where. The age
formats—Again through experience, and sex of types of music purchasers
they can fairly easily determine the is noted.
costs of differing types of program-
ming for specific markets. For Consultants also thoroughly examine
example, all-news programming is the competition by noting the
more expensive than middle-of-the following:
road music and can only be under- 1. What is aired on all the competing
taken in markets large enough and stations—Consultants usually spend
rich enough to support it with at least one full day listening to each
advertising. station in the market.They log every-
When the consultants come to town, thing they hear—station identifica-
they check out the area, looking mainly tions, disc jockey comments, news
at the following: stories, editorials, features, etc. They
make careful note of all the formats
1. Demographics—If the community and features on the air.
contains many young people, their 2. The ratings of all stations—This con-
presence might be a determinant in sists of a thorough breakout of ratings
planning for a format. If a large ethnic data for each station that gives not
group is within the station’s reach, only its overall rating number but also
this presents the possibility for a par- its rating according to specific demo-
ticular type of programming aimed graphics and specific times of day.
at those people. The consultants use 3. The reach of all the stations—Some
census data, Chamber of Commerce stations are more powerful technically
data, and personal tours of the com- because of FCC requirements and
munity to determine demographic therefore reach a larger geographic
information. area. A weak station with a popular

format might not reach the whole audience could be attracted by the
market, so a more powerful station longer news.
with the same format could attract Management is free to ignore the
listeners on the outskirts. advice of the consultants, and sometimes
the chemistry between consultant and
The consultants must consider the management is such that the two never
opinions of the top station management, come to an understanding. But usually
including the following: management will listen to the advice it
1. Programming biases—If the station has paid dearly for and go with what is
owner abhors country western music suggested. If it does not work—well,
and has stated that he or she does not there are always other consultants.
want to be associated with a country
music station, that alternative is ruled Developing Programming
out, even if it seems to be the most
economically viable one. Once management, a consultant, or both
2. General objectives—Sometimes man- have determined a format and an overall
agers have specific personal or station programming philosophy, individual
goals. If someone wants the station programs must be developed. For many
to earn as much money as possible, a music stations, the switch from one
different approach can be used by program to another is virtually seamless.
the consultants than the one used The disc jockey may change, but the
for someone who wants to make a sound of the music remains the same.
reasonable profit but to ensure that The programming is not really devel-
the station participates fully within oped; it is supplied. Someone has to
the community. select the music to be played from all
the new submissions and old songs
Once the members of the consulting available. At most stations, the program
team have gathered and analyzed the director takes total charge of this; at
information, they discuss it with the other stations, the disc jockeys have a say
management and make recommenda- as to what gets played. Stations that spe-
tions. Perhaps they think the station cialize in the newest of the new may
should program adult contemporary have a person who does nothing all day
with 10-minute news updates on the but listen to submissions and winnow
half hour. To support this, they might them down to a smaller stack that is
include that a large number of middle- passed to the program director.
aged people spend a great deal of time For all-news stations, the program-
in their cars traveling between office and ming is also supplied—in this case by
factory locations of a large employer daily events.A news director must decide
whose business is spread over town. which news services to use, which stories
They want information mixed with to cover, which stories to put on the air,
relaxation. Although two other stations and how much time to allot each story.
in town might program adult contem- Talk stations give thought to the
porary, one of them could be low development of specific programs. Hosts
powered and unable to be heard at two and their topics of conversation are
of the company’s locations. The other thought through, usually by the stations’
could be the second highest-rated programmers. Occasionally, potential
station in the market, with news for 2 talent will pitch an idea to a talk station
minutes on the hour, so some of its and then be hired to conduct the show.
4 Development 89

Profit and Other-Than-Profit Al Franken as its star host. In a similar

Motives vein, some nonprofit social advocacy
groups have bought radio stations to
Overall, radio development is different provide content that aims to both enter-
from that of television.The great degree tain and empower. The Black United
of content fragmentation and the less Fund of New York, a nonprofit organi-
expensive nature of radio separate it from zation that promotes social and
its visual cousin. Despite media consoli- economic development for the African-
dation after the 1996 Telecommunica- American community, bought WCKL
tions Act, many radio owners are still not 560 AM in Albany, New York. Kermit
publicly owned entities, unlike most tele- Eady, the organization’s founder and
vision owners. For example, according to president, said that the station “will
Michiguide.com, there are around 500 surely aid in the empowerment process
radio stations in the state of Michigan. and could be our most valuable asset.”15
More than 30% of those 500 stations With so many radio stations still in
are owned by 10 companies, with Clear the hands of smaller organizations and
Channel alone owning more than 5%. “Ma and Pa” operations, there are many
But the remaining 350 odd stations are opportunities for people to pitch ideas
owned by more than 100 companies, for radio programming to these more
many owning just 1 or 2 stations.14 accessible commercial radio station
Although many of the stations owned owners.There is also the opportunity for
by smaller entities may be in smaller LPFM radio stations, which, according
markets, their programming still goes on to the Center on Democratic Commu-
the air, and if it connects with listeners, nications National Lawyers Guild, can
it can still be successful. “Success” for be set up for as little as $2000, although
smaller radio owners may be defined the bureaucratic process of securing a
much differently than in the dollars-and- license can be taxing and lengthy for a
cents terms of big radio companies who small operation.
have stockholders to satisfy.
Some commercial radio developers Satellite Radio Development
have goals that favor ideological or com-
munity service agendas over financial Satellite radio, a subscription service
ones. For example, many liberal and providing a multitude of “stations,” has
Democratic groups and individuals, different concerns than terrestrial radio.
dismayed by the dominance of con- Even with the draw of satellite radio’s
servative voices in talk radio, such as superior sound quality and ubiquitous
Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Michael signal coverage, listeners can pick up ter-
Reagan, and Rush Limbaugh, have put restrial radio stations for free, so satellite
up large sums of money to develop radio must provide content attractive
equivalent liberal shows. Many such and different enough from terrestrial
shows have been commercial failures, broadcasts that consumers will be
such as those of former Texas agricul- willing to pay for it. Satellite radio, with
tural commissioner Jim Hightower and its many stations, can pursue many
even former New York Governor Mario avenues of development.
Cuomo, but Democrats have not given Because at least some of the operat-
up on their search. They started a radio ing costs of the network are covered by
network in 2004, Air America, with subscription fees, satellite radio can
comedian, writer, and right-wing baiter afford to offer stations with no or fewer

ABC News & Talk Channel Electronica The ’90s Live on 9

Adult Contemporary Christian Escape into the Movies No Compromise African-American Talk
All Love Songs 24/7 Everything Funny Old School R&B
Alternative Hits Exciting Fox Style News 24/7 Old Time Country
America’s First Trucker Channel The Exclusive Satellite Radio Service of NASCAR Politics & Business Coverage
America’s Hottest & Most Controversial Talk Stars Experts Talk Pop Music Mix
Anything Can Happen Really, Anything! Family Laughs & Fun A Premium Adult Channel
Audio Books & Radio Dramas From Bluegrass to Newgrass Progressive Country

The Authentic ’60s Sound From the World’s Pop Charts Progressive Rock & Fusion

The Awesome ’80s The Full Spectrum of BBC’s News & Entertainment Regional Mexican
Beautiful Music Glorious Gospel Rock en Español
Best of the ’70s The Golden Age of Radio Round the Clock Country Hits

Big Bands & Hits of the ’40s The Greatest Music of the Last 1000 Years Sinatra & Friends

Breaking Stories from Around the World Greatest Soul Music of All Time Singers & Songwriters

Broadway & Showtunes Hard Alternative Spanish Pop Hits

Capital of the Blues High-Energy Combination of Sports News & Talk Sports News & Play-by-Play Coverage
A Celebration of Folk Music Hip-Hop from Day One The Sound of Africa
Cerebral New Age I Want My MTV—Radio! Stadium Rock & Hairbands
Christian Music that Rocks Industrial Strength Metal The Tech Station
Christian Talk Interactive Top 20 Countdown Tejano
Classic Album Cuts Kids & Disney Top 40 Hits from Los Angeles
Classic Alternative Latest Entertainment News & Celebrity Gossip Traditional Jazz
Classic Country Latin Jazz 24-Hour Crazed Morning Shows
Classical’s Greatest Hits The Lounge Lifestyle Lives On 24/7 Business & Finance Coverage
Club Hits The Magic of the Human Voice U S Government Hearings & Public Affairs
CNN in Spanish Mellow Alternative Uncensored Hip-Hop
Concerts & Interviews The Most Mighty, Wicked, Dangerous Reggae Ever Underground Dance
Contemporary Electric Jazz Music First Everywhere! Unsigned Bands Only!
Deep Album Cuts Music from the Caribbean Urban Adult
The Definitive 24-Hour Sports News Network The Nation’s Premier Provider of Weather Information Urban Top 40
Discovery Channel Comes to Radio Neo Soul Where Disco Doesn’t Suck
Early Rock ‘n’ Roll New Music Now World Music
Easy Jazz News
Eclectic Mix from Celtic to the Blues The Next Generation of Radio For the Next Generation


Figure 4.6 advertisements than terrestrial broad- exceed the scope of such interviews and
Station listings for casters. This can be a draw for listeners performances typically broadcast by
XM Radio. fatigued by commercials. But playing terrestrial stations.There are also stations
wall-to-wall music, for example, can also that feature lesser-known songs by
become fatiguing for listeners, so many major artists, music from independent
satellite music stations, like terrestrial record companies, and tighter niche
stations, have deejay patter between sec- programming than terrestrial stations.
tions of music to mix things up. Terrestrial stations, to appeal to larger
Another way that satellite radio devel- audiences and larger advertisers, must,
ops programming to attract subscribers for example, combine pop music from
is to provide programming unavailable the 1990s with the 1980s and 2000s;
elsewhere. Many satellite radio music satellite radio can set aside a station
stations feature interviews of and live for each decade, even subdividing the
performances by musical artists that far decades into genres (Figure 4.6). But it
4 Development 91

is not as if there are unlimited stations There is debate about whether NPR
on satellite radio, so strategic and achieves its lauded development goal of
researched choices must be made—on a an evenhanded approach to the day’s
national level. events and ideas. Popular commercial
Satellite radio can also attract listeners radio talk-show hosts, such as Rush
by providing niche programming aimed Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, have vili-
at a specific segment or group of the fied NPR for, in their words, using
national population. Perhaps on a local public money to push a lopsided liberal
level, this group or segment would agenda. As Bill O’Reilly said in a con-
not be big enough to justify the expense tentious interview with NPR’s “Fresh
of a 24/7 radio operation. With satel- Air” host, Terry Gross, “You’re easy
lite radio’s national reach, a minority- on [liberal political satirist Al] Franken
population audience can reach signifi- and you’re hard on me . . . this is NPR
cant numbers of listeners. The Sirius . . . you should be ashamed of
satellite network, for example, airs a yourself.”17
station, OutQ, targeting the gay and Although NPR receives some public
lesbian community. The network’s funding, less than 2% of its operating
controversial decision to develop the budget comes directly from government
station in 2003 garnered significant sources. Nearly half of its funding comes
media attention, helping the lesser- from member stations (13% of whose
known network to gain visibility under overall funding is derived from govern-
the shadow of its more well-known ment agencies, some of which filters
competitor, XM Radio. It also helped through to NPR); the rest is gleaned
Sirius to distinguish itself from XM from grants and support from private
Radio, since the two networks mostly foundations and corporations. So NPR’s
offer similar programming choices. vice president of development, Barbara
Hall, is mainly preoccupied with raising
nearly $50 million per year to support
Public Radio Development programming that NPR’s think tank of
intellectual and cultural advisors devises
Where commercial radio networks to serve the organization’s mission
develop programming designed to more statement.18
strictly follow what audiences want, For the other major public radio
public radio networks, like some of the network, PRI, development is directed
smaller, nonprofit commercial radio more by the missions of individual
owners, have more idealistic goals. member stations, many of which are also
NPR’s mission statement states that it member stations of NPR. But most PRI
aims to develop programming that member stations share the idealistic goals
creates “a more informed public—one of NPR: to provide both what they
challenged and invigorated by a deeper know their audiences want and what
understanding and appreciation of they believe their audiences need. With
events, ideas and cultures.” Jay Kernis, PRI, the difference is that development
NPR’s senior vice president for pro- is not centralized as it is with NPR.
gramming, said that he is focused PRI stations and, to a lesser extent,
on two concerns, “what public radio NPR are open to “pitches” for new
audiences across the nation want— program development, even from
and need—to hear on their local members of the public. Some NPR
stations.”16 cultural shows, such as “This American

content charged the imaginations of all

who came in contact with it in its early
days. The possibilities seemed endless.
Perhaps, many thought, the Internet
could break the hegemony of media
companies, displacing radio, television,
and newspapers as the dominant sources
of news and entertainment. The Inter-
net, many thought, could also revolu-
tionize commerce. The opportunities
for development seemed to have no
The relatively brief history of the
Internet has thus been marked by
tremendous hype, hope, and speculation.
Figure 4.7 Life” with Ira Glass (Figure 4.7), solicit Most notably, the late 1990s saw what
With a smart submissions from their listening audi- U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan
combination of ence and receive nearly 50 submissions Greenspan called “irrational exuber-
regular contributors per week, some of which, often with ance” for investment in Internet ven-
and stories editing and additional postproduction, tures. Investors contributed billions of
submitted by the
they broadcast. dollars to start Internet companies, most
public, “This
of which never turned a profit before
American Life,”
hosted by Ira INTERNET DEVELOPMENT imploding. When the bubble burst,
Glass, has become the field of Internet developers was
a weekly staple on With the Internet, development of decimated and their investors, many of
NPR. ( Jon programming can take a mind-numbing whom were individuals, were badly
Hughes/ number of routes, from the proud burned.
Photopresse.) parents of a newborn placing pictures of But this is not to say that the hype
their child on a web page for viewing was divorced from reality. The Internet
by relatives, to a garage band uploading has and continues to unquestionably
songs to a music website such as transform the face of media and com-
MP3.com for exposure, to a social or merce. It has just settled into doing it
political activist creating a web log (or less stridently than many had predicted
“blog”) of their personal thoughts and or hoped. Instead of sucking the real
observations about life and the world, to world into cyberspace with one long
a television or radio network such as slurp, the Internet has come to coexist
CNN or Clear Channel developing web with the real world, taking over and
content to support its brand, to a film improving upon aspects it can perform
producer creating an oft-updated web- more efficiently and conveniently.
site to build buzz for an upcoming Before the advent of the Internet, for
theatrical release. example, personal letter writing was a
dying art usurped by telephone conver-
History of Internet Development sations. Now email and instant messag-
ing have taken a significant bite out
The “democratic” development of the of telephone and fax communications,
Internet as a technology practically although the quality of email com-
anyone could use to create and obtain munication, many would argue, often
4 Development 93

falls far below the standards of tele-

phone conversation and handwritten

Traditional Developers Adapt to

the Internet Figure 4.8
Online archives
Just as email streamlined the diffusion allow visitors to
of personal messages, the Internet allows easily find content
companies and organizations to push using various
their message or product more effec- criteria.
tively and widely to consumers. The
traditional newsletter, broadcast, or
storefront can now have both a brick-
and-mortar version and a cyber subscription services, helping to gener-
version—the cyber version available on ate revenue that covers archiving costs
demand by consumers across the globe. and, many undoubtedly hope, to gener-
With this dual strategy, the develop- ate profits. Public radio, on the other
ment cost for Internet content is often far hand, offers staggering amounts of
outweighed by the additional exposure a archived material, nearly all without
website can provide. Because entities can subscription fees (Figure 4.8).
simply retool into a website what they It is doubtful whether, even when
have already created for their traditional Internet speeds greatly improve, we will
outlets, the development costs are chiefly quickly see mass on-demand offerings of
technical, not creative. Numerous radio archived television programs. The syndi-
stations, for example, now broadcast the cation market is too robust yet for tele-
same content simultaneously over the air vision executives to risk eroding interest
and an Internet stream. in broadcast reruns by making them
Closely related to the simulcast idea available online. There are, however,
is the development of Internet archives. notable exceptions. News or other
With the cost of digital storage dropping time-sensitive programming that cannot
exponentially, it is increasingly econom- be rebroadcast is increasingly archived and
ical to archive nearly anything broadcast, available online, either free or by sub-
making it available on demand at a later scription. But perhaps the most widely
date. Internet connection rates are not archived and viewed online video
yet fast enough for the feasible whole- content, especially by the advertiser-
sale distribution of quality video, but cherished young demographic, is music
audio archives of radio programs are videos. As MTV and other music-video
nearly ubiquitous for syndicated radio television networks have moved further
programs. The only cost associated with from their roots of broadcasting wall-to-
the development of this material is the wall music videos, videos have moved
technical process of breaking material onto the Internet.Viewers can see what
into specific subjects or segments and they want when they want it after sitting
indexing the material so that it can be through short advertisements before each
easily found by Internet surfers. video. Standouts are Yahoo’s Launch.com
In recent years, the trend has been for and America Online’s music channel,
many of these radio archives to become which features some content, such as live

streaming concerts, that only subscribers reality and game shows, lend themselves
to America Online can view. easily to supplemental websites. CBS’s
Another web-based video service multiseason ratings performer, “Big
making waves and significant revenue is Brother,” for example, has from the
in the area of sports. Major League Base- beginning had an extensive website
ball, for example, runs a site, MLB.com, that both gives additional information
that offers several services for diehard to loyal fans and helps newcomers to get
baseball fans. It sells live video and audio their bearings if they start watching
streams of games and abridged game the serial “reality” series midseason.
recordings that can be watched in just Although the show broadcast on televi-
20 minutes, cutting the game down to sion is extensively edited before it hits
its action essence. MLB.com and Yahoo the airwaves, the show’s website offers
have also developed free graphical simu- a bevy of 24/7 video feeds from the
lations of baseball games, in which house. The website also allows viewers
the graphic of a baseball diamond is to weigh in on and chat among them-
populated by representations of players selves about what they think the
coming up to bat and moving around outcome of each episode will be—who
the bases in real time. will be evicted and who will stay for a
But even if television producers are chance at the cash prize.
not likely to voluntarily make their pro- For other shows, most notably
grams available online until the econom- sitcoms, the development of supplemen-
ics make sense, a growing number of tal websites has been much less robust.
television programs are being recorded, Because sitcoms rely heavily on single-
placed in the digital format, and made episode plots, there is not a lot of
available illegally over the Internet. The between-the-episodes intrigue. The
music industry was the first to have to NBC comedy “Scrubs,” for example,
confront this online piracy problem— has a website limited to roughly 10
both by going after illegal song-file- pages of content, most of it in simple
swappers and by developing legal, text: Main, About, Bios, Credits, Photos,
fee-based alternatives. Consumers, whether and Episodes. CBS’s successfully syn-
through legal or illegal means, have dicated show “Everybody Loves
become accustomed to the on-demand Raymond” has even less: Home, About,
nature of the Internet. Traditional media and Cast.
producers and developers will have to Websites developed for dramas tend
respond or be circumnavigated. to be more complex. The perennial
Traditional media also develops mate- crime or legal show format allows
rial supplemental to its broadcast offer- plenty of supplementary material: ex-
ings. Commercial radio and television planations of forensic techniques,
networks use the Internet to build upon real-world legal precedents, detailed
their brand identity and to give fans descriptions of crime scenes and evi-
additional opportunities to bond, and dence, and so on. Some ongoing dramas,
even interact, with products. Develop- such as PBS’s “American Family,”
ment of these materials often occurs in provide insights into the characters on
tandem with development of the origi- the shows. In the case of “American
nal broadcast show. Some shows, such as Family,” the character Cisco keeps an
4 Development 95

online interactive journal (Figure 4.9),

which was developed by Artifact, an
independent integrated content creation
company. Artifact CEO, editor, and cre-
ative director Steve Armstrong said that
the goal of the online journal is to give
the audience “a glimpse of this guy fig-
uring things out.”19
With the future of the web and of its
effect on traditional media still develop-
ing, traditional media wants to be sure
not to miss the boat. Experimenting
with web development and testing its
outcomes is something that program-
mers must take into account in today’s
programming landscape.

A New Venue for chatting partners to become better Figure 4.9

acquainted, even if many suspect and Cisco’s journal,
Independent Developers
many more discover a rampant element mostly composed of
There is plenty of Internet content, pro- of false advertising. images, is updated
duced by individuals or collaborations, For others, self-expression bleeds into with clues about
that is not directly associated with a tra- self-promotion. Some personal websites the “American
Family” character’s
ditional media or commercial entity. have become calling cards, promoting
inner motivations,
Development of this material arises with job skills and especially artistic endeav- thoughts, and
numerous motives, depends on various ors in ways that were much more diffi- impulses.
resources, and results in wide-ranging cult before the Internet. In 1981, artist
outcomes. Keith Haring, bypassing the exclusive art
Chief among the motives of inde- gallery system, took to the New York
pendent web content developers is subways armed with sticks of chalk with
the desire for self-expression. Many which he drew his soon-to-be-famous
individuals have set up web pages with unmistakable artworks on the walls of
information about themselves, their the underground rails. The notoriety
interests, and their pursuits. For some, afforded him by this public art soon
these sites have no other goal than to brought offers to show his works in the
inject a personal mark into the global very galleries he had been flouting by
community of the Internet. An ever- going directly to “the people.” Today,
growing and -contracting group of artists, independent film producers,
companies provides “free” advertisement- musicians, writers, and animators use the
supported web hosting services that Internet, hoping it will provide them
allow users to create their own websites. the kind of public exposure that the
The craze of Internet dating or just subways did for Haring.
simple chatting would be hobbled Putting content on the Internet is
without the ability of potential mates easy. Getting someone to see it is
to post their pictures and information another matter. Had Haring put his
about their personal attributes onto chalk drawings in the sewage system of
easily accessible websites. They may New York rather than the subway, no
trade the addresses of these with one would have seen them. Among the

developers are always vying for top

placement in search engines, and search
engine companies are always trying to
fight off tactics that developers use to
trick their spiders into giving them top
placement, even if their sites may not be
the most appropriate match for a search.
One of the many criteria that search
engines may use in ranking sites is
to index how many other websites
contain links to a specific site. The idea
here is if a lot of other websites are
linked to a specific site, that site must
be popular or at least of interest—so the
search engine might rank that site
higher than other sites that contain
the same indexed words. So, along with
making sure that a site contains the
correct words, it is a good idea to
exchange links with other websites.
There are entire books written about
search engine strategies, so we will not
go into them here.20,21
Another way for independent pro-
ducers to have their programming seen
on the Internet is to submit to sites that
review submissions and place those that
meet their qualifications on their own
Figure 4.10 millions of websites on the Internet, sites. The granddaddy of these sites is
Screenshot of the people who wish to have their material Ifilm.com (Figure 4.10), which has
Ifilm.com website. seen must develop a plan for doing so. launched the careers of many film and
(Courtesy After a website is up on the web, the television makers. In some ways, the
ifilm.com.) easiest first step in bringing the site Internet has become like a big, ongoing
to the attention of web surfers is to film and television pilot festival—but
submit the site to search engines, like a film festival, it is not necessarily a
such as Google.com, Yahoo.com, and free-for-all. If sites want to maintain
AltaVista.com. A computerized program their audiences, they must exercise some
called a spider will visit the address pro- editorial quality control. There are
vided and index all of the words on the dozens of reputable sites that accept sub-
site. Then, when someone puts some of missions from many genres and interests
those words into a search engine, the and many more less-reputable ones.
engine will return all sites that contain With film sites that accept submissions
those words as potential matches. there are animation sites and even sites
Although those are the basics of how that target radio. Transom.org is a web-
a search engine operates, behind the site with a goal, founder Jay Allison says,
scenes things are more complex.Website of getting new and unsolicited voices on
5 Testing

In this chapter you will learn about the air, more programs fail than succeed,
following: contradicting the test findings. Why do
we continue to resort to TV program
• The importance of testing in making
testing when its failure is so monumen-
programming decisions
tal? Testing [is] the bane of program-
• The significance of sample selection
ming. It’s amazing how we still cling
• The four primary types of testing
to it.”1
• How the effectiveness of testing is
Supporters of research may argue that
failure cannot always be ascribed to
• Why Las Vegas is considered an ideal
faulty testing. Many cancellations are the
testing location
result of poor execution, inept schedul-
• Individual song and listener-lifestyle
ing, unrealistic expectations, misdirected
testing for radio
promotion, or murderous competition.
• User-friendliness testing of Internet
And so it goes, attackers vs. defenders.
In this chapter, we examine the various
• Different views on the efficacy of
techniques used by researchers and
explore the strengths, weaknesses, and
Research is a heavily used device in the interpretations. No matter what side of
programming process. Programmers are the argument a programmer adopts,
reluctant to commit huge amounts of knowledge of the testing systems and
money to productions without some procedures is essential.
evidence from the public that the
project has a reasonable chance of TELEVISION TESTING
success. That would seem to be unas-
sailable prudence. But it is routinely All network programs and most syndi-
assailed. Doubters ask the questions: cated programs, regardless of the
Who is being researched? How reliable daypart, are subjected to some testing.
are these potential viewers? Who is Less attention is paid to testing in cable,
doing the interpreting? What is the track possibly because cable tends to keep its
record for all this statistical stuff ? testing under the radar. For example,
According to some critics, the history Chris Albrecht, HBO’s programming
of predictive research in television is chief, says he does not believe in testing,
abysmal. Dan Enright, a producer of particularly after “The Sopranos” testing
programs since the medium’s inception, was not promising and HBO decided to
stated, “Nearly every network program go ahead anyway, creating one of televi-
that sees the light of television has been sion’s biggest hits. Programmers wishing
tested by focus groups and other mass to start a cable niche channel will more
devices. And each has passed its test with than likely test to see whether the
flying colors. However, once they hit the concept has potential. In general,


however, testing is not as prevalent in show has become essential. If viewers

cable as it is in broadcast television are not aware that a show is on the
because programming is supported, at schedule or about to premiere, that
least partly, by viewer subscription fees show’s chances for success are signifi-
instead of by advertising. cantly diminished. Testing awareness has
Because the advertising stakes are so thus taken on great significance. At a
high, prime-time network shows go 2003 presentation to a class of radio and
through a constant testing process from television majors at California State
the initial concept through the first year University, Fullerton, Howard Schnei-
on the air and sometimes even later. der, then vice president of promotions at
There are several companies that do this the Fox network, sought to determine
type of research, the most active of whether the students were aware of
which is Audience Studies Institute shows coming to the Fox lineup. He
(ASI), a company that claims to be able showed on-air promotional spots to the
to test virtually anything. ASI bills itself class to get a sense of what did and did
as the largest communications-specialist not work, but what he really wanted to
data-research organization in the gauge was the students’ awareness of
country. According to David Castler, upcoming programs.
president and CEO, the full-service Promo tests become a key gauge of
testing facility includes the following audience awareness. However, before a
client services: new show airs, the promo developers
only have the pilot to work with.There-
• Broadcast and cable television pilots
fore, there may not be a lot of footage
and programs
available to create a promo that will
• Continuing series
generate excitement and audience
• Title, concept, and script appeal
awareness. It thus becomes important to
• Movies made for television
use promo testing to evaluate what will
• Children’s programs
get a show recognized by viewers. If
• Target audiences
the promos do not connect with the
• Program scheduling
audience, the show’s awareness suffers
• Commercials
• Gaming
With the increased importance of
• Sports
awareness, a company such as ASI
• Personalities—News anchors and
provides “customized” research. For
program hosts
example, Castler said that ASI will
• Competitive environment
conduct studies for a client to determine
• Station image
an audience’s awareness of a program’s
• Brand image
existence. Then it will probe to see
• Tune-in campaigns
whether those who know it is on have
• Program and channel awareness
sampled it and, if so, whether they are
watching more or less than they used to.
Awareness Testing
The last item, program and channel
awareness, is important because viewers A research design can be developed to
have so many choices and because investigate any problem confronting a
shows are given so little time to estab- programmer. Its value and reliability are
lish themselves. Viewer awareness of a subject to a host of variables, the first
5 Testing 101

of which is the quality of the test

Program testing requires the recruit-
ment of groups who represent the uni-
verse to be measured. For example, if a
producer wishes to test the effectiveness
of a program with the 18- to 34-year-
old female audience, the testing service
must locate a sufficient number of
viewers in this category to draw reliable
conclusions. In addition, the survey
group must offer a balance of economic,
social, ethnic, and geographical consider-
ations to prevent tilted or biased results.
Beverly Bolotin, executive vice presi-
dent of client services at ASI, says the
sampling selected for a test reflects the To achieve the optimal sampling, CBS Figure 5.1
demographic of the targeted network. A established a testing center in the MGM CBS has found
network that caters primarily to a young Grand Hotel in Las Vegas in 2001. Las Vegas to be an
demographic will be tested by that Dubbed CBS Television City (Figure excellent place to
specific group. 5.1), the research center uses A.C. test shows because
of the large cross
According to Paul S. Lendburg, ASI’s Nielsen’s Reel Research online system;
section of
chief consultant, “Sampling isn’t the every seat has a touch screen, allowing
most important thing in research today; network executives near and far to track available to take
it’s the only thing.” The reason is appar- viewer responses. The facility is geared part in testing at
ent. Even the most carefully constructed for maximum efficiency. Equipped with their Television
questionnaire or the most skillfully con- two screening rooms that can accom- City. (Courtesy
ducted discussion session will yield modate 25 people each, it is also set up Donny Sianturi.)
worthless results if the respondents are to handle focus groups, where partic-
not representative of the whole. Exam- ipants discuss the merits and deficits of
ining 40 18- to 25-year-old females, all a show. Two-way mirrors enable execu-
of whom come from the same ethnic- tives to observe these discussions. Video
ity and church group in a community conferencing is also available. Serving as
of $300,000 homes, is not going to help a magnet to attract test subjects to CBS
a producer develop a format for a tele- Television City, next door to the testing
vision show intended for a broad facility there is a retail shop that sells
national audience. merchandise from CBS/Viacom shows:
Respondents are usually selected by T-shirts, hats, cups, etc. Coupons for
phone. Data available from many sources items in the retail shop are given to
enables a recruiter to establish the individuals who watch the shows being
general socioeconomic level of each tested.
home to be called. The respondent is According to Eric Steinberg, senior
taken through a detailed questionnaire, vice president of research at CBS, Las
and if the answers fit the needs of the Vegas provides an excellent cross section
study, the person is asked to participate. of the population for testing purposes.
There are financial and practical limita- Visitors from across the country visit Las
tions to assembling a perfectly balanced Vegas, and many of them have free time
sample group. in the afternoons to engage in program

testing for CBS. The CBS Las Vegas the words are not filtered through a
testing center proved so successful and computer or hidden in a welter of sta-
cost effective that NBC opened its own tistics. The passion, or the tepidness, of
testing center at the Venetian Hotel in the consumers’ reactions can serve as
2004. guidelines for format adjustment and
After the sample is selected, the improvement. Because there are only 12
research is conducted. There are four participants, the findings are never quan-
primary methods of conducting pro- tified. However, any unanimously nega-
gram research: focus groups, minithe- tive expression would be a clear signal
ater tests, cable-based studies, and for remedial action. A focus session is a
telephone research. hunt for clues and should be used as
Focus Groups There are three major concerns about
this form of research: the limited size of
For this method, the research company the group, the potential for a strong-
brings together a small group (usually 10 willed participant to unduly influence
to 12 participants) to discuss a program- the opinions of others, and an analyst
ming matter under the guidance of a who does not connect with the
trained moderator. The subject of the members of the focus group.The size of
focus group might range from the any group cannot be enlarged without
appeal of potential hosts for a game risking a loss of control and candor.
show to the acceptability of the lan- However, clients who wish a greater
guage used in a sitcom pilot. range of responses can lessen the effect
In some cases, the session will begin of the small sample by ordering addi-
with a screening of the program to be tional sessions. The second concern can
studied, although focus groups have be more damaging. Dominant personal-
been used to test program concepts that ities do not always reveal themselves in
have not been committed to paper, let a preinterview and can burst open
alone videotape. The conversation typi- during the session to the surprise and
cally lasts about 2 hours. The moderator chagrin of all. Experienced moderators
will have a carefully prepared list of are frequently able to cope with this
topics but will not slavishly follow it. dismaying situation by repeated appeals
The goal of the session is to stimulate “to let everyone have a fair chance to
candid comments that will allow a client speak.” When the dominant personality
to hear what the audience really thinks. simply will not cooperate, the session
For later reference, the sessions are has to be invalidated and a new one
generally videotaped by an unobtrusive scheduled—a waste of time and money
camera. to all involved.
One of the virtues of focus groups is Scott Gimple, the creator of the chil-
that they can be conducted in any city dren’s television show “Fillmore,” expe-
with a minimum of equipment and rienced the third situation firsthand.
expense. TV sets and VCR or DVD He was stationed behind the two-way
units are available everywhere, and the mirror to observe the focus group that
moderator only needs to bring a copy would help to determine the fate of his
of the show and a pad to be in business. show. He quickly became concerned
The chief value of a focus session is that with the moderator’s approach when he
the producer or programmer can gain adopted a military style of barking ques-
reactions directly from the consumer; tions at the 6 year olds in the group.

times the producers were trying to fine- and “crash.” One time I showed it,
tune the series to make it better. Such about 10 of the participants were
was the case when we tested “Ink.” Ted students from a local college and the
Danson, “Ink’s” star, had a contractual rest of the group was a mixed demo-
arrangement with CBS, so the series graphic. The college students loved the
was going to make it into the schedule show and laughed enthusiastically at
regardless, but the producers hoped to the jokes. All the people in the room
ensure its longevity through testing. rated the program high. The next time
Such was not the case—it did not last I showed it, about 10 of the participants
long. were from a retirement community and
I found that the actions of one the rest were similar in demographics
person or a small group could affect to the people in the group with college
the results of the overall minitheater students. The senior citizens did not
testing session even though each enjoy the program and probably did not
person filled out his or her own ques- understand most of the jokes, but the
tionnaire. For example, one program I whole group rated it low. Being in a
tested started with a woman doing a room with people who either like or do
striptease in a courtroom (probably in not like the show seems to affect those
an attempt to bounce the needle). who might otherwise be more neutral.
During one testing session, a woman The minitheater session leaders,
said, “This is disgusting,” and got up other than myself, were primarily
and walked out. The show scored actors. Everyone was cooperative
much lower overall in that session than about switching shifts if someone
in any other sessions. had an audition. It is an excellent job
Another potential series I tested was for actors because it gives them
a comedy about a computer genius experience in front of people and the
that included plays on words related to opportunity to make a repeated
computers, such as “log on,” “boot,” canned speech sound spontaneous.

Minitheater Research who receive $50 to $75 each to a spe-

cially equipped facility. On the arm of
For minitheater research, a sample group each seat is a small electronic device that
of people from the desired universe are contains a dial participants can turn to
brought to a small theater where they any setting between ++ and --. The
record their likes and dislikes. Within dials are connected to a central computer
commercial television, the main use of the that records the consumers’ choices.
minitheater is to study series pilots.These Responses can be broken into virtually
tests allow the programmer and the pro- any demographic configuration desired
duction staff to see whether the concept by the client. Also on the dial at ASI is
is sound and the execution is satisfactory. a button that respondents can push at
Although many of the directorial flaws, the point they would turn to another
casting mistakes, and other production channel. This is the “tune out” button.
missteps become apparent when the pilot The dial also has a “buy” button that
is privately screened, the executives and respondents can push at the point they
producers still have no way of knowing are ready to buy a product offered by a
whether the public will find the show commercial.The ASI dial was created by
appealing. For that, some expression from Castler, and it is the only dial that has
potential viewers is required. the “tune out” and “buy” buttons.
ASI attempts to fill this need with After participants have been comfort-
their minitheater research service. It ably seated and a moderator has
invites 42 carefully selected individuals explained the operation of the dialing
5 Testing 105

device, the pilot is presented on a large Castler adds that he would prefer for
screen. The dials are preset exactly emotionally attached performers not to
between ++ and --. As the show witness the testing sessions, but this is
unfolds, consumers twist the dial to not something he can control.
signify their pleasure or disinterest in the For many years, ASI conducted its
events on the screen. The sum of their theater research on a much larger scale.
reactions is instantaneously calculated by Approximately 400 consumers were
the computer and converted into a invited to react to programs in a large
running graph, not unlike an EKG theater. Approximately 50 of the partic-
readout. The people who have commis- ipants were hooked up to special sensing
sioned the study are seated in client devices that measured their pulse and
booths, watching the same film on a perspiration as the show evolved. The
special monitor on which the graph greater these emotional responses, the
plays along the bottom of the screen. more effective the show was judged to
Clients are immediately able to see the be. However, the results were ambiguous
joke that worked, the scene that failed. and difficult to interpret, and the tech-
The entire picture, including the graph, nique was subsequently shelved. The
is taped and made available for subse- minitheater replaced large-house testing
quent second-by-second study. for two reasons: (1) When there were
Following the screening, consumers basically three networks, people were
are asked to fill out questionnaires that excited and willing to participate in
contain personal information and sup- testing on a voluntary basis; television
plementary inquiries about the program. was fresh and it was fun to be part of
The questionnaires are coded by seat the process of determining what was
number and can be linked with the going to be on the air. Today, however,
computer readouts of the dial responses. it is necessary to compensate respon-
Thus, the client can obtain the reaction dents for the 2 hours they devote to
of any demographic subgroup in the testing. Thus, the cost of testing large
audience. groups became prohibitive. (2) It is
After the screening, approximately 24 possible to achieve essentially the same
individuals are asked to stay behind to reliability with a smaller group for
participate in follow-up focus sessions, substantially less cost.
two sessions of 12 people each. The Also, the smaller sample helped to
purpose of this final phase is to probe eliminate a misuse of the service. With
the feelings and reasoning behind the 400 consumers in the survey, clients
reactions of the respondents. The mod- were tempted to seek one number, the
erator has seen the graph and can average score of all the dials over the
explore highs and lows in greater detail. course of the screening. ASI has always
One potential drawback to having the cautioned against such a simplification
creators or performers in the client of the system, but programmers and
booth can occur if the focus group is producers found it a short, convenient
going badly (“How can someone of his way to interpret the findings. Producers
stature be a part of something as awful quickly learned that decision makers
as this?”). Castler says that often a were placing great emphasis on that one
creator will storm out of the client figure and hit upon a technique to make
booth, rush into such a focus session, it work for them.The trick was to insert
and take it over to see whether the a high-powered scene early in the show.
negative comments can be redirected. The earlier the viewer could be moved

off the middle reading and toward the scribers willing to participate in a
++ side, the better the chances that the survey. The consumers are asked to
overall rating would be impressive. Con- watch the program that will be fed on
sequently, veteran producers inserted a certain channel number at a specific
rousing action or sex scenes at the time. A reminder call is usually made the
beginning of programs, many times with day of the test. Upon the conclusion of
little or no relevance to the drama, just the program, an interviewer phones the
to bounce the needle. consumer and administers a detailed
They would test the show, edit (or verbal questionnaire to obtain the infor-
reshoot) scenes, test it again, edit again, mation most desired by the client.
and keep up the process until they had As in other forms of testing previ-
engineered a lofty overall score. Then ously described, a consumer sample can
the pilot would be turned over to the be assembled to meet any demographic
buyers for evaluation. The first thing need. Without the distraction of other
they did was test it at ASI. Sure enough, participants and within the environment
there it was—a whopping number. A hit of his or her own living room, a partic-
was assured; everyone was delighted. ipant is more likely to offer reliable
Unfortunately, many of those “guaran- responses.
teed” smashes quickly wound up in the
Nielsen graveyard. ASI ended the game Telephone Research
by reducing the sample and withholding
any composite number. Clients were Phone research has limited value for
encouraged to use the service for its determining reaction to proposed tele-
original intent, spotting flaws and dis- vision programs because the consumers
covering targets or opportunity. cannot simultaneously watch a program
and answer a questionnaire. However,
Cable-Based Research phone research can be used effectively
to find out information about programs
One of the major drawbacks of theater on the air.
research, at least as perceived by many Interviewers call appropriate samples
clients, is the unnatural setting of the of people and gather their responses to
test. Television is usually a solitary or set questionnaires. Sometimes the inter-
family experience, most frequently viewers merely screen and obtain the
occurring in the comfort of a home.Yet, permission of the people over the phone
the testing takes place in a public facil- then mail them the questionnaires.
ity with the ever-present possibility that This method usually requires numerous
crowd response and other distractions follow-up calls to remind the partici-
might influence judgments. This dis- pants to fill out and mail in the
satisfaction led to a search for a method questionnaires.
by which people’s opinions could be One of the major phone–mail
solicited in the normal viewing envi- research studies is TVQ, a popularity
ronment. The solution was cable-based evaluation service. These periodic
research. studies, provided by Marketing Evalua-
Companies that offer this service tions, measure the audience’s familiarity
develop relationships with cable opera- with programs and personalities and the
tors throughout the country. Through intensity of their appeal. A nationwide
these connections, they are able to panel of 1800 viewers completes a
recruit the desired number of sub- mailed questionnaire (Figure 5.3) that
5 Testing 107

Figure 5.3
A sample of a
Evaluations, Inc.)

Figure 5.4
Past Recent
tion to Performer Q, TVQ, and Cable
Some past and Q described previously, Marketing
recent shows that “All in the Family” “Friends” Evaluations offers Sport Q, Cartoon
began as borderline Q, Product Q, Kids Product Q, and
“Hill Street Blues” “X-Files”
programs that Dead Q (performers of the past).
survived because of “Cheers” “Everybody Loves Raymond”
Subscribers primarily use the data to
strong TVQ scores.
(Courtesy “St. Elsewhere” “Ally McBeal” determine the intrinsic appeal of a show.
Marketing When the Nielsen rating is low but the
“Seinfeld” “Touched by an Angel”
Evaluations, Inc.) quality of the production seems to be
first rate, the programmer will fre-
quently look to the TVQ for glimpses
of encouragement (Figure 5.4). If the Q
score is high but familiarity is weak,
it suggests that those who have seen it
like it but that too few have seen it.
An expansion of audience awareness
through a heavy promotion campaign
might result in success. If the ratings are
low but the Q score for a particular
demographic unit is high, it could mean
a time change is called for (Figure 5.5).
In terms of television history, David
Poltrack, CBS’s head of research and
planning, noted that in the 1988–1989
broadcast television season, “without the
TVQ ratings, ‘Tour of Duty’ and
‘Wiseguy’ would not have been on this
season’s schedule. Their Q scores helped
to get them renewed despite low
Nielsen ratings.”
The application of TVQ findings to
casting decisions can be the cause of
great concern among performers. The
Screen Actors Guild has railed against
Figure 5.5 lists up to 1700 personalities (Performer the service for more than a decade.
How TVQ scores Q), 350 broadcast television programs Kathleen Nolan, former president of the
can predict (TVQ) and 175 cable programs (Cable guild, called it an infuriating catch-22:
potential winners: if Q). “If you’re not on the air, you’re not
the TVQ score is Results are distributed to clients in familiar. If you’re not familiar, you’re not
higher than the
the distilled form of two scores, Fam on the air.” Performers believe that a
familiar score, that
(the percentage of respondents familiar good Q score is a function of the part
is a positive sign
as opposed to a with the subject) and Q (the percentage being played. The actor who plays
high familiarity who checked “one of my favorites”). Saddam Hussein will be less liked than
and a low TVQ Demographic breakouts according to the one who portrays a hero fighting
score. (Courtesy age, gender, education, household tyranny.
Marketing income, employment, race, and religion Program executives generally deny a
Evaluations, Inc.) are also offered in the report. In addi- reliance on TVQ for casting decisions.
5 Testing 109

Actors and other on-air people remain

skeptical. “They shouldn’t be,” said Tony
Barr, a former vice president of dramatic
programs at CBS. “In my 11-1/2 years
at CBS, I never once even heard the
phrase ‘TVQ’ mentioned. It simply was
not a factor in any talent decisions.”This
is a position many current programmers
and casting directors continue to
support, at least in public.

Station Testing
Little program testing is done by either
affiliated or independent stations, pri-
marily because there are so few locally
originated shows. Research is confined
almost exclusively to news productions.
“We do quite a number of focus sessions
over the course of a year on our news
personalities,” said Bob Brooks, program
director of KFOR in Oklahoma City.
“It helps us to see if they’re in tune with
our audience.”
Newscasters historically have resented the figures and come to their own Figure 5.6
being submitted to focus group scrutiny. conclusions. “Sesame Street”
They feel they should be evaluated as underwent intensive
reporters, not showpeople, and that testing before its
Public Broadcasting debut in 1969,
focus research places too much empha-
and elements of it
sis on appearance and not enough on Testing is not a high priority in public
are still tested on a
journalistic skill. In a perfect world, broadcasting, partly because of its cost
regular basis.
program executives might tend to agree. and partly because public broadcasting (Courtesy
But many viewers base their news shows do not live or die by ratings. Children’s
selection on the clothes, hairstyle, Sometimes the producers of PBS pro- Television
mannerisms, and personality of the grams (primarily the public TV stations) Workshop.)
anchors; as long as that is so, decision will test shows just as commercial pro-
makers will take steps to ensure these ducers do, but many shows hit the air-
qualities are present. waves without the benefit of testing.
When local stations need to make One major exception to this is the
decisions about the inclusion of syndi- programming that comes from the Chil-
cated programs in their lineup, almost all dren’s Television Workshop, for example,
syndicators can produce research by the “Sesame Street.” This organization
ton to show why their programs cannot undertakes major statistical pretesting to
miss in any market. Station program determine not only how well children
directors see no need to conduct their like their programs but also how much
own studies to confirm or deny the they learn by watching (Figure 5.6).
syndicator’s data. They usually examine Interestingly, Nickelodeon’s successful

gramming. Advisory boards, although

they do not constitute a formal testing
audience, are often used as a sounding
board for ideas and programs.

Commercial radio makes extensive use
of testing to determine the effectiveness
of potential formats, music mixes, on-air
personalities, contests, and promotions.
Many companies exist to assist radio
stations, networks, consultants, or station
group owners with their specific needs.
Some of these specialize in specific
Figure 5.7 aspects of radio programming, such
Nickelodeon’s as adult contemporary music, small
“Blue’s Clues” markets, news, or talk, but most of them
uses testing will conduct research studies into any-
successfully. (Globe thing the client requests.
Photos, Inc.)

children’s show “Blue’s Clues” (Figure
5.7) undertook much of the same Radio stations test potential broadcast
research as “Sesame Street” at a more material to answer two questions:Will it
intense level. As Malcolm Gladwell keep our current listeners tuned in? And
wrote in The Tipping Point, “Where will it attract new listeners?
Sesame Street tests a given show only Current listeners are broken into two
once—and after it’s completed—Blue’s segments: preference 1 (P1) listeners
Clues tests shows three times before and preference 2 (P2) listeners. P1
they go on the air. And while Sesame listeners are considered to be a station’s
Street will typically only test a third of core listeners—those who respond with
its episodes, Blue’s Clues tests them all.”2 the name of your station when asked,
Occasionally, a public TV station will “What radio station did you listen to the
pretest a local concept. For example, in most over the past week?” P2 listeners
1991, WGBH in Boston decided to are those who name your station as
program a talk show without a host. another station they tuned in to over the
Because this was a rather revolutionary past week. Usually the other station
idea, the station tested the idea all named is a competitor of the P1 station
summer and made many changes before that the listener tunes in to when he or
launching the show in the fall. she does not like what is playing on the
The CPB holds focus groups around P1 station or tunes in to “for a change.”
the country to discuss the overall effect Radio listeners who are not part of a
of certain programs and how public station’s core P1 or P2 are called the
broadcasting can better serve the public. cume, or the cumulative size of an
Sometimes local stations piggyback onto area’s radio audience for all stations
these focus groups and arrange to have during a given period. A radio station’s
the participants queried about local pro- goals, then, are to maintain its P1,
5 Testing 111

convert its P2 into P1, and attract new video programs, audio musical selections
cume listeners, ideally converting them can easily be played over the phone, so
into P1 or P2 core listeners. people do not need to be brought into
To test what broadcast material might a theater where the artificiality of the
accomplish these aims, radio stations situation can corrupt the findings.
must be able to target their testing to Phone research is usually conducted
specific segments of the radio-listening from a research company’s central office
population. A radio program director that can be located anywhere in the
trying to learn the type of news items country. The people undertaking the
that appeal to the station listeners, most phone interviews are all in one location
of whom are 12- to 24-year-old males, where they can be carefully trained and
would obtain little value from a research supervised. This type of testing is rela-
study if the research company used the tively inexpensive.
general population as a base. However, people are not usually
Research companies often call many willing to spend much time on the
people and administer a prequestionnaire phone answering questions and listening
before they solicit people for radio to musical selections. Also, the low
testing. This prequestionnaire consists of fidelity of the phone system can inter-
lifestyle elements such as age, income, fere with a listener’s enjoyment of a
and general radio-listening patterns. song that might sound more acceptable
When more than enough people have on stereo FM. As a result, minitheater
been found to fulfill the needs of the testing (usually called auditorium
particular study, a random group of testing in radio jargon) is also used for
these people is asked to participate in the radio, particularly when numerous
research. Or sometimes, when a person musical selections need to be tested.
has been identified from the preques- Typically 75 to 125 people are brought
tionnaire as appropriate for the research, into an auditorium to listen to music.
he or she is administered the research Focus groups of 10 to 12 people are
questionnaire immediately. If the research also used, especially to discuss broad
is being conducted for a local station, as concepts such as proposed format
opposed to a network, the sample should alterations or changes to call letters.
be drawn from a particular market. Often, questionnaires are distributed to
To solve the sampling problem, research participants before the focus group to
companies or radio stations themselves minimize the group psychology or the
sometimes use only known station listen- effects of a dominant personality. These
ers as the universe from which to select questionnaires are used during the focus
the sample. Stations keep lists of people groups to bring up ideas that may have
who call in, write, or e-mail and contact been expressed on paper by the more
them when research needs to be under- reticent members of the group.
taken. This sample base is not effective if A growing number of radio stations
the station is trying to gain new listeners also use the Internet to conduct testing.
from the cume, but it is effective if the On a radio station’s website, listeners
goal is to please P1 and P2 listeners. can voluntarily weigh in on, among
other things, which songs they think
Testing Methodology should be played more or less often on
the station. Uses for and of Internet
Telephone research is the most common testing will likely continue to evolve and
methodology for radio testing. Unlike expand, although the Internet poses

inherent integrity quandaries because it munity response to a variety of struc-

is difficult to verify the identities of tures. In addition, participants usually
respondents. One person could unde- listen to sample material of various
tectably answer the same survey multi- formats and are asked their opinion of
ple times out of enthusiasm for a each. Usually this type of research is
favorite artist, through mischief, because conducted in focus groups, although
of boredom, or with a more malicious a station that has narrowed the format
intent, and skew the results. choice to three or four can use phone
Some phone testing companies, such as or auditorium research to tabulate
Music-Tec (http://www.musictec.com), opinions.
combine the old standard of phone • Music within format—Although a
testing with new technologies to create good program manager will have a
a less-expensive, automated system that feel for which new releases fit within
still offers a strong, if not foolproof, the station format, his or her judg-
ability to validate its data. With Music- ment should sometimes be checked
Tec’s system, targeted audience members or enhanced by playing the new
who have agreed to participate in testing releases for audience members and
are given a toll-free number and an seeing which they feel belong.
identification number. When they call Usually this research is auditorium-
the system, they enter their unique ID based because entire selections are
number, are given instructions about presented, although short samples of
how to use the system, and then are the music can be played over the
played samples of songs and asked to rate phone.
the songs by pressing a key on the • Music mix—The order in which
phone from 1 (hate) to 5 (favorite). various musical selections are offered
Occasionally, as they go through the is another element that lends itself to
songs, respondents are asked to speak auditorium research. Do the listeners
their names into the phone, which like three oldies between each new
records them to validate their identity. release, or would they rather have a
An added advantage of this system is stronger emphasis on new recordings?
that respondents can rate as few or as How often should there be commer-
many songs at a time as they like, cial breaks? For this type of research,
hanging up whenever they become participants usually listen to several
fatigued and then calling back to pick samples demonstrating different music
up where they left off. mixes and indicate a preference.
• Music callouts—These are con-
Research Areas ducted to determine which songs
should be taken off a station and
Radio stations, because of their local and which should be added. Even though
individualistic nature, have a variety of people like to hear their favorite
research needs. Some of the most songs, popular music tends to burn
commonly tested topics include the out after a short period. Listeners
following: switch the dial when something they
have heard too often comes on. By
• Format—When a station is contem- determining ahead of time which
plating a format change and wants to songs are about to burn, a station can
find out what direction to take, it will engage in guardian maintenance and
commission research to explore com- save itself lost listeners by removing
5 Testing 113

Figure 5.8
Example of a
music callout results

the song before it chases away the disc jockey, the effectiveness of a cur-
audience. In a similar vein, listeners rently running contest, the likeability
can choose the new releases they of a talk show host, or the desirabil-
would most like to hear, and the ity of news on the half hour would
station can quickly add these to the be considered perceptual callouts. All
playlist.This type of research is usually of the respondents must be people
conducted over the phone with small who listen to the station.
bits of the old and new songs being • Lifestyle research—Wise radio
played and listeners being asked their station program managers will want
opinion (Figure 5.8). For most to know something about how
formats, this research must be directed audience members live their lives
specifically at people who listen to when the radio is off to better serve
the particular format and must be them when the radio is on. Lifestyle
conducted weekly. There are those research explores such characteristics
who think music callouts are useless as education, income, hobbies,
because of fast burnout. opinions on social issues, use of
• Perceptual callouts—The term various media other than radio, major
“perceptual” is used to refer to the purchases, and personal values.
research of items other than music. Through this type of research, pro-
For example, phone calls to people to gram directors can not only learn
determine the popularity of a new those characteristics that set their

audience members apart from rival judgment and testing to get the colors
stations but also discover particular just right.
segments of station listeners who
differ on important attributes. For Public Radio
example, a sizable group of people
available on weekends might like Public radio, on the other hand, plays
sports, and those available at 10:00 much looser with the testing ball, often
AM weekdays are neutral or negative dropping it altogether. A limited number
toward sports. This knowledge might of focus groups may comment on new
lead the station to adopt a block programs, some before they air. Net-
of weekend sports programming. works may conduct separate focus
Lifestyle analysis is easily done groups for audience members and for
through telephone interviews. station program directors. Often, differ-
ent results emerge from these two
In addition to these major forms of groups, thus proving to some program
research, radio stations often want to directors that they should not program
explore other areas. They may desire for their own taste.
research regarding new call letters, a new But public radio also may not test
logo, the feasibility of a particular pro- programs until they are already on the
motion campaign, or any other of a air. As NPR’s Peter Pennycamp
variety of subjects related to the overall explained, “The program is given several
programming. months to develop and shake out, and
Qualitative research is important to then focus groups are brought in.” This
the radio business, especially in markets time factor constitutes a major differ-
where the competition is keen. Program ence between commercial and public
managers who do not keep up with the broadcasting. Because public radio is not
latest thoughts and preferences of the dependent on advertiser support and
listening audience will quickly lose ratings, it has the luxury to let some-
touch—and their jobs. thing grow on its own.
Satellite radio also conducts testing in Still, PRI, for example, asks indepen-
many of these areas, although with dif- dent producers who are considering
ferent emphasis. Akin to cable television, submitting program material to have
satellite radio programming is, at least answers for the following questions
partly, supported by consumer subscrip- before submitting:3
tions instead of advertising. Program-
ming concerns are therefore less about • What is my program idea?
keeping listeners tuned in to a specific • What makes my perspective unique?
station at a certain time (to hear specific • Why would a national audience be
advertisements) and more about keeping interested in my program or series?
the audience satisfied with the selection • Why would a program director want
and content of the service as a whole. to broadcast this program or series?
This is especially important as the • What marketing strategies make good
service tries to gain more of a share of sense for this program?
the radio market. Recommendations to
friends from satisfied current subscribers INTERNET TESTING
are the pot of gold at the end of the
satellite radio programming rainbow. So As we explained in previous chapters,
programmers must exert significant Internet content can be generally
5 Testing 115

broken into two groups: content simul- they air local programming, there is
cast over the Internet, such as the live even less done to gauge the likes and
streaming of traditional radio or televi- dislikes of an international Internet
sion station broadcasts, and content audience.
available only on the Internet, which
can include archives and web-only Testing Archived and
media from traditional broadcasters Independently Produced Content
and content created by independent
developers. Archived content, likewise, does not
need to go through additional testing
Testing (Or Not) Simulcast before being placed on an Internet site.
Content Even with independently produced
web-only content, the interactive and
Simulcast content mostly relies on the choose-your-own-path nature of the
testing that radio or television entities Internet makes content testing largely
have already conducted before the tra- unnecessary.
ditional broadcast of the content. Pro- Radio and television stations, unlike
grammers of radio stations that are Internet entities, must make difficult
simulcast over the Internet (a growing choices about what to air when to gain
roster) rarely concern themselves with optimal market share of the available
what the potential worldwide Internet audience. But the interactivity of the
audience might like to hear on a live Internet allows audiences to request and
webcast. Their advertisers are targeting experience the content of their choice
the local audience, so that is the audi- whenever they want it. Although MTV
ence programmers target. The propor- (in its ever-diminishing lineup of solid
tion of local to out-of-area Internet music video programming) must play
audience members, especially to com- one music video after the other, risking
mercial radio and television, is probably that the second will turn off the viewer
negligible. It mostly consists of ex- who was interested in the first, a website
residents who listen out of habit or such as Launch.com can place thousands
nostalgia or locals who are not near a of music videos on its website and a
radio, are out of the broadcast range, viewer can choose which videos will
or for whom it is easier to listen on the come first, second, third, and so on.
computer—at work, for example. As long as descriptions of content and
Noncommercial simulcasts, however, hyperlinks are accurate, audiences will
are more likely to garner a more approach only content in which they
international audience. The United have an interest. If, however, descriptions
Kingdom’s BBC, for example, offers a and hyperlinks are misleading, web
live feed of its television news broad- surfers will quickly become frustrated
casts, and public broadcasting networks and likely abandon a site forever—so
from the United States, Canada, accuracy and truth in advertising is
Norway, Sweden, and so on all offer live highly advisable. A website is only as
radio feeds (many in English) that world strong as its weakest link. Some audience
news wonks tune in to regularly to members may have an interest in
gather different perspectives from amateur-produced content; let them
around the globe. But where there is know that beforehand and they will not
little to no testing of local populations be disappointed with subpar production
done by public radio stations before values.

Testing User Friendliness she observes a test subject’s first

approach to a new design. What seemed
Although testing of content before it a straightforward design can become
goes on the Internet is a minor concern, an incomprehensible maze to a web
another kind of testing is essential—the neophyte.
testing of functionality and usability.The Along with conducting their own
term user friendly was coined in the tests, web developers can turn to
1990s when the Internet was going numerous consulting companies that
through an awkward puberty. The term will conduct testing for them. As in
did not describe most websites of the television and radio, the consultant
period but was a guide to what they will want to first determine the target
should aspire to be. Thousands of web- audience then to gather a sample and
sites were being rushed to market— ask them to rate the proposed site based
developers trying to get their content on various criteria.
to the public as quickly as possible. Website usability analysis usually
Although a baffling array of content answers the following questions:
became available on the Internet, trying
• How does the target audience use the
to navigate through the content was
even more baffling. With poor naviga-
• Will a redesign make the site more
tion plans, buttons that did not do as
appealing or easier to use?
advertised, hyperlinks that led nowhere,
• How does the site’s usability compare
sites crowded with superfluous graphics,
with that of other sites serving the
time-consuming and useless introduc-
same audience?
tory pages and doodads, and especially
• Can a visitor find what he or she
discouraging experiences of devoting
came for, or do users leave without
tens of minutes filling in forms only to
have the site malfunction upon pressing
• Will the site attract the right audience?
the final submit button—if it was not
for the novelty of the Internet, users When it comes to advertising space—
would have long abandoned it in where, when, how much, and what
frustration. type—web developers must find ways,
But user friendliness became more of often through testing, to answer many of
a reality as web developers realized that, the same questions that radio, television,
although they may have desirable and and print media must answer. How
customizable content, if web surfers much advertising is too much? What
have to exert too much effort to get to type of advertising is more frustrating to
that content, they will give up and turn users, turning them off from the whole
to other more manageable sites. Worse site? For example, as more Internet users
yet, audiences may return to their radio switch to broadband Internet connec-
or television, where they can consume tions, web advertisers are finding new
without heartburn even if the flavor ways to use this bandwidth, replacing
may not be as consistently to their static banner advertisements with
individual tastes. streaming video, glitzy motion graphics,
Today web developers test their user and even animations that drop down or
interfaces and designs before they go dance across the content of the website.
live with their sites—if they know what Each new advertising format must be
is good for them. Even the most sea- tested, both for its effectiveness in
soned web designer is often surprised, gaining the audience’s attention and in
and somewhat befuddled, when he or conveying the intended message and for
5 Testing 117

the level of frustration it may cause for looking at. Was it a comedy, an adven-
viewers. ture, a combination of both, or what? So
Another cause for testing is required we ordered a second test and had the
by law of websites for nonprofit and moderator come out before the screen-
governmental agencies because there are ing to tell them it was a put on, it was
set federal accessibility standards to assist fun, it was OK to laugh. And they did.
users with vision or other impairments. The second score was very good. We
Many consultants offer these services, changed all our promos overnight to
both to check for compliance and to fix stress that the shows were fun.The spots
those elements that do not comply. positioned the audience properly and
we had an instant hit.”
DOES THE RESEARCH WORK? “All in the Family,” which premiered
in 1971 on CBS, was a show unlike
Although usability tests for websites do any other that had ever appeared on
not raise much controversy or debate, television (Figure 5.9). The protagonist,
attitudes toward whether or not research Archie Bunker, was a bigoted, racist
works in radio and television differ male chauvinist who referred to minori-
widely and sometimes passionately. ties in derogatory phrases and told his
Some producers consider qualitative wife to “stifle” herself. The reaction of
research a valuable tool in the shaping the test audience was primarily bewil-
of their productions. Others think it is derment with touches of outrage, and
a pestilence.They would rather put their the scores were decidedly subpar.
faith in the opinion of one experienced Nowhere in the survey findings was
staff member than in a battery of there indication that the show would
audience tests. Gene Reynolds, pro- become an enormous hit.
ducer of many popular shows, including When people seek to emphasize the
“M*A*S*H,” a multi-Emmy award flaws of testing, they often point to
winner, refused to even read a packet of “Seinfeld,” a phenomenally successful
research material that a network had show that tested poorly. But, as CBS’s
Figure 5.9
provided on a new series he was about
“All in the
to launch. He had his own vision of the
Family,” with
series and was more confident in his Carroll O’Connor
own instincts than in the reactions of playing the “lovable
untrained critics. bigot” Archie
The pilots of two of the biggest hits Bunker, dominated
in the history of network television the prime-time
received moderate to low test scores. ratings in the
“Batman,” a late-1960s weekly prime- 1970s. But when
time series based on the cartoon char- the pilot was
acter (later converted into a major tested, the show’s
motion picture success), was produced breakthrough
language and story
in a broad, tongue-in-cheek fashion.
lines puzzled and
With its colorful villains and larger-
than-life leads, it zoomed to the No. 1 respondents, who
position in weeks. But before its pre- gave it a failing
miere, it fared abominably in a large grade. (Courtesy
theater test. As one ABC program exec- the Academy of
utive recalled, “The theater audience Television Arts &
was puzzled about what they were Sciences.)

The show, which began in 1996, posted

“average” or “below average” scores at
ASI. Research found testing groups
complaining that the show contains
“nothing fresh or new.”4
One of the reasons “Everybody Loves
Raymond” has succeeded as well as it
has on air and in syndication is that it
contains no topical references, references
that can date a show quickly. The early
testing questioned the lack of topicality,
but creator and executive producer Phil
Rosenthal refused to alter the show,
resisting topical issues and calls to give
the show more edge.
In terms of concept testing, respon-
dents will sometimes take the high
road, indicating they would rather see a
serious piece about the Civil War than
a piece of fluff about three co-eds who
have to pretend to be strippers to save
their beloved sorority. The network
executive who sees a potential hit in the
Civil War movie based on testing might
be disappointed in the ratings if he or
she goes ahead with it, particularly if it
Figure 5.10 Steinberg observed in defense of testing, is programmed against the show about
Testing paved the people often fail to consider key factors the three co-eds. Failing to take into
way for the success when discussing so-called testing fail- account that respondents do not always
of “Joan of ures. He points out that the tested watch what they say they are going to
Arcadia” in the “Seinfeld” episode was very different watch can be a costly lesson.
from the show that aired and that Nevertheless, testing professionals
season. (Globe
became one of television’s landmark maintain that testing can be an indis-
Photos, Inc.)
shows. For example, the “Seinfeld” pensable tool and that testing inter-
episode that tested poorly did not preted correctly rarely fails to be an
include the pivotal character of accurate barometer. Interpreting testing
Elaine, played in the series by Julia correctly means not looking at testing in
Louis-Dreyfus. isolation but rather evaluating it in terms
Another show often singled out as a of other factors, such as scheduling,
testing failure is CBS’s “Everybody audience flow, and promotional mar-
Loves Raymond.” Television commenta- keting strategies and budgets.
tor Brian Lowry in an article question- CBS’s Steinberg believes strongly that
ing the effectiveness of focus groups programs need to “buy the equity of the
notes that the show, which became a audience,” and he points to the success
powerhouse for CBS, was dismissed by of CBS’s 2003–2004 drama “Joan of
focus groups as “too thin” and “not Arcadia” as a show that benefited greatly
current” with a “weak” main character from thorough testing and testing eval-
who has a wife who “lacks charisma.” uation (Figure 5.10). The show, about a
5 Testing 119

teenage girl who sees God in various they may have no personal stake in the
incarnations, sometimes as a cute production of a song as a television
teenage boy or sometimes as an African- programmer may have in a television
American cafeteria worker, had to be program. A radio station will be unable
positioned to avoid preaching at or to to keep sounding fresh without intro-
the audience. Nor could it offend the ducing fresh material, hoping that songs
audience. Thus a potentially controver- will catch on with listeners. But pro-
sial show about the sensitive topic of grammers know that it only takes one
religion avoided pitfalls as a result of lame song to make many audience
testing. members change the station, so they
Similarly, the testing of the promos of cannot go too far out on a limb when
“Hack,” a CBS drama that premiered in introducing new songs to audiences.
the 2002–2003 season, revealed that the Therefore, commercial radio program-
initial promo, which touted the show as mers often rely on public radio stations
“from the writer of ‘Spiderman,’ ” was to break new acts or songs, such as
using the wrong approach. This is Beck’s “Loser” in 1993 and Kelis’s
because the promo caused viewers to “Milkshake” in 2003, both of which saw
expect a superman-type story instead of their first spins on Los Angeles public
a gritty drama about a former Philadel- radio station KCRW.
phia cop who solves crimes from the But programmers also rely on an
vantage point of the cab he drives. artist’s reputation, combined with
Although budget constraints may pre- testing, when deciding to air new mate-
clude this from happening, testing can rial. This strategy, however, can have
also be useful in recasting if a particular inconsistent results. After Pink’s 2000
performer in a pilot fails to connect debut album, with the hit song “Most
with a test group. Girls,” programmers held their breath
Test findings are most reliable when for the dreaded sophomore album,
they are measured against the norms of where so many artists with great debuts
other programs of similar and familiar fall, never to be heard from again. The
content. Attempting to evaluate unique lead single on Pink’s 2001 Missundaztood
program concepts for which no norma- album, “Get this Party Started,” had
tive values have been established proves mixed testing results, but as Sean Ross,
difficult. The system can be unreliable if Edison Media Research vice president
the show departs too radically from the of music and programming, said, “Top
norm. Or, as Ken Auletta reports in his 40 programmers, thrilled to have some
book Three Blind Mice, breakout shows actual, by God, pop/rock balance on
such as “Hill Street Blues” test poorly their stations, held their breath and
because they are not familiar.5 waited—playing it a rotation, or two,
Because song callouts for radio higher than it might have deserved
usually consist of playing the short initially, because it was a record they
hook of a song to a test subject in an wanted to work.” Eventually it became
unnatural environment, usually over the one of the biggest singles of the year
phone, some question the efficacy of and yielded two more hit singles from
callouts, especially when evaluating how the album. But when Pink’s third effort
receptive the audience may be to an was released in 2003, the first single,
unfamiliar, newly released song. Radio “Trouble,” got immediate airplay from
programmers want new songs to programming directors who thought,
succeed with audiences, even though after striding over the sophomore
6 Elements of

In this chapter, you will learn about the that have shaped the contemporary
following: landscape.
In one respect, programming for tele-
• How industry professionals create vision, radio, and the Internet is no dif-
successful programming ferent from any other marketed product:
• The importance of prestige and awards success is measured by the achievement
in determining a program’s success of an objective. In most cases, the goal of
• How timing, trend awareness, and programs is to attract the largest possible
other key factors influence success or audience—but not always. As you shall
failure see, some shows have a different purpose.
• The important difference between After an objective is established, the
star-dominant programming and programmer must decide how to attract
format-dominant programming the audience. Can viewers, listeners,
• Radio’s focus on being locally rele- or Internet users best be reached by
vant, creating a mood, and maintain- laughter or adventure, drama or interac-
ing innovation tivity? Once that decision is made, what
• The Internet producer’s need to keep elements should be emphasized to give
content fresh, consistent, and innovative a programmer a solid chance at success?
• The Internet’s unique ability to Even if these questions are carefully
target content to individual audience considered by the programmer, there is
members no guarantee of success. Audiences are
notoriously unpredictable, and their
How does a programmer create product tastes mercurial. But one thing is cer-
that has a reasonable chance at success? tain: no show ever succeeded by ignor-
Where does he or she start? What ing its objective or dismissing essential
factors are involved? What has worked elements.
in the past, and what is likely to work
today? In this chapter, we examine TELEVISION PROGRAMMING
elements that programmers must take
into consideration if they hope to Because commercial television and
achieve success.We look at past successes basic cable must be responsive to
to gain an appreciation of the influences advertisers, the overriding elements for


success have to do with delivering an But not all segments of the audience
audience for the advertisers. In addition, watch the same shows. Children, ethnic
basic cable has to provide programming groups, and infrequent viewers are all
that keeps subscribers paying their part of a broadcaster’s constituency. Each
monthly subscription fees. Premium will probably have different viewing
cable channels such as HBO, Cinemax, habits. It thus follows that programs
Starz, or Showtime, which do not have designed for the interests of these groups
to contend with advertisers, must must be represented on the schedule if
provide the type of programming that a broadcaster truly wants to reach the
justifies the additional subscription fees largest number of viewers.
charged to the subscriber. Cable system Frequently, however, a broadcaster (or
managers and consumers alike complain advertiser) is more interested in reach-
about rising costs. Cable multiple ing a particular segment of the audience
system owners (MSOs) complain rather than a large body count. Not all
because cable networks are charging segments of the audience watch the
high rates for the MSOs to carry their same programs. For example, a luxury
programming, even if the ratings are automobile company may have affluent
falling. Consumers complain because males as its principal advertising target.
the increasing fees MSOs pay are passed This marketing goal will be better
on to them in subscription fees that achieved through commercials in a golf
seem to rise too frequently. The five tournament than in a broad-based
most expensive television networks for sitcom whose larger audience consists
MSOs to carry in 2003 were, in order, primarily of women and children of
ESPN (charges $1.76 per household), lesser means. However, broadcasters
Fox Sports ($1.16), TNT ($0.78), the must be careful about scheduling pro-
Disney Channel ($0.74), and USA grams tailored to fit the specialized
($0.40).1 needs of a sponsor. The “demographic
show” with its highly focused but
Programming Objectives limited appeal may substantially reduce
the audience size of the programs that
Various goals may be established for a follow it. The consequent revenue loss
program. These are described in the fol- may exceed the profit from the special-
lowing sections. ized presentations.
The Fox network was founded on
Widest Possible Audience. Television is demographic programming. To attract a
a mass medium. It is the principal commercially successful audience, Fox
leisure-time activity of the nation. It is had to reach viewers who were not
also a mass advertising device. Corpora- being satisfied by the three long-
tions spend hundreds of millions of entrenched networks, ABC, NBC, and
dollars to stimulate desire for their prod- CBS. The company focused on the 18
ucts. Therefore, the objective of most to 34 year olds, the demographic group
shows is to attract the largest possible most desired by advertisers. In many
audience. The more viewers, the higher ways, there is nothing particularly new
the advertising rate, the greater the gross about Fox’s approach. Leonard Golden-
revenue, and the larger the profit. Con- son, former president of ABC, said it
versely, no audience, no advertisers, no reminds him of the early days of his
profit, no broadcaster. network, in the mid-1950s, when he
6 Elements of Successful Programming 125

began with 14 stations and both CBS

and NBC had more than 70 affiliates.
Fox is “really copying the same thing we
did when we started,” he said. “It’s a
sound principle—going after young
families, trying to counter program
wherever you can, trying to come up
with some kind of innovation—and take
The WB, with shows such as Figure 6.1
Katie Holmes and
“Dawson’s Creek” (Figure 6.1),
James Van der
“Gilmore Girls,” “7th Heaven,” and
Beek starred in
“Everwood,” similarly attracted the “Dawson’s Creek,”
coveted younger demographic as it a show that
established itself as a new network. This captured the
allowed the WB to charge high adver- targeted audience
tising fees on shows that generally had for the WB.
low household ratings. Advertisers crave (Courtesy the
18 to 34 year olds, and the WB was able Academy of
to position itself as the place to be to Television Arts &
appeal to this demographic. Sciences.)
The top 10 shows for 18- to 49-year-
old viewers are different from the Top
10 shows for 50+ viewers, as are the top households for the same period were
shows for African-American and Cau- “CSI,” “Friends,” “ER,” “Everybody
casian households. From September 22 Loves Raymond,” “Survivor: Thailand,”
to October 26, 2003, the top shows for “Law & Order,” “Will & Grace,” “CSI:
18 to 49 year olds were “Friends,” Miami,” “Scrubs,” and “Monday Night
“CSI,” “ER,” “Will & Grace,” “Scrubs,” Football.”4 Note here that only two
“Survivor,” “Monday Night Football,” shows, “Monday Night Football” and
“Coupling,” “CSI: Miami,” and “Law & “CSI,” overlap.
Order.” The top 10 shows for 50+
viewers for the same period were “CSI,” Narrowcasting. Cable differs from com-
“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “60 mercial TV in that most of the networks
Minutes,” “Cold Case,” “JAG,” “CSI: do not attempt to gain the widest pos-
Miami,” “Navy NCIS,” “Law & Order,” sible audience, preferring instead to go
“Without a Trace,” and “Two and a Half after a smaller, niche audience. Because
Men.”3 Note that only the two “CSI” of the high degree of narrowcasting
shows and “Law & Order” overlap. within cable services, particular cable
The top 10 shows for African-Amer- networks are more likely to aim for very
icans for the fourth quarter of 2002 specific demographic audiences, particu-
were “Cedric the Entertainer Presents,” larly when viewers have so many
“One on One,” “Girlfriends,” “Half & choices. Being all things to all people in
Half,” “The Parkers,” “My Wife and the true sense of broadcasting becomes
Kids,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” increasingly difficult.
“Monday Night Football,” “Fastlane,” MTV’s target audience is different
and “CSI.” The top shows for Caucasian from that of Nostalgia Television in

terms of age and general lifestyle. instance, does not presume that people
Nickelodeon caters to the young; will sit and watch it for hours, although
Black Entertainment Television targets they will happily accept someone who
African-Americans. Spike TV goes after does. CNN and the various shopping
men; Lifetime is aimed at women. Each channels are likely to capture audience
of these services must consider its target members for a limited amount of time.
audience as it assesses program ideas and What they are aiming for is a large total
its advertising possibilities. number of viewers, even though any
one person might not stay with the
Attracting Subscribers. For cable ser- service for a long period.
vices that do not deal with advertisers,
the story is a little different. Pay movie Attracting the Elite. The noncommer-
channels, such as HBO and Showtime, cial nature of public broadcasting makes
receive their money directly from cable it unique because, although it must have
subscribers who decide to pay for their enough money to cover costs, it does
programming. Therefore, their specific not have to concern itself with profit or
audience is the people who have sub- advertising. It does, however, need to
scribed. The services must program in provide programming that underwrit-
such a way that they keep these people ers, corporations that provide funding
happy so they do not become disen- in exchange for a brief mention of their
chanted and disconnect. One way they support, will find attractive.
accomplish this is by providing pro- In general, public broadcasters do not
gramming that the “free” television net- seek (or attain) a large audience. The
works cannot match, such as feature broadcasters need to prove their worth
films fresh from their theatrical releases, to their funders, but they do not need
made-for-TV movies, and miniseries to do so by delivering an overall enor-
with large budgets and with stars such as mous audience. They want to attract a
Tom Hanks or Annette Bening who large enough audience to make the costs
tend not to do commercial television. worthwhile and to have a base of people
Premium cable networks may also offer who will donate to a station, but the
high-profile sports events and series with nature of the audience is often more
adult themes and language such as “G- important than its size.
String Divas.” Pay-per-view movies or For this reason, the most important
specials are successful if enough people of the objectives to public broadcasters
sign up to bring a profit. As media critic involves a specific target audience, a par-
Allison Romano wrote, with premium ticular local or national purpose, and a
cable, “It’s not just about viewers tuning unique objective that public broadcast-
in. It’s about their paying up.”5 ers refer to as units of good, a public
broadcasting term used to designate the
The “In-and-Out” Audience. Another inherent, uplifting worth of a program.
type of specific audience that some Public broadcasting audiences are
cable systems try to attract is an in-and- generally intellectually elite and politi-
out audience. The Weather Channel, for cally influential. PBS compiles data each
6 Elements of Successful Programming 127

year that highlights the upscale nature of

its audience (Figure 6.2).
Public television no longer has a
monopoly on quality programming
geared to the elite. The financial pres-
sures of the FCC mandated convergence
to digital, and many channels such as
A&E, the Discovery Channel, and
Bravo, have made inroads into public
broadcasting territory. These channels
and others have attracted high-end audi-
ences and forced public television to
redefine its concept of successful pro-
gramming. For one thing, public televi-
sion now offers more programs with
American themes and locations and
fewer British shows.

Making Noise. With the explosion in

viewer choices that followed the dereg-
ulation of the entertainment industry in
1996, it became increasingly important
for shows and networks to distinguish
themselves from the clutter. In 2003, it
was estimated that there were 287 cable
networks. That is a lot of choices. Thus,
“making noise,” that is, drawing atten-
tion to a product or network, became in
and of itself a sign of success.
A producer like Mike Fleiss, who
created “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-
millionaire” for Fox (a show that caused
considerable controversy when it was
discovered that the groom in question
had a restraining order in his past), “The
Bachelor,” and “The Bachelorette”
became sought after precisely because of
his ability to create noise.6
Similarly, FX’s “The Shield,” which
premiered March 12, 2002, created
instant noise with its realistic depiction
of violence and its use of strong lan-
guage. The show cemented its ability to
garner attention with an Emmy Award
win for its lead, Michael Chiklis. The
show helped shine a spotlight on FX Figure 6.2
as it attempted to steal some of the 2003 public television audience statistics from the PBS website.
thunder from cable rival HBO. FX’s (http://www.pbs.org/aboutpbs/aboutpbs_corp_audience.html.
Accessed January 19, 2004.)

Figure 6.3
“The West Wing”
earned nine
Emmys in 2000.
(Courtesy the
Academy of
Television Arts &

subsequent show, “Lucky,” may have attempt to make it worthy of award

been a more complex, more original consideration. These efforts are not just
program, but it did not succeed in cre- for ego gratification. They can produce
ating the kind of buzz “The Shield” did highly tangible results. “Hill Street
and it quickly disappeared.The ability to Blues,” a superbly produced and acted
make noise may not change the world series, was faring poorly in the ratings
of television (see, for example, Fox’s sur- in its first season (1981). However, at
prise reality hit of 2003, “The Simple Emmy time it walked off with eight
Life,” starring Paris Hilton and Nicole awards. The subsequent excitement
Richie, in which two rich girls abandon attracted many viewers, and the show
their pampered lives to rough it on a went on to enjoy a healthy 6 year run.
farm, à la “Green Acres”). But any show It held the record for Emmys until “The
that generates awareness in a crowded West Wing” (Figure 6.3) earned nine in
field has achieved a significant level of 2000.
success. Prestige and awards are important to
the commercial networks (at one point,
Prestige and Awards. Prestige and CBS even had a special department
awards raise the stature of the network charged with creating shows that would
or station and are thus much sought. win awards, and many performers clev-
Commercial broadcasters will occasion- erly cast themselves as guest stars in
ally keep a poorly rated show on the air network drama and comedy series to be
for prestige and awards. For example, recognized at Emmy time). But it is the
NBC kept its series “American Dreams” premium networks that really go after
for several seasons despite weak ratings this kind of recognition. Showtime, for
because of its quality and its prosocial example, lets producers know that what
values. Some series on commercial net- they want is “controversy and awards.”
works have even been known to invest HBO, in particular, has gone after
additional money in an episode in an awards with a vengeance ever since
6 Elements of Successful Programming 131

become a star vehicle over time the medium or because the format was
because a performer has shaped the not right for them.
show to his or her own designs, not The strength of star-dominant pro-
always to the project’s benefit. “Family grams is that they automatically define
Feud” began as a rigidly structured their appeal. If you know the performer,
game show with the host serving as an you pretty much know what to expect,
affable traffic cop. But not long after the and sampling time is greatly com-
premiere, Richard Dawson changed the pressed. On the other hand, if a star-
focus by kissing every lady contestant, dominant show begins to slide (or the
reading his fan mail, displaying presents artist imposes impossible demands),
he had received, and generally favoring there is no way to salvage it.
the audience with his view of world Although both format-dominant and
affairs. Many episodes required hours star-dominant shows are capable of
of editing to present a completed game. delivering big hits, buyers tend to favor
The other type of show is one built the former. Their reasons are summa-
around the skills and personality of a rized in the experience of “You Bet
star. This is most clearly seen in talk Your Life” starring Bill Cosby. This syn-
and magazine programs such as “The dicated series was bought by over 200
Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Ellen stations purely on the basis of Cosby’s
DeGeneres Show,” or “Dr. Phil.” enormous success on the network
However, it also applies to fictional sitcom, “The Cosby Show.” “You Bet
formats devised to display the per- Your Life” had served as a creaky but
former’s abilities—for example, “The workable format for the rapier wit of
Cosby Show,” “Roseanne,” all of Bob Groucho Marx in the 1950s, but when
Newhart’s series, “Everybody Loves it was dusted off for Buddy Hackett in
Raymond” (built around the talents of 1980, it was an instant failure. No
Ray Romano), “Seinfeld,” or “Whoopi.” matter. This was the 1990s and the
Even though a star may be excep- host was Bill Cosby (Figure 6.5). How
tionally talented and enjoy a large could it miss? It did, and badly. The
following, the development of an series was canceled after one season.
appropriate format can be elusive. According to Greg Meidel, then presi-
Such illustrious names as Mickey dent of Twentieth Television, there was
Rooney, Frank Sinatra, James a lesson to be learned: “Format first,
Stewart, Bette Midler, Dolly Parton, star second. You can have a proven
Geena Davis, Sally Field, and Tony big star, but you really have to have a
Curtis have stumbled in their TV series proven format. It was a great person-
either because they were not right for ality in the wrong vehicle.”9

Figure 6.5
Bill Cosby and Carol Burnett at the Emmy
Awards. (Courtesy the Academy of
Television Arts & Sciences.)

Figure 6.6
“Friends” was a
powerhouse for
NBC, acquiring a
loyal, almost
fanatical fan base.
(Courtesy the
Academy of
Television Arts &

Industry Professionals Weigh In attract viewers? If the answer was “no,”

then he did not go forward, a lesson
Industry professionals have many things many programmers might heed, even
to say about what contributes to suc- when more programming is needed to
cessful programming. fill the floodgates.10
Edgar Scherick, whose career in tele- Alan Landsburg, one of television’s
vision and film spanned more than 6 more successful producers in all pro-
decades, had a clear programming grammatic forms for more than 5
philosophy. decades (“That’s Incredible,” “Unspeak-
Scherick was head of programming at able Acts,” and “The Ryan White Story,”
ABC. He created the “Wide World of among others) claims there are really
Sports” concept, started the careers of only three themes that count in story-
many successful executives (e.g., Scott telling: sex, money, and power.These are
Rudin, Barbara Lieberman, Gary the elements that compel people—the
Hoffman, Brian Grazer, and Michael subjects that fascinate and motivate
Barnathan), and produced many of tele- them. Any drama, or comedy, that
vision’s signature programs, such as “The explores these qualities is on solid
Kennedys of Massachusetts,” “Raid on footing.
Entebbe,” and “Little Gloria, Happy at Sex should be understood in the
Last.” In 1965, Scherick developed a larger sense of love, romance, and the
programming philosophy that continues eternal, universal quest for the “right
to be applicable. Before going forward other person.” Certain groups may
with a program, Scherick would ask, “Is object to the proliferation of sexual
this project touched with singularity?” Is themes, for example in “Friends” (Figure
there something unique or different in 6.6) or in “Coupling,” 2003’s visible
the concept and execution that will failure, but the topic of sex continues to
6 Elements of Successful Programming 133

Figure 6.7
“The Love Boat,”
whose cast is
prepared here for a
Christmas episode,
lasted 9 years on
ABC, another
testament to Aaron
Spelling’s ability to
create shows with
wide viewer appeal.
(Courtesy of
Bruce Bilson.)

dominate, often even at 8:00 P.M., kind of money that enables them to
which used to be the family hour. maintain their lavish lifestyles. Not to be
Cable seemingly thrives on sexual forgotten are the TV game shows that
content, and network reality shows such have been trading on the money instinct
as “Temptation Island” and “Are You for decades. The winners are news.
Hot?” offer sexual innuendo in every Viewers want to see them and fantasize
promo and every segment of a show. that they will be next.
Episodes about money touch all. The “Power,” according to Henry
drive to get it or the fear of not having Kissinger, “is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”11
it are daily concerns. There is also the People strive for it, fight for it, lie for it,
dream of sudden riches that makes and kill for it. It has been the stuff of
people empathize with those who have drama from Shakespeare to “Dynasty” to
come into prosperity. For example, “The Apprentice” with Donald Trump.
Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Pick up any weekly schedule of TV pro-
Gleason on early television’s “The grams and read the capsule descriptions
Honeymooners,” was always after the of dramatic episodes. You will find
quick buck that would make him rich. dozens that have a power struggle as
The plastic surgeons in cable’s 2003– their foundation.
2004 success “Nip/Tuck” forgo making Producer Aaron Spelling, who gave
ethical decisions in favor of making the television “The Love Boat” (Figure 6.7),

For some, such as producer Marcy

Carsey, who with partners Tom Werner
and Caryn Mandabach is responsible for
many of television’s signature successes
Figure 6.8 including “The Cosby Show,”
The first-rate “Roseanne,” and “That ’70s Show,” a
production values storytelling style that mixes the sweet
in “CSI” have and the sour leads to success.12
helped it to develop
For Michael O’Hara, Emmy-
into a No. 1 show.
nominated producer–writer of the
(Globe Photos,
Inc.) blockbuster miniseries “Switched at
Birth” and more than 30 television
movies, “the key ingredient for a
“Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Melrose Place,” successful television show is striking
and “7th Heaven,” among others, a chord with a large segment of the
believes that escapist entertainment is audience. This can be a funny chord
the key to success. Spelling perfected the like ‘Seinfeld,’ a sad one like ‘Roots,’ or
art of casting attractive people in shows a silly one like ‘Queer Eye for the
that do not contain too much realism. Straight Guy.’ The Holy Grail for any
Realism can be depressing, and many television executive is finding a show
people would agree with Spelling that that people want to return to week after
after a hard day at work or attending to week.”
household chores escapist, entertaining
television is what most people want. Key Elements for Success
Jerry Bruckheimer, whose shows
“CSI” (Figure 6.8), “CSI: Miami,” and Some industry leaders, such as Judd
“Without a Trace” provide CBS with a Parkin, a former network executive at
ratings edge, places great emphasis on NBC and ABC and now a successful
first-rate production values, including writer of television movies, believe suc-
a brilliant use of music on all of his cessful shows are mostly a matter of
shows. luck. Despite the impossibility of pre-
For Susan Rovner, vice president of dicting a hit, there are certain elements
drama development at Warner Bros., that winning programs or concepts
quality is the key to success. She sees the possess. Their presence does not guaran-
drama series as a writer’s medium, and tee success, but their absence almost
she thinks that writers with distinctive always assures failure. It is not as simple
voices are the key to successful shows. as going down the checklist and insert-
She said that shows have to be “about ing each element into the mix. Skillful
something” and that talented writers execution must be there regardless of
can make “contemporary variations on the ingredients; however, success
familiar themes” rise well above the embodies some combination of the ele-
mundane. ments described in following sections.
6 Elements of Successful Programming 135

Figure 6.9
The conflicts
between the two
brothers on
“Frasier,” whose
cast is shown here,
created strong comic
(Courtesy the
Academy of
Television Arts &

Conflict. Many regard conflict as the almost everything, creating comedic sit-
most important ingredient. Without the uations that enabled the show to remain
collision of interests or attitudes, there is at the top of the ratings for many years.
little to hold the attention of viewers. Similarly, the two brothers on “Every-
This is true even where it is less body Loves Raymond” clash on most
obvious, for example, in talk and issues, helping the show to enjoy its
comedy. In situation comedies (sitcoms), crown as CBS’s top-rated comedy for
core characters are placed in a primary several seasons.
arena where they respond to a story The talk shows that produce the most
stimulus, usually a conflict.The genius of interest are those with guests who have
successful comedy creators is the ability strong opinions that conflict with other
to design characters so sharply that any panelists or members of the audience.
stimulus immediately places them in Conflict is why talk shows such as “Jerry
conflict. The laughter results from the Springer” have ambushes in which one
contrast in the attitudes. In “Cheers,” guest is pitted against another. In an
Sam relentlessly searches for a night of ambush, each guest is charged up
romance. Rebecca abhors casual love- offstage to come out swinging, creat-
making. Any reference to sex automati- ing a staged conflict but a conflict
cally triggers a comedic conflict. nevertheless.
The two brothers on “Frasier” (Figure The goal of programmers is to con-
6.9) may have some similar personality struct shows that provide collisions.
quirks, but they are in conflict about Even when mounting an information

show, programmers should attempt to Syndication plays such an important

offer opposing or alternative attitudes. It role in the finances of network series
is not only fair play; it is good television. that a show must be able to hold up for
many years after its last episode has been
Durability. An idea intended to be a shot. The success of “The Dick Van
long-running success cannot be based Dyke Show” in syndication, said the star,
on a premise that will flame out after “is attributable to the wisdom of
brief exposure. Programmers must writer–director Carl Reiner, who had
examine submissions carefully to be sure the foresight not to do any slang or
that the fundamental design of the show idioms of the day or topical events.”
will sustain interest week after week. The same avoidance of topical events
One element that often helps create in “Everybody Loves Raymond” made
durability is the opportunity for many that particular show a syndication winner.
different characters to appear within Topical material rapidly becomes dated,
particular episodes of a series. For hurting the long-term appeal of a show.
example, in “Cheers,” all types of char- All rules have exceptions, and the one
acters can wander into the bar to inter- about avoiding topical references does,
act with the regulars. Similarly, different too. “The Simpsons,” for example, uses
individuals can come into the coffee topical references liberally as a basis of its
shop in “Friends” to meet up with storytelling comedy; it has had a long
the series regulars and generate story run, both in first run and in syndication.
complications. Whenever possible, programmers
Different individuals can enter the should think of specials and limited
emergency room on “ER” as patients or series as something more than single
doctors, and many politicians can gather shots. This holds particularly true for
in “The West Wing,” providing story reality shows. After a 6-week run, a suc-
arcs. Even if outsiders are not used reg- cessful reality show can spawn many off-
ularly, a large cast, such as the one on spring. For example, a “Survivor” show
HBO’s “The Sopranos,” can allow the in one exotic locale can easily lead to
main story to revolve around different another. “For Love or Money” did well
characters. enough for NBC in 2003–2004 to offer
Even the most durable of episodic reality-obsessed fans a second install-
ideas eventually run their course. ment, a reverse in which the woman
“M*A*S*H,” “The Mary Tyler Moore who turned down an offer of love in
Show,” “Frasier,” and “Friends” had the favor of money in the first show became
good grace to remove themselves from the one doing the selecting on the
the airwaves voluntarily before their second show. And “The Bachelor” gave
durability exhausted itself. eager viewers “The Bachelorette.” The
6 Elements of Successful Programming 137

phenomenal success of “Joe Millionaire”

(Figure 6.10) in 2003 led to an interna-
tional version, which, unfortunately for
Fox, did not perform nearly as well as
the first one with Evan Marriott.
In terms of durability in franchises,
it is hard to beat “Who Wants to Be a
Millionaire” (Figure 6.11). ABC may
have overplayed its hand by putting the Figure 6.10
show starring Regis Philbin on too many Evan Marriott of
times a week in 2001, effectively killing the reality dating
it on prime-time, but the show survives show with a twist,
in syndication with Meredith Vieira and “Joe Millionaire,”
which was a
all over the world, where the “Million-
megahit in 2003.
aire” format has been adjusted to meet
(Globe Photos,
the needs of localism, (i.e., the questions Inc.)
have been adjusted to meet local needs).
No description of durability would
be complete without a bow toward
soap operas. “As the World Turns” has
been on continuously since 1956
and “General Hospital” since 1963.
“Another World” premiered in 1964,
and “Days of Our Lives” came on a year
later. But the all-time champion is
“Guiding Light,” which celebrated its
50th consecutive year on air in 2002. All
of this longevity can be attributed to the
remarkable abilities of such writers as
Irna Phillips, Agnes Nixon, and Bill Bell,
who mastered the art of intertwining
stories about sex, money, and power.

Likeability. Viewers tune in to people

they like and with whom they feel com-
fortable. It is a truism in Hollywood that
viewers feel comfortable with familiar
faces. Bill Cosby, Angela Lansbury,
Michael J. Fox, Martin Sheen, Ted
Danson, Kirstie Alley, and Whoopi
Goldberg all exemplify the personalities
who generally succeed in the medium.
They are the kind of guests viewers are Figure 6.11
comfortable inviting into their living “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was a victim of overexposure.
rooms. (Photo © ABC Photography Archives.)

Nowhere is the quality of friendliness

more evident than with game show
hosts. Some are more amusing, better
looking, or more clear headed than
others, but they all radiate cheer and
goodwill. Audiences liked the nasty
observations Simon Cowell made on
“American Idol” (Figure 6.12), but he
was one of three judges. Had he been
by himself, his disparaging comments
might not have been received so well.
Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a
successful emcee who, by himself, is
downbeat, surly, and insulting to his
contestants. Within a week viewers
would run him out on a rail.
One might argue that Archie Bunker,
J. R. of “Dallas,” and Erica Kane of “All
My Children” are hardly likable; never-
theless, they have developed enormous
followings. However, it is important to
understand they are playing the role of
the burr under the saddle, the person
you love to hate, to provide the conflict
that makes the series work. Even Archie
would occasionally let down his guard
to allow some endearing humanity to
slip through. When Alan Alda played a
doctor who snapped nastily at people
who questioned what he was doing
with patients on “ER,” this most likable
Figure 6.12 television star’s humanity allowed him to
“American Idol” found a good mix with its three judges, Simon
Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson. (Courtesy the Academy
of Television Arts & Sciences.)
6 Elements of Successful Programming 139

avoid being hated by viewers (Figure

George Clooney’s character in “ER”
was a womanizer with serious problems,
but his humanity made him intriguing
and likable. Frasier, played by Kelsey
Figure 6.13
Grammer, may be a pompous, self- When Alan Alda
obsessed individual, but he has never- played a delusional
theless connected with audiences who doctor on “ER,” he
appreciate his unique sense of humor was able to
and skewed view of the world. It also maintain his
helps that the writing on the show is humanity because
first rate. of his likeability.
The insult-tossing cast of “Married (Courtesy the
. . . With Children” also appears to be Academy of
unlikable. But the audience seems to Television Arts &
understand that underneath the family’s Sciences.)
surface of disrespect is a genuine affec-
tion. When the pilot program was
tested, the 30 minutes of sarcasm ended
with the couple walking up the stair- O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, any pro-
case, the wife’s hand gently patting the grammer planning to launch a show
husband’s behind. Viewer approval with truly unlikable characters should
soared with the suspicion confirmed be sure of two things: (1) the material is
that deep down the spatters really loved first rate and either very funny or very
each other. This was also the case with well executed, and (2) a backup program
ABC’s “Roseanne.” Roseanne may have is readily available.
had a harsh tongue, but, according to
Brett White, who was head of broadcast Consistency. All viewers bring a certain
standards and practices at ABC for many level of anticipation to every program.
years, viewers knew that deep down she When they tune in to cable’s “Queer
cared deeply about her family. Eye for the Straight Guy,” they expect a
Despite the trend toward “mean tele- variation on a makeover theme that
vision” that coincided with the rise of contains helpful hints that reveal gays
reality television and the explosion of and straights can be supportive of each
antagonistic talk show hosts such as Bill other. When they watch one of the

Figure 6.14
The “Law &
Order” shows give
audiences stories
that reflect current
events. (Courtesy
the Academy of
Television Arts &

occasional departure can be successful

if the episode has a legitimate point
to make. Comedies have tackled such
serious themes as AIDS or the death of
a parent and done them effectively. But
these must be produced carefully and
at great intervals. Too many laughless
shows by a favorite comedy performer
Figure 6.15 will in all likelihood send the audience
“Murphy Brown,” searching for alternatives.
featuring Candice Diane English, creator and copro-
Bergen, achieved ducer of the sitcom “Murphy Brown,”
both consistency understands the principle of consistency.
and topicality. In the winter of 1992 the show sched-
(Courtesy the uled an episode based on the rights of
Academy of
journalists to protect their sources, an
Television Arts &
important constitutional issue (Figure
6.15). The story idea sprung from the
televised Senate hearings of Anita Hill’s
“Law & Order” shows (Figure 6.14), allegation that Judge Clarence Thomas
they expect a well-crafted story that will was not a suitable Supreme Court
reveal unexpected villains and deter- nominee because of his history of sexual
mined, well-meaning detectives. harassment. The hearings would never
Deviations from these expectations have taken place if Hill’s charges had not
disturb viewers and risk alienation. An been leaked to Nina Totenberg of NPR,
6 Elements of Successful Programming 141

who reported the story but refused to Energy. Energy is the quality that
identify the source. Totenberg was sub- infuses a sense of pace and excitement
sequently summoned to appear before a into a show. It is not a synonym for
Senate special counsel. Said English, “As frenzy. And it does not necessarily mean
more of our freedoms dwindle, we need motion, which is often just movement
to use our freedom as writers to make without a point. Rather, it charges the
people know what’s going on. And we screen with pictures that will not let the
also have to make it funny.”(Emphasis viewer turn away, whether it is a four-
added.)13 man shootout, a whisper, an intense love
Writers, directors, and performers scene, or an upraised eyebrow. Actors
must be particularly mindful of “staying contribute with their performances, the
in character.” Cast members must say best ones making every scene riveting.
and do things consistent with the roles Writers develop the dialogue and struc-
they are playing. If Nick Fallin on “The ture the acts in ways that produce rising
Guardian” had suddenly become tension and climactic endings. Directors
extremely verbal, ready to reveal his stage the players and select the pictures
emotions about his love life, his rela- that will generate the most satisfying
tionship with his father, or his addic- viewer experience. Editors keep things
tions, he would have broken character, moving, particularly as the attention
violating the premise that creator David span of audiences shortens. If any one of
Hollander established for the show. these elements weakens, thereby permit-
A writer may occasionally get easy ting the pace to flag and attention to
humor or pathos from a line, but if it wander, the loss of energy will quickly
is at the expense of the character’s result in the loss of audience.
nature, it could be an expensive laugh or Maintaining energy is an essential for
tear. all talk show hosts. Too often interview-
Sometimes broadcasters become too ers allow their guests to dictate the
narrow in their interpretation of this tempo of the program. If the host is not
point.There is the classic example of the alert, a low-key, deliberate-speaking
executive who read a script of “My guest can drag down the energy level,
Favorite Martian,” circled a line of and the two can quickly find themselves
dialogue and sent it back to the pro- in the quicksand of boredom. The pro-
ducer with the comment, “A Martian ducer and director should immediately
wouldn’t say that.” cut to a commercial and go on stage to
One other element of consistency pump up the host—or give the guest an
deserves mention: shows must remain early dismissal.
true to their central intent. They cannot
be all things to all people; there are Professional Staffing. Rarely, a show
limits to what programs can be and who will succeed because of the novelty of
they can reach. Broadcasters cannot its format or star even though the pro-
insert 1-minute cooking tips inside Sat- duction is slipshod and the writing is
urday morning cartoons in an attempt poor. But the success will be brief. The
to attract adult women. Shows are what novelty will wear off, the mediocrity
they are, and any effort to broaden the will be exposed, and the show’s decline
base with inappropriate elements not will be assured.
only fails to attract the desired new Many a promising format has been
viewers but also alienates the core squandered because of the insufficien-
audience. cies of the staff and cast. And many

an ordinary idea (“Malcolm in the Programmers must look beyond the

Middle,” “Becker,” “Just Shoot Me,” or concept of a show and closely examine
“Miami Vice”) has blossomed into the credentials of the executors before
enduring success because of the skills of committing to its development. Of great
the cast, writers, and production team. importance to developers of program-
ming, such as Susan Rovner at Warner
Bros., is the participation of an experi-
enced, successful showrunner, the person
responsible for the day-to-day execution
of a show. Without a showrunner who
Figure 6.16 has a reputation for delivering quality
“In the Line of shows on time and on budget, many
Duty: Ambush at concepts do not progress beyond a
Waco” (1993),
pitch. To some disgruntled observers
starring Tim Daly
as Branch
whose projects do not have a viable
Davidian leader showrunner attached, it can seem as if
David Koresh, was the showrunner is more important than
an example of a the concept.
successful telefilm Unfortunately, sometimes fresh,
ripped from the young talent is ignored for established
headlines and players who have been on the staff of
produced on a fast several successful shows, but newcomers
track by producer can and do work in by attaching to (and
Ken Kaufman. learning from) the recognized players.
(Courtesy Many schools have mentor programs
Patchett Kaufman
and internships to assist newcomers in
becoming first-string players on the
entertainment team.

Timing. For a program to work, it must

Figure 6.17 be in harmony with the times. For a
“A Woman story to work, it must capture the atten-
Scorned: The Betty tion of the times (Figure 6.16). Too far
Broderick Story” behind and the audience will dismiss it
(1992) hit the as outmoded; too far in front and
airwaves at just the viewers will rebel against it (Figure
right time. The film 6.17).
starred Meredith “Three’s Company” is an example of
Baxter as a a show that hit it just right and enjoyed
woman who seeks a successful run from 1977 to 1984 (and
revenge when her
for many years later in syndication).This
husband, played by
sitcom dealt with a hot-blooded young
Stephen Collins of
“7th Heaven,” man and two attractive young ladies
marries his young who, for reasons of economy, shared an
assistant. apartment.The man, Jack Tripper, played
(Courtesy by John Ritter, pretended to be gay
Patchett Kaufman to avoid arousing the suspicions of the
Entertainment.) landlord. Although every episode was
6 Elements of Successful Programming 143

packed with sexual innuendo, the audi-

ence was encouraged to believe that
nothing sexual ever happened between
the three roommates. Tripper may have
been hot blooded, but that did not mean
sexual activity took place in a show the
producers nevertheless tantalizingly saw
as “French farce.”
“Three’s Company” was accepted
because the time was right. The social
upheavals that began in the 1960s and
continued into the 1970s made cohabi-
tation among unmarried people com-
monplace. The network surmised that
the condition was sufficiently wide-
spread to allow the national audience to
accept the premise. They guessed right Figure 6.18
(Figure 6.18). The same format, if it had “Three’s Company” found its place and time. (Courtesy DLT
been introduced 10 years earlier, could Entertainment.)
have provoked a national outcry from
media watchdog groups.
Some 20 years after “Three’s
Company,” the 2002–2003 season saw
an explosion of gay-themed shows such
as “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,”
“Boy Meets Boy,” “Angels in America,”
and “It’s All Relative.” No innuendo
here; no French farce needed. These
shows contained characters who were
clearly gay, not straight pretending to be
gay as on “Three’s Company.”
Shows such as “Soap,” with Billy
Crystal playing the gay Jodie Dallas,
which began its 4-year run in 1977;
“Brothers,” which premiered on Show-
time in 1984; “Ellen,” whose lead char-
Figure 6.19
acter came out in 1997; and “Will & “Will & Grace”
Grace,” which premiered in 1998, paved took gay characters
the way for the 2002–2003 emphasis on mainstream on
gays in television (Figure 6.19). For broadcast television.
some, it seemed as if every show had to (Globe Photos,
have gay characters, where just a season Inc.)
or two before sitcoms were thriving on
single parents raising children as an
inciting gimmick.

Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show”

(Figure 6.20), a fake news show on
cable’s Comedy Central, came into its
own in 2001–2002, winning Emmy and
Peabody awards and receiving excellent
press coverage, including the cover of
Newsweek for the January 5, 2004, issue.
There are many reasons for the show’s
success, including first-rate writing that
creates stories in the most unlikely
Figure 6.20 venues; however, timing also played a
Jon Stewart’s “The major role.
Daily Show” finds In a country besieged by devastating
the right news (9/11, the war in Iraq, a slumping
combination of economy, etc.), Stewart and “The Daily
humor and edge for Show” found the right dose of humor
topical comedy.
that had an edge different from what
(Courtesy the
was available on other shows. “The
Academy of
Television Arts & Daily Show” found the right approach
Sciences.) for the times, an approach that eclipsed
that of late-night legends Jay Leno and
David Letterman.The headline of Frank
The gay-themed explosion could not Rich’s April 10, 2003, article proclaimed
have happened at the time of “Three’s Stewart’s “perfect pitch.”14
Company,” just as “Three’s Company”
would have been found behind the Trend Awareness. A capable program-
times had it premiered in 2002–2003. It mer must also be aware of trends that
is all a question of timing, and the savvy might generate a hit or guarantee a
programmer has to understand this failure. Riding a trend wave is not an
important dynamic. essential element of a successful
The idea of a network devoted to program. But it can be a way to tap into
documentaries may have been discussed a prevailing audience preference that
for years, but it did not become a reality will enable a show to deliver strong
until John Hendrink, a history professor, ratings. Similarly, an awareness of a trend
felt the timing was right for founding that is over can help a programmer to
the Discovery Channel in 1985. Niche avoid a concept whose time has passed.
channels such as the Discovery Channel, A programming trend occurs when
The Outdoor Channel, Home & producers develop shows or concepts
Garden Television, and Court TV, have similar in theme, format, or content. In
successfully challenged the previous network prime-time television in the
dominance of the conventional net- 1950s, there was a strong trend toward
works. Broadcasting targeting the broad- live, dramatic productions; in the 1960s,
est possible audience has given way to the favored form was westerns; in the
specialized niche programming that 1970s, it was sitcoms with sharp social
seeks a particular audience, and the Dis- commentary; and in the 1980s, dramatic
covery Channel and the niche networks serials were prominent. In the 1990s,
that followed succeeded mostly because comedies and prime-time news shows
of timing. dominated, and starting in 2000, the
6 Elements of Successful Programming 145

trend was clearly toward so-called reality shows makes the most sense. Even a
television. modest rating performance can deliver a
TV syndication has seen similar runs. profitable return because of the low cost
In 1982, Group W Productions intro- of production.
duced a first-run daily cartoon series, Even more extreme is the trend
“He-Man and the Masters of the Uni- toward infomercials—30-minute pro-
verse.” Never before had daily, animated grams that masquerade as talk or inter-
programming been made expressly for view shows but are devoted to extolling
the syndicated marketplace. Within 2 the virtues of some commercial product
years there were 28 first-run animated such as a diet, baldness treatment, or
series offered for syndication. It is brand of sunglasses. Stations that might
another truism in Hollywood that imi- not program this material when times
tation is the sincerest form of flattery. are good will do so in lean periods
Trends develop in two ways: eco- because the producers provide the pro-
nomic or technological necessity and grams for free and even pay the stations
phenomenal success of a program, for the airtime.
which suggests that variations on the Often trends are started by the emer-
form can enjoy similar rewards. In tele- gence of an enormous hit. The industry
vision, as opposed to film, the first copy studies the soaring ratings and wonders
of a successful program usually delivers, whether other versions of the theme can
or so goes the conventional wisdom. be developed. Frequently they can. The
The tendency to program live, dra- originator may have fed an audience
matic fare in the 1950s was primarily appetite that is not satisfied with just
the result of technological limitations. one dish. The industry will immediately
The new medium was centered in New offer variations, and the process will
York City; tape had not yet been continue until viewers are sated. In
invented, the Hollywood film industry many instances, the show that began the
disdained the new industry, and film trend will outlast all the imitators.
production facilities in New York were “Gunsmoke” triggered the western
scarce. But there were excellent actors, frenzy in 1955. By 1961, there were 12
producers, and writers available in New series slappin’ leather each week. In
York theater, and they immediately 1975 only one remained—“Gunsmoke,”
gravitated to the live dramatic form. which holds the record as the longest-
When prime-time network schedul- running series with 635 episodes. The
ing turned strongly toward news- same pattern held true for prime-time
oriented programs in the 1990s, the serials. The form was introduced by
reason was economics. Economics also “Dallas” in 1978 and was an instant hit.
supported the development of the reality By 1981, the number of serials had
trend. The economics of reality pro- mushroomed to five. Ten years later it
gramming plus its attraction of the had receded to two, one of which was
desirable younger demographic made “Dallas,” with a run of 357 episodes.
reality desirable to programmers. As All trends run their course. Viewers
audiences continue to dwindle and costs become saturated, the original idea
continue to rise, programmers have to becomes jaded and stale, ratings decline,
be mindful of what the trends are and and the search for a new appeal begins.
what audiences will watch at what costs. Judging when a trend has crested is
Sometimes embracing the live or live- one of the programmer’s more difficult
on-tape news presentations or reality decisions. One clue is a rising demo-

graphic. If the younger viewers, the is worthless if no one will buy it. As
most volatile and easily sated segment of Art Astor of Astor Broadcasting, whose
the audience, are drifting away, the career spans more than 40 years, said to
chances are good that the show has seen a group of students at California State
its best days. Even if the audience size University, Fullerton, in 2003, “Sales is
remains satisfactory, the older skew will where it’s at. If a good salesperson can’t
herald a falloff in revenue. Any new proj- sell a show to stations and advertisers, it
ects in the same genre are probably ill simply doesn’t belong.”
advised. Salability must be effective at three
stages: when the creator is trying to find
Adequate Budget. Programmers must a distributor; when the distributor is
allocate sufficient funds for producers to trying to find advertisers; and when
make their shows. It is true that most both the creator and the distributor are
producers will strive to obtain the trying to find an audience. If there is a
largest possible budget, especially if they failure at any stage, the program either
retain the difference between the will never reach the air or will be off
package price and the actual cost of pro- after a brief stay because of lack of
duction. But they mostly just want to revenue.
be sure they have enough resources to Surprisingly, the selling approach is
mount the product they are committed not always the same at all three levels.
to delivering. Buyers of programs—networks, syndica-
The cost of first-rate special effects tion companies, and station executives—
has decreased significantly over the last tend to have fast-paced business days.
few years. Companies such as Stargate The phone rings incessantly; associates
Digital have perfected the art of special pop in and out; and meetings are forever
effects in shows such as “ER” and “Las backed up. They also regard themselves
Vegas” at affordable costs, enabling pro- as quick studies, their experience and
ducers to deliver the promised product natural gifts allowing them to cut
even if production costs are not through rhetoric and pierce to the heart
increased. Exteriors on these shows look of the show. Consequently, sellers keep
real, using the Stargate technology, their pitches short and concentrate on
instead of cheap and unrealistic. This is the “catchiest” elements.
important to an increasingly savvy and In syndication, for example, program
demanding audience, and it is important concepts are usually presented in tapes
to cost-conscious producers. that proceed at a breakneck pace. If pos-
Distributors such as networks and sible, they are enlivened with quick cuts
syndicators are paid to keep costs down. of spicy or sensational material to main-
Therefore, establishing a mutually accept- tain the buyer’s interest and present an
able budget frequently triggers a lively image of cutting-edge sharpness. But the
dispute. The debate is worthwhile if the program may be successful with the
result is a figure that allows the creative audience only if it is produced in a
vision to be realized.When viewers reject deliberate, thorough style.
a program because “it looks chintzy,” “When Group W launched ‘Hour
everyone loses. It is important to find the Magazine’ ” (an hour-long syndicated
money to do it right. woman’s service show that ran from
1980–1989), said George Resing, then
Salability. In the world of commercial senior vice president of the production
television, the greatest idea in the world company, “we made a zippy bells-and-
6 Elements of Successful Programming 147

(a) (b)

whistles 15-minute demonstrator that Newsweek, “ ‘Queer as Folk,’ a series on Figure 6.21
made the show seem paced like Showtime about the life of gay men in (a) “The L Word”
‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ It Pittsburgh, which is an adaptation of a and (b) “Queer as
was the only way we could keep the successful British series with the same Folk” on Showtime
attention of station buyers. But we knew name, has a 50% audience of women. appeal to a large
audience base, not
from research that viewers wanted each Similarly, HBO’s phenomenal success,
just gays and
topic dealt with fully and responsibly. ‘Sex and the City,’ a show about the lives
lesbians. (Globe
Subjects that appeared to be done once and loves of four heterosexual women, Photos, Inc.)
over lightly caused deep viewer resent- has a large male following: About 40%
ment. But when selling advertisers, we of its audience in the 18 to 34 demo-
used a completely different approach. graphic is male”15 (Figure 6.21).
We emphasized the wholesomeness and Inventive scheduling can also help a
reliability of the program to indicate network to gain crossover viewers. For
their commercials would be placed in a example, the reality phenomenon
very favorable environment. Pace was “American Idol” on Fox greatly boosted
never mentioned. This two-step strategy the ratings of “24,” the critically
seemed to work. The show was prof- acclaimed series that began in 2001.
itable for 10 years.” Viewers who were fans of “American
Idol” may not have been planning to
Getting Crossover Viewers. If a show stay tuned for “24,” but the flow from
can reach its target audience and one show to the next brought new
connect with a subsidiary audience, the viewers to “24,” many of whom found
show’s chances for success increase dra- “24” to their liking. Any program that
matically. For example, as Sean M. Smith attains crossover status has a good
reported in the June 23, 2003, issue of chance of survival.

Figure 6.22
The PBS series
“The Civil War,”
which featured
photographs such as
this one of Camp
Griffin at the
beginning of the
war, had one basic
Burns. It was also
high in prestige,
awards, and units
of good. (Courtesy
Florentine Films.)

One Voice of Authority. Committees reason that people such as Aaron Sorkin,
rarely design anything worthwhile. The David E. Kelley, David Chase, Diane
compromises required to keep peace in English, Alan Ball, and Steven Bochco
the conference room usually demolish represent the best that television has to
the original concept. An adjustment offer. Their shows bear their stamps as
here, a new element there, and suddenly the individuals in charge.
the magic is gone. With deregulation, The one voice of authority, however,
significant disagreements between new is not predominant in public broadcast-
corporate owners, often viewed as “the ing and in educationally oriented insti-
suits” or “bean counters,” and the pro- tutions such as universities. Public
duction team often take place, resulting broadcasting has committees and advi-
in too many opinions and approaches sors and sometimes advisors to commit-
that threaten the integrity of a project. tees. Although some public broadcasting
To be sure, constructive suggestions concepts are conceived and executed
should be offered and welcomed. But it primarily by one person (e.g., Ken
should be clear from the first meeting Burns’s “The Civil War”; Figure 6.22),
that one person will make all creative many others are the work of com-
decisions. The alternative leads to chaos. mittees. Content experts, educational
The single-authority requirement is evaluators, community leaders—all are
becoming more important in broadcast- brought in to give opinions. Usually
ing. As costs rise and risks grow, there they are not window dressing. They are
has been a developing trend toward leaders in their respective fields who are
funding by consortium with many con- used to having their ideas taken seri-
tributors sharing in the costs of a ously. If ignored, they can cause trouble.
project. However, each investor is One college-credit science course was
inclined to believe he or she is entitled undermined by a university professor
to give creative input. It is best to who felt his ideas had been neglected.
address that before the papers are signed This professor, whom we will call Dr. X
and to have the authority figure identi- for anonymity, was one of a committee
fied in the contract. of professors called in to advise on
Although some creators can be content. He tried to dominate all the
labeled as micromanaging egotists, too meetings to the extent that the other
many cooks spoil the broth. There is a professors asked the producer to remove
6 Elements of Successful Programming 149

him from the committee. Upon hearing familiar theme fresh, but that voice has
rumors of this, Dr. X listed all the prob- to provide something new.
lems he saw with the design of the series Points of differentiation do not have
and then resigned from the committee. to be major departures from all other
When the series aired, he nitpicked the forms on the air. A single inventive dif-
content and presentation, called the ference is frequently sufficient. It can be
press, and “proved” that the course was as simple as producing a conventional
basically ill conceived. Although some of form in an unconventional way.
his accusations were false, the publicity Programmers should be cautious
that he stirred up kept the course from about the following:
ever airing again.
Despite negative incidents of this 1. Every buyer of network programs has
type, public broadcasting does not seem a file full of “breakthrough” program
to want to drift toward one voice of submissions that “can’t miss because
authority. Some that fund public broad- they’re so different,” such as the one-
casting require in their applications the armed detective who lives in a state-
names of people who will be consulting of-the-art tree house or the female
on program concepts.The longer the list Siamese twins who are defense attor-
(especially if the names are prestigious), neys (casting was seen as a problem
the better the chances it will be funded. on this one). In the early 1990s, the
Although the loss of one voice of celebrated producer Steven Bochco
authority often results in chaos, chaos attempted a weekly hour-long musical
seems to be more acceptable within drama, “Cop Rock.” It sank like one.
public broadcasting than within the The idea was bold and inventive, but
commercial broadcasting realm. There the innovation failed to address a need.
are even those who profess that chaos Interestingly, ABC at the start of
leads to art, but this is a dangerous posi- the 2002–2003 season announced
tion that beginning programmers should that it was not going to be introduc-
avoid. ing any “breakthrough” shows, relying
instead on more traditional program-
Innovation and Freshness. More than ming. This angered members of the
50 years ago, a man named Ted Bates press quick to find fault with any
built an advertising empire out of a programming announcement, rein-
single notion. Every ad prepared by his forcing the notion of television as a
agency had to have a unique selling “vast wasteland,” but ABC’s strategy
proposition. By that he meant the ad revealed that many programmers are
had to find one quality that could only aware of the pitfalls of “break-
be found in, or said about, the product. through” programming.
That uniqueness distinguished the pro- 2. The acceptability of innovation by
duct from all others and thus stimulated buyers is in direct proportion to the
a buying appetite in the consumer. economic health of the industry. In
The same is true for programs. If hard times, buyers tilt toward conser-
there is nothing unusual, fresh, or dif- vatism. Innovation means risk, and risk
ferent about a show, why should can mean the loss of scarce dollars. In
anybody watch it? The kiss of death for tough economic times, station owners
any show is when the viewer says, “I get are loathe to cancel even marginally
the feeling I’ve seen it a thousand profitable shows for fear their replace-
times.” A distinct voice can make a ments might do worse. Better to stay

with something that is not losing than that program classical music consider
take a chance on a big hit and miss. prestige. These stations do not expect
Real success in programming can large audiences or large amounts of
only be obtained by invention, advertising, but the owners are willing
finding new ways and new people to to continue the format because the pres-
inform and entertain. In the first 50+ tigious nature of the audience attracts
years of television’s history, only two enough specialized advertisers to gener-
animated programs had ever been ate a profit. Public radio networks and
successful on prime-time network stations also court prestige, especially in
schedules—“The Jetsons” and the their news departments. A track record
“Flintstones.” No other animated of honors can help in garnering finan-
program had survived in prime time cial support from the government and
since “Flintstones” bowed out in the public, especially if the awards are
1966. The gambling, innovative Fox from avowed apolitical organizations
network introduced “The Simpsons,” such as the Peabody Awards and the
a weekly half-hour animated series in National Association of Broadcasters.
1990. The show quickly zoomed into Two programming objectives deserve
Top 20 status and became a market- special consideration. One, fulfilling a
ing phenomenon. Such success stories particular local purpose, is more domi-
never happen to “safe” derivative pro- nant in radio than in TV.The other, cre-
grams. They only occur when a ating a particular mood, is peculiar to
dreamer has an inspiration and a pro- radio.
grammer decides to accept the risks.
A Particular Local Purpose. Radio is
RADIO PROGRAMMING more likely than television to attempt to
fulfill a local purpose. Interacting with
Commercial radio is different from tele- the community helps license renewal,
vision in its program objectives. Despite but it is also an essential element of
this, the qualities that make program- station operations because radio (satellite
ming successful are similar. radio aside) is primarily a local medium.
Radio stations often engage in activities
Programming Objectives that are part promotion and part local
public service.
Rarely is a radio audience a large one. For example, KIZN in Boise, Idaho,
Because people have such a wide diver- sponsors an annual “Keep Kids Warm”
gence of musical tastes, a radio station clothing drive and auction. As its web-
that tries to program to reach everyone site states, the event initially sprouted
will probably attract no one. Radio sta- from an on-air contest that had no com-
tions target a specific audience—teenage munity service tie-in: “Keep Kids Warm
males who like hard rock, older women started in December of 1996 with a
who enjoy listening to talk, people who single phone call from a young girl that
want 10 minutes of capsulated news. was trying to win money from KIZN so
Because radio is relatively inexpensive, she could order some heating oil for her
stations can make a profit even though family. The morning show at the time
they do not have a large audience. (Mark Rivers and Rich Summers), had
Prestige and awards are not major been giving away cash with a ‘song of
radio objectives, although stations cer- the day’ contest the previous few weeks.
tainly tout awards when they win them. The contest had come to an end but
The few remaining commercial stations Kissin’ listeners were still calling Mark &
6 Elements of Successful Programming 151

Rich, asking about the ‘song of the day.’ it strives to create a particular mood.
When they explained on the air that the Although individual TV programs may
contest was over, the studio phone rang, make a person sad or angry, the moods
and there was Christian, a young girl do not usually affect what a person is
who asked Mark & Rich this question, doing other than watching TV. For a TV
‘If I can’t win the money, can I win some program to put you in a certain mood,
heating oil for my family? . . . our house you must give it your attention. But
is cold, and we just want to be warm for such is not the case with radio, which
Christmas . . .’ ” The annual drive brings encourages inattention. Music is back-
in about $40,000 per year and has ground oriented and can influence how
numerous sponsors, including country people feel about other activities. Radio
artists, NASCAR teams, sports greats, programmers try to select music that
and entertainment celebrities, who con- will fit the predominant moods of their
tribute on-air auction items.16 target audience.
Many stations program short seg- Rhythm, pitch, loudness, instrumenta-
ments that describe upcoming weekend tion, melody—all of these aspects of
happenings. The Beat, 95.5 FM in music can affect mood. For example,
Atlanta, Georgia, along with making on- high-pitched music is more pleasant and
air announcements, heavily promotes its playful than low-pitched music, which
online events calendar, where listeners tends to be serious or sorrowful. Saxo-
can find an exhaustive listing of local phones are more romance inducing than
events broken down by location, date, trumpets. Loud music is more capable
and type. than soft of providing isolation—a sound
In addition, call-in shows concerned wall to keep out other people. Program-
with local issues are often top rated on mers must think of the music they select
stations with all-talk formats or even sta- in terms of its general appropriateness
tions that only do occasional talk shows. for the target group and the specific
Talk show hosts and disc jockeys appear activities that the audience might be
at many charitable functions in the engaged in at various times of the day.
community, partly to add allure to the For example, young men like fast, hard
community event and partly to build music and older women prefer some-
awareness (and ratings) for the station. thing slower and softer. But early in the
Even the numerous contests where lis- morning, when everyone must move
teners can win money, tickets, or CDs rather rapidly, the music played on a
often have local tie-ins. For example, the station appealing to older women should
tickets may be for a concert by a local be more sprightly than it is late at night,
music group. Hometown involvement when audience members are more likely
makes good, sound business sense for to be relaxing or winding down.
most commercial radio stations. Even Overall, the primary objectives that
with voice tracking, disc jockeys record- radio programmers deal with are those
ing shows in San Diego to be broadcast of attracting a demographically specific
in Albuquerque go to great lengths to audience, fulfilling local needs, and
add segments that specifically reference establishing a mood.
local events because the feel of localism
is so important to local audiences. Fundamental Appeals to
an Audience
A Particular Mood. One of the main
programming objectives of radio, which Although television serves a smorgas-
is not really apropos to television, is that bord of appeals to audiences, radio, after

6.23) was pulled from many stations

after initial negative feedback from lis-
teners who were uncomfortable with
the song’s references to the hot-button
issue of abortion. WSM-FM (Live 95)
Nashville’s programming director, Kevin
O’Neal, pulled the song, “just to be
safe,” after a handful of spins because of
listener complaints. He later reversed
that decision, saying, “I think the song is
reality . . . We are not in the censor
Figure 6.23 But if O’Neal’s station were more
Country superstar squarely in the nation’s Bible Belt, he
Tim McGraw’s might sing a different tune, as did Oper-
“Red Rag Top” ating Manager/Programming Director
proved challenging Ron Brooks of WCOS Columbia,
for programming South Carolina. Brooks said his station
directors in some “played ‘Red Rag Top’ on a Friday
localities in 2002.
afternoon and took calls for about 45
(Globe Photos,
minutes. We did not say what the song
was about; (we) just asked the audience
to listen closely and give us their
opinion. Approximately half of the calls
were strongly against the song due to
the advent of television, has thinned its the characters’ choice of abortion. Many
menu and purpose, sidestepping comedy folks also felt that that song did not
and drama for the aural comfort foods reflect nearly enough remorse over the
of music, talk, and news, much of which decision, regardless of their personal
serves as background for listeners’ other stance on abortion. Abortion is the most
activities. divisive issue in our nation, and it is a
very hot topic in this part of the
Music. There is no question about the country.”
audience for radio music. It is just Brooks added, with some frustration,
a matter of selecting the right sound that local listeners do not kowtow to
for the right group.This is easier for sta- stardom when it runs up against or even
tions than for networks or syndicators seems to challenge their beliefs. “It’s
because stations can take into account frustrating to me to go in to the fall
the moral attitudes of the local commu- (ratings) book anticipating new music
nity. Networks and syndicators that from one of our current superstars and
program rock and hip-hop music, in we get something this dangerous. Our
particular, have trouble because stations superstars can get away with a lot, but
in certain parts of the country do not there are also limits. The country audi-
want to broadcast profane or sexually ence in Columbia expects WCOS to be
oriented lyrics. But other formats can a radio station where they don’t have to
run into this problem, too. In 2002, a worry about their kids being exposed to
new song, “Red Rag Top,” by country what they would consider dangerous
music superstar Tim McGraw (Figure content.”17
6 Elements of Successful Programming 153

Hard News. Radio is a vital factor in professional staffing. The latter often
many people’s lives for obtaining infor- translates into a need to have people
mation. Waking up to radio news is who really understand the type of music
common. People want to learn what has the station plays. A professional, high-
happened during the night—or some- minded person who really knows jazz
times they just want assurance that a will be of little use to an easy listening
major disaster has not happened. Once station.
they are convinced that life is going on Formats need both durability and
as usual, they are willing to switch to consistency. If a format is too narrow in
another appeal, such as music. Often the scope, it will not endure. For example,
main elements of news broadcasts that one radio station decided to try an all-
attract audience members are the ones Elvis format. It did not last long. Disco
that affect them most personally— music was also short lived because the
weather, traffic, or both. All-news sta- music was not varied enough—all of it
tions provide hard news throughout the was high energy and glittery. However,
day so that people can know about the if a particular station’s sound is not con-
latest happenings at any time. sistent, listeners will change the dial.
When radio was deregulated in the Imagine the result if a classical music
1980s, stations were no longer required disc jockey, bored with Beethoven,
to broadcast news. Although some have decides to send out to the listeners Dave
dropped all newscasts, many others have Matthews’ latest hit. Or vice versa. Sim-
continued to bring listeners news at least ilarly, people who have put a rock
once an hour because people want to station in their car radio settings will
know what is going on in the world. tune out quickly if they hear a cooking
show when they push the button.
Soft News. Talk shows are the most Timing and trends can help bring a
profuse supplier of soft news. Call-in radio station success. A station that
shows on which people discuss their switches to an all-news format just
problems, their questions regarding before a major international or national
sports, or their opinions on current crisis has the fortune of good timing.
events cater to curiosity. Soft news is also One that latches on to a new sound in
programmed from features supplied music that becomes big has cashed in on
by syndicators and networks, such as a trend.
commentaries on controversial subjects, But of all the qualities tied to success,
background information on stories in the two that are probably most important
the news, and interviews with celebrities. for radio are likeability and innovation.

Qualities Tied to Success Likeability. Likeability is important for

disc jockeys. They are the single-most
Although radio is an exclusively aural distinctive element in radio program-
medium and TV relies greatly on the ming and are largely responsible for
visual, the qualities that make program- attracting the audience, especially if
ming successful are the same. For several stations in one market program
example, conflict is often an important the same type of music. One of the
element in talk radio. These programs major elements that makes a disc jockey
come alive when the caller takes issue likeable is energy. This is especially true
with the host or other callers. Likewise, for radio formats that feature music with
radio stations need adequate budget and high energy.

and antipathy toward Stern himself, or

perhaps he fulfills a deep vicarious need
for his audience. Stern says things and
asks questions the audience may be
thinking themselves but would not dare
say—certainly not in public.
More traditional talk show hosts, such
as Neal Conan of NPR’s “Talk of the
Nation,” stand in for the audience in a
more conventional way—asking some
questions audience members might ask
were they in the room. Conan limits his
comments to neutral questions; other
hosts express strong opinions, such as the
Figure 6.24
uncompromised moralizing of Dr. Laura
The band Nirvana
tapped into an and the political commentaries by the
unexpected likes of Bill O’Reilly and Al Franken,
audience in 1991. some of whom claim that their opinions
(Globe Photos, are not just opinions but the truth.
Inc.) Listeners are drawn to the material,
whether they agree with it or not,
simply because it provides addictive
conflict and drama.

Innovation. Innovation is supplied pri-

Several program directors were asked marily by changes in musical tastes. Each
what they looked for in a disc jockey. generation tends to develop its own
Most of the answers related to likeabil- style of music. A radio programmer must
ity—“upbeat people who don’t feel they be attuned to the changes and be aware
have to talk a lot,” “someone who of when a music format is reaching a
sounds natural and not like a radio per- midlife crisis and needs a change. The
sonality,” “the ability to relate locally world moves on and what works in
and know the town,” “a sense of radio today may be out of date tomor-
humor,” and “energy and a knowledge row. Often the changes in musical taste
of music.” are dramatic—almost unbelievably so.
Talk show hosts must be either The early 1990s saw, perhaps, one of the
people you like or people you love to most shocking and swift changes in
hate—although sometimes they are a musical taste. Pop audiences had been
combination of the two. So-called shock consuming a diet of sugary, feather-
jock Howard Stern has received much weight fare, such as Milli Vanilli’s “Girl
flack for his caustic talk show but has You Know It’s True,” which highlighted
remained an unflappable force in radio the emphasis of late-1980s music on
for years. His insulting and no-holds- image rather than substance when it was
barred approach to callers and in-studio disclosed that the band members, after
guests is instrumental in creating attention- receiving a Grammy for best new artist,
sustaining conflict. Perhaps some of the had not even sung on their own album.
secret to his success is that his style But in 1991, a band out of Seattle,
engenders sympathy for interviewees Nirvana (Figure 6.24), whose first album
6 Elements of Successful Programming 155

had come and gone without notice, INTERNET PROGRAMMING

released its follow-up, Nevermind. Almost
overnight, the pop airwaves, which had The Internet, allowing a convergence of
been lightly sprinkled with electronic all media, relies upon many of the same
keyboards and purple prose, were being elements for success as television and
assaulted by guitars, drums, and unadul- radio. Problems arise in Internet pro-
terated rage. The audience’s unexpected gramming when programmers do not
appetite for this new music left pro- adhere to these elements. The Internet,
gramming directors scrambling to try unlike radio and television, is not a tem-
other previously “underground” bands poral medium in that much Internet
on their stations. Playing Nirvana’s content is not broadcast in real time but
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” beside a new instead waits for viewers to happen
release from Michael Jackson’s 1991 upon it. It is easier, then, for Internet
Dangerous album presented a consistency developers to simply put up content and
problem for stations whose expectations leave it there, unchanged, until web
about the future of music were surfers chance upon it.
blindsided. In some cases, this strategy is appro-
Other less dramatic and more gradu- priate, but it does not encourage return
ated changes have occurred since 1991. visits or brand loyalty.
Each marked a change program direc- Freshness
tors have had to track and, in the best
case, stay ahead of to keep their inno- One of the most important strategies to
vative edge: the arrival of the so-called keep in mind when developing web
boy bands in the mid-1990s and the content is to keep it fresh. If a radio or
steady ascendancy of hip-hop in the television station simply played the same
new millennium. content over and over, viewers would
Usually a programmer has more free have little reason to return to it. A
rein to be innovative in good economic blogger (essentially a person who keeps
times than in bad. If enough money is an online diary, open for others to see)
available to cover a bad guess concern- whose latest entry is 2 months stale will
ing the fickleness of the public, a pro- likely lose her or his audience. Likewise,
grammer is more likely to be given the an Internet store that does not seem to
go-ahead to try something new. When be introducing products and services or
economic times are rough, radio, like a web portfolio that does not seem to
many other endeavors, tends to be con- contain new material will not beckon a
servative. As Joe Garner, senior national visitor to return.
affiliate relations manager of the West- The operative word here is “seem.”
wood One network, said during one of An Internet site must seem, to a first-
the down periods, “Radio is now the time visitor, as if it will be updated with
playground for the proven rather than new content in the foreseeable future if
the playground for innovation. Programs not immediately. The easiest and most
do not have a chance to grow and find surefire way to give this impression to
an audience; programmers go with the visitors is make it a fact—and to tout
proven rather than experiment.”18 This that fact. In the early days of the Inter-
should not become the standard operat- net, a craze developed wherein web
ing procedure for radio. Innovation is designers inserted dynamic code that
needed to keep the medium healthy— displayed the current date in a promi-
and wealthy. nent place on their sites. The idea was

that visitors to the site would see the lighting the chemistry department may
current date and think that the content show; the next time, a picture and text
of the site was current. Visitors who, spotlighting the theatre department will
based upon this assumption, returned take the chemistry department’s place.
later to find that the only thing changed The site is not actually updated; it is just
on the site was the date soon became randomly cycling through a finite
wary of such transparent ploys. They number of choices.
wanted the real thing—real change.
Displaying the date new material is Targeting Content
added can give visitors a sense for how
often the site is updated and can, there- Another way to keep a site seemingly
fore, encourage them to return. Making fresh is to target the content in it spe-
promises or teasing upcoming material cifically to each visitor based upon
is also a good ploy—provided the information gleaned from previous
promises are fulfilled. Nothing will so experience with the visitor. In this way,
quickly turn off a visitor as a flashy websites, such as Amazon.com, which
promo for new content that will be feature an inventory of hundreds of
added June 1 when the date is already thousands of products and services for
August 17.With the millions of websites sale, can offer suggestions to browse
on the Internet, most sites only get one through based on previous purchases by
chance to connect—or disconnect— a specific visitor. If you bought an elec-
with a visitor. tric drill last time you visited, maybe you
It is possible, however, to get websites would be interested in an electric saw.
to change themselves each time they are Browsing, whether in a store, with
visited, using computer programming. the radio dial, or through a television
Many sites, such as those that display remote control, is an important com-
news headlines, automatically swap out mercial activity, resulting in the germi-
old news stories, replacing them with nation of new interests for consumers
the latest stories as those stories are and countless impulse buys. In grocery
added to the queue. Websites for tele- stores, featured products are placed at
vision and radio stations are often pro- eye level (both for adults and for little
grammed to automatically adjust their ones straggling along—begging for
content to match the program currently attractive products strategically slated for
broadcasting on the station. Some web lower shelves). The Internet pursues
developers, to give visitors different similar strategies but with distinct
experiences each time they visit, simply advantages in information collection and
create a section of their home page dynamic delivery.
where random content can be added To carry the supermarket analog
each time the site is visited. For further—if you sign up for a supermar-
example, a site for a university might ket member card that gives you special
have a “spotlight” section on the home member rebates when you use the card
page that has space for a picture and at the check stand, you may be unknow-
some text. Each time the site is visited, ingly getting more than you bargained
computer programming in the home for. Without using the card, you are just
page generates a random number that an anonymous buyer to the supermarket;
corresponds to one of many different when you use the card, the supermarket
pictures and text available. When you is able to track your purchases—how
first visit the site, a picture and text spot- often you buy alcohol, frozen peas, low-
6 Elements of Successful Programming 157

carbohydrate frozen entrees, etc. If you puter on your last visit, place an adver-
are a regular customer at the supermar- tisement for that artist’s latest album or
ket, this information can help the store song download that might entice you to
to adjust its inventory to better suit your buy.
buying habits along with the rest of its Some web companies, such as Dou-
card- and non-card-using customers. bleclick.com, make it their sole business
Although many worry that this infor- to collect information and preferences
mation collection is an invasion of of web surfers and provide that infor-
privacy, it undeniably can help busi- mation to their subscribers so that those
nesses to streamline their offerings and subscribers can more effectively target
consumers to get what they commonly content to surfers that come to their
want when and where they want it. sites. Of course, Doubleclick.com aims
The Internet allows a similar but far to make a good profit at it.
more advanced system of tracking and Because the Internet consists of a
responding to customer habits. Imagine growing roster of millions upon millions
if you walked into a supermarket, slid of sites and options, content targeting
your member card through a card reader can be valuable for both the creators and
at the front door, and the entire store the viewers of Internet content. Never-
rearranged itself to favor your pattern of theless, it raises privacy concerns, some
shopping and suggested products that, of which will be addressed in Chapter 8.
based on your past shopping preferences,
you might be interested in purchasing. Consistency
The 2002 Tom Cruise/Steven Spiel-
berg movie “Minority Report” imag- Another important strategy for success
ined a future much like this—where in web content is consistency. If a radio
advertising spaces recognized consumers or television station played children’s
as they walked by, scanning the unique shows one afternoon and a sex advice
signatures in their retinas, and delivered program the next, viewers would see the
advertisements that spoke personally to station as a crapshoot and might not like
them and their recorded tastes. Although their odds of tuning in to something
“Minority Report” was set in the year they enjoy. An e-commerce site that sells
2054, in a way the future the movie women’s scarves one day and power
envisages is already here. Unless con- tools the next will obviously have
sumers set up their computers to block trouble keeping its buyers unless it is
them, many websites drop identifiers, implementing targeted content strategies
called cookies, into visitors’ computers as described previously. A blogger who
to help the website individually adjust switches from describing the difficulties
its web content to repeat customers’ on of being a teenager to obscure musings
subsequent visits. In this way, if you on quantum physics, even if genuinely
placed products into your shopping cart interested in these two subjects, risks
on a website on a previous visit but losing the audience. Even if the audi-
did not complete the transaction, the ence shares this mix of interests, when
site will be able to remind you of your these interests surface may not coincide
incomplete purchases on your next between the content creator and the
visit. Or, if you viewed a music video consumer. Although you may like, at dif-
by Christina Aguilera or Rob Zombie ferent times, romantic and horror films,
on a previous visit, the site could, by imagine being in the mood for and
accessing the cookie it left in your com- going to see a movie you thought was

a horror film only to find that it is a activity in a way that will engage audi-
romantic comedy. ences without taxing their attention
Another important issue in this area spans to the breaking point. Program-
is consistency of quality. Unlike with mers who are able to successfully find a
television and radio, there are not nec- balancing point between innovation and
essarily the same bureaucracies and test- user friendliness may strike Internet
ing strategies in place to safeguard the gold—siphoning off viewers and adver-
quality of what goes online. For some, tising dollars from traditional mediums
the answer to “Why did you put this on such as radio, television, and film.
a website?” is “Because I can.” That Many attempts have been made to
answer is fine if all that you want to do make television viewing interactive by
is have a website—but if you want your adding Internet-like elements or layer-
website to have an effect or to garner ing Internet content and pages onto
loyal visitors, more thought has to be put television broadcasts, but any success
into it.Thought has to be put into every these ventures have had has been more
page and every element of the site. One in the hype leading up to their launch
lousy or inconsistent page can turn off a than in actual sustained usage by pio-
visitor, especially if that is the first page neering television viewers. Developers
your visitor sees. But even if it is the 3rd will no doubt continue their search—
or 20th, it can foul a visitor’s impression more in enterprising, good economic
of the entire site. times than when belts are drawn tight.

Innovation Branding
The Internet is nothing if not a fertile Once an Internet programmer has
ground for innovation. New applications chanced upon a winning Internet pro-
and technologies are always being devel- duct, has developed strategies to keep
oped. The technology bubble of the late it fresh and consistent, and has navigated
1990s saw companies and investors alike the balance between innovation and
taking great leaps of faith into “revolu- comfort, it is important to the success of
tionary” Internet technologies and uses. the site to develop brand recognition. A
Some of these technologies may have perfect example of branding can be
been revolutionary—but any revolution found in the granddaddy of Internet sites,
must, to take hold, catch fire with the Amazon.com. The site began in 1995,
general population and not just with the primarily as an online bookseller. Many
innovators who envision it. Many con- other sites came along to sell books—
sumers are drawn to the leading edge; some, like Barnesandnoble.com, with
others cannot tolerate being guinea pigs tie-ins to brick-and-mortar stores that
for buggy adventures along the edge of may have made them seem more reliable,
the horizon. especially to a public just beginning to
Because Internet sites may target wade into cyberspace. Amazon.com
small niches of visitors, some more or launched an aggressive marketing cam-
less tolerant of the inevitable glitches paign and, possibly because it did not
that come with new technology, there is have a confusing tie-in to a known quan-
no rule about how far out on the edge tity in the “real” world, captured the
is too far. One thing is certain, however attention of web surfers. Thus, instead of
—the main innovation that Internet going to a search engine website to seek
programmers are trying to develop is a a book they may be looking for, shoppers
way to make use of the Internet’s inter- started going straight to Amazon.com.
7 Influences on

In this chapter you will learn about the

• The external and internal forces that
influence programming
• How pressure groups operate
• The role the government plays in
television programming
• How and why advertisers and pres-
sure groups target specific programs
• How different internal departments
affect programming decisions
• The various functions of internal
departments and how these functions
influence what audiences experience
• How different departments jockey
to ensure their influence will be
finance department; the broadcast stan- Figure 7.1
• The areas that censors monitor Influences that
dards and practices department, most
In this chapter, we examine both the often aligned with the legal department; affect programming.
external and the internal forces that the promotion and marketing depart-
exercise considerable power over televi- ments; and research departments. We
sion programming. External forces are also examine the influence of top man-
those entities not directly involved in agement, and, as more companies merge,
the creation and production of a the influence of the parent company
product. We look at outside forces that (Figure 7.1).
include stations, advertisers, pressure
groups, the media, academic and non- EXTERNAL INFLUENCES
profit studies, and various branches of ON TELEVISION
the government. Internal forces are
those departments or divisions that have Commercial television, with its reliance
a say about the programming content. on advertising, its obligation to maintain
We look at the sales department; the broadcast licenses, and its importance


as a cultural phenomenon, is susceptible Station Influence

to several outside influences. Also, its vis-
ibility in the entertainment landscape Although there is a close connection
seemingly invites close scrutiny from between the commercial networks and
many quarters. the stations that carry the networks’ pro-
Cable TV programming, on the other gramming, almost as if they were part
hand, is subject to much less outside of the same family, we consider stations
influence. One reason for this stems as outside entities. There is clearly a
from cable’s narrowcasting philosophy. symbiotic relationship between stations
Pressure groups that want specific types and networks. As outside forces, stations
of programming have difficulty pushing exercise control on program content.
their demands on a network that is not The network may generate the
trying to capture a broad audience. program, but the stations command the
In addition, cable came to fruition distribution base. For example, in 2003,
during the deregulatory era of the two CBS affiliates in Texas, KZTV and
1980s. When the government was KVTV, refused to carry the Hitler
rescinding regulations regarding broad- miniseries,“Hitler:The Rise of Evil,” for
casting, it was not about to create them fear the program might cause young
for cable. Also, the FCC was reluctant to people to view Hitler in too sympa-
regulate cable because the signals went thetic a light.
through wires, not through the public If many stations refuse to present a
airwaves. Nevertheless, the FCC made network program, the audience will be
some rulings that affected cable in areas dramatically reduced and a huge finan-
where cable and broadcasting over- cial payback to the advertisers will be
lapped, such as the must-carry rule. required. Therefore, network program-
These regulations mostly were an mers are sensitive to the program eval-
attempt to protect broadcasting interests uations of station programmers and
from competition that might be created managers.
by cable. Making decisions in this area is a dif-
In many ways, the appearance of cable ficult juggling act because of the enor-
helped commercial broadcasters throw mous range of tastes across the country.
off some government shackles. Regula- A program acceptable in San Francisco
tion of broadcasting was based largely may be boycotted in Little Rock. When
on the scarcity theory. Because the a network is developing a potentially
airwaves only allowed four or five chan- controversial movie, series episode, or
nels in most cities, few people could documentary, it will frequently contact
own commercial stations. Therefore, the a committee of key affiliate managers to
government felt obligated to protect this take a temperature reading. Many times,
rare commodity and ensure it was oper- this advance notice will produce some
ated in the public interest. But when script adjustments that will avoid a
cable came along, just about anyone wholesale bailout and an unseemly
could start a network, so scarcity was no dispute.
longer a viable idea. The fractionaliza- The relationship between syndicators
tion of programming and audience, with and stations is not nearly as close. Net-
the philosophy of deregulation, led to a works and affiliates are joined at the hip
limiting of controls on cable program- throughout the broadcast day, every day,
ming and a lessening of controls on week in and week out. Because stations
broadcasters. and syndicators come together just for
7 Influences on Television Programming 163

particular shows, their association is a lot advertisers pulled out of an episode of

less familial. There is no mechanism set “thirtysomething,” which featured two
up to notify stations about controversial guest-starring men talking in bed,
material, nor are there subcommittees apparently after having sex. To avoid
among the stations to monitor and further financial setbacks, the network
protest content. However, if a pro- decided not to rerun the episode. In the
duction company consistently supplies following season, the network said it lost
programs that cause trouble in local $500,000 in another “thirtysomething”
markets, the station managers are not episode that depicted the two men acci-
shy about voicing their displeasure, dentally meeting for the first time since
and they hold the ultimate weapon, a the one-night stand.
cancellation. The dilemma of the broadcaster who
In the world of cable, cable systems must attempt to reflect the realities of
decide which cable channels they will contemporary society within the con-
offer subscribers. Complicated financial fines of advertiser acceptability was elo-
negotiations and the demands of the quently addressed by Robert Iger when
public tend to determine which chan- he was president of ABC Entertainment:
nels are carried. This also holds true for “The danger of having to impose some
satellite television such as Direct TV, form of content standards because of
where customer service representatives advertiser pressure is one of the more
solicit callers regarding channels that disturbing parts of my job. I am running
might be added to the service. a division that has a fiscal as well as a
For public television, the influence creative and social responsibility, and to
and interrelationships between public maintain a balance between them is
stations and the central PBS network are sometimes very difficult.”
strong. Stations pay the network for pro- Not every wish of an advertiser is
grams. They are the network’s primary honored. When the sponsor’s require-
customers, and stations are quick to tell ments conflict with the integrity of a
PBS what they do not like or what is production, the demands are frequently
not working for them. rejected. A classic example occurred
with “Missiles of October,” ABC’s 1974
Advertisers 3-hour special that recreated the events
of the Cuban missile crisis, which began
One of the strongest influences on when the United States discovered that
programming is the advertiser. Shows the Soviet Union was installing offensive
unable to attract sponsors, or hold the nuclear weapons 90 miles off Florida’s
ones they have, will lead short, unhappy shore. President John F. Kennedy
lives. Advertisers are extremely sensitive demanded that Soviet President Nikita
to program content that may alienate or Khrushchev remove the launch sites
infuriate potential customers. Their goal without delay. Khrushchev refused, and
is to expand gross sales, not extend artis- for 13 days the world stood poised for
tic boundaries. Although some are gen- a nuclear holocaust.
uinely concerned about free expression, A Japanese automaker was impressed
their primary obligation is to stock- by Stanley Greenberg’s teleplay and
holders, and this imposes severe limits to offered to sponsor half the program, a
their programming boldness. purchase worth slightly more than $1
ABC reported that it lost more than million. However, the deal was contin-
$1 million in revenue in 1990 when gent upon the deletion of two lines in

from 15 to 30 seconds to entice more

underwriters to come on board. These
longer spots cannot engage in direct
selling, in keeping with public broad-
casting’s guidelines, but many think the
messages on public television are be-
coming more like ads on commercial

The Family Friendly

Programming Forum
Perhaps lamenting the early days of tele-
vision when advertisers controlled pro-
gramming, some advertisers crave direct
Figure 7.2 the script. Both were references to control over programming. Not content
“Gilmore Girls” is Japan’s participation in World War II, the to wait to see what will be produced
one of the shows most important of which was a state- and available, these advertisers want to
that has taken ment by Attorney General Robert F. be fully involved. For example, the
advantage of Kennedy that the president had insisted Family Friendly Programming Forum,
Family Friendly that the U.S. Air Force immediately dis- formed in 1999, consists of a group of
perse American bombers and fighter major national advertisers who provide
Forum funding.
(Globe Photos,
planes. “My brother doesn’t want them the networks with seed money to
Inc.) lined up wing tip to wing tip the way develop “family friendly” series. Some
they were at Pearl Harbor when the of the advertisers who comprise the
Japanese nearly wiped out our Air council include Procter & Gamble,
Force.”1 Greenberg and producer FedEx, Ford, General Motors, and
Herbert Brodkin objected to the Johnson & Johnson.
change, pointing out that it was a major This is the way the forum works:
concern of the president and that its The networks submit scripts they think
omission would make Kennedy look support the forum’s objectives. If the
naive and inattentive to the lessons of forum agrees, seed money is provided to
history. The network agreed, the lines bring the projects to fruition. If the
stayed in; the automaker withdrew its network puts the series into production,
sponsorship. The sales department sold the networks return the seed money to
the time to a scattering of clients, and the script development fund of the
the network lost in excess of $500,000 forum. If the series go on air, the net-
in billings. But the show, available on works are assured that the participating
DVD, aired exactly the way the author advertisers will willingly buy spots in the
intended. shows.
Public broadcasting was designed to The WB in particular has taken
be free of commercials so that adver- advantage of the opportunity provided
tisers could not influence program by Family Friendly Programming
content. But as government funding has Forum funding, with such shows as
decreased, public broadcasting has had to “Gilmore Girls” (Figure 7.2) and
rely more on corporate underwriting. In “Family Affair.” NBC’s “American
2003, the PBS board of directors voted Dreams” and ABC’s “8 Simple Rules”
to increase its underwriting messages have also participated.
7 Influences on Television Programming 165

Achieving a balance between contro- wanted networks and stations to

versy and comfort is difficult for adver- improve the quality of children’s pro-
tisers that are, generally, an extremely gramming, which at the time consisted
cautious group.Viewers, in particular the mainly of cartoons, many of them
younger viewers that advertisers seek, violent. The organization, led by Peggy
want a sense of excitement or contro- Charren, succeeded in convincing the
versy. More viewers mean more people FCC that it should develop guidelines
are exposed to an advertiser’s spots. Yet, for children’s programs that broadcasters
as a rule, advertisers steadfastly avoid were to adhere to.
controversy. Controversial shows there- These guidelines, issued in 1974,
fore end up more often on cable, such stated, among other things, that stations
as Showtime’s frank “Queer As Folk” would be expected to present a reason-
and HBO’s “Sex and the City” and “Six able number of programs designed
Feet Under,” all of which sport charac- specifically for children and that they
ters and situations far past the line at were to use imaginative and exciting
which most advertisers are comfort- methods to further children’s under-
able—even if such shows have become standing of such areas as literature, fine
award-night powerhouses. Nevertheless, arts, history, science, the environment,
gone are the days when Ricky and human relations, reading, and math. For
Lucy Arnaz had to sleep in separate several years, these strictures were
twin beds and avoid the mention of observed and both stations and networks
Lucy being “pregnant”—even if Little developed programs such as after-school
Ricky did eventually appear, surrepti- dramas, science shows, and news pro-
tiously, in one of the most-watched grams for young people.
episodes in television history. Shows Although these efforts were meritori-
such as “Will & Grace” and even ous, they attracted smaller audiences
“Friends” have featured ample racy sit- than traditional cartoon fare and the
uations but continued to garner top broadcasters’ bottom line was adversely
dollars from advertisers. affected. When deregulation came into
vogue in the 1980s, the FCC stopped
Pressure Groups enforcing the 1974 regulations and fast-
paced adventure cartoons returned to
Several organizations have been set up dominate the schedule. ACT sprang into
specifically to monitor television pro- action again. Through its lobbying
gramming. Their mission is to encour- efforts, it succeeded in convincing Con-
age programming that conforms to their gress to pass the Children’s Television
standards of taste, political correctness, Act in 1990, which increased the
and morality and to eliminate program- amount of educational and informa-
ming they find offensive. Pressure tional programming to serve the needs
groups run the gamut from very con- of children. After this success, Charren
servative to very liberal. Although they declared her mission achieved and dis-
are frequently maligned by producers banded the organization, although she
and broadcasters, they serve a valu- remains active as a spokesperson for
able function, providing a variety of quality television.
perspectives. Another pressure group is Media
ACT was one of the most durable of Research Center, whose principal
such groups. It was formed in Boston in concern is the invasion of leftist
the 1960s by a group of parents who doctrine in TV programs. Headed by

10 Best Shows Probably the most prominent conser-

vative activist is the Reverend Donald
1. “Touched by an Angel” Wildmon, founder of the American
2. “Doc”
Family Association in 1977. A Methodist
3. “Sue Thomas F.B. Eye”
minister from Tupelo, Mississippi,
4. “7th Heaven”
Wildmon has attempted to influence
5. “Life with Bonnie”
6. “Smallville”
program decisions primarily through
7. “Reba” pressure on advertisers. He blames the
8. “Star Search” entertainment industry for abandoning
Figure 7.3 9. “George Lopez” traditional values; for example, objecting
The Parents 10. “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage strongly to what he calls the “normal-
Television Council’s Daughter” ization” of premarital sex.
Top 10 best and
10 Worst Shows Over the years, Wildmon has targeted
worst shows for
families in the such shows as “LA Law” (“perverse and
1. “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” illicit sex”),“Growing Pains” (“perverted
2. “Kingpin” family entertainment”), “48 Hours”
season. (Parents
3. “Fastlane”
Television (“subtle swipes at Christianity”),
4. “NYPD Blue”
Council, a and “thirtysomething” (“homosexual
5. “Fear Factor”
6. “Angel”
scene”). He numbers among his boycott
watchdog group successes NBC’s “Roe vs. Wade,” an
7. “Girlfriends”
that advocates Emmy Award-winning 1989 TV movie
8. “Will & Grace”
family-friendly from which advertisers withdrew more
9. “Friends”
TV than $1 million in advertising when it
10. “Big Brother”
did not support his views against abor-
tion. He also persuaded Pepsi Cola to
abandon a $5 million advertising cam-
L. Brent Bozell, the center reports paign featuring Madonna because of the
on the left-wing bias it observes on entertainer’s alleged “anti-Christian
television. symbolism in her songs and videos.”3 He
The Parents Television Council, also includes among his victories the cancel-
headed by Bozell, analyzes the appro- lation of “Ellen” in 1998, the show that
priateness of programs for family starred Ellen DeGeneres as an openly
viewing. Every year it publishes its list gay character.
of the 10 best and 10 worst shows on Wildmon does not support the V-
the seven broadcast networks (Figure chip, a device parents can use to block
7.3). The list includes “a quantitative programs they think are not suitable for
analysis of the frequency of foul lan- their children and one of the provisions
guage, sexual content, and violence on of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
each series, as well as the time slot, target He thinks the V-chip absolves the enter-
audience, themes, and plotlines of the tainment industry of its responsibilities.
programs.”2 The Parents Television Instead, he supports a device called
Council proudly announces successes it TVGuardian, a foul-language filter
has in getting advertisers to pull their that automatically filters out offensive
ads from shows, as was the case when language for television, videos, and
“Nip/Tuck,” FX’s controversial series, DVDs.
lost some of its advertisers over contro- Resisting the efforts of conservative
versial content about suicide. organizations is People for the American
7 Influences on Television Programming 167

Way, a liberal group that encourages Mills, for many years CBS’s vice presi-
the media’s freedom of expression. dent of movies made for television.
Founded by TV producer Norman Lear, “Every program will step on somebody’s
the group carries on a relentless strug- toes. All you can do is make it honest,
gle against the “religious right” in make it fair, and make it good. And
courts, Washington, and the nation’s when the heat comes, tell the com-
press. plainers why you think it’s a picture that
Added to all these formal organiza- should be seen and hold firm to your
tions are ad hoc groups or individuals convictions.”
who protest only when a program
offends their particular interest. For The Religious Right
example, Terry Rakolta, a Michigan
homemaker, did not like a “Married . . . The religious right has a large follow-
With Children” episode in which Peg ing, one vocal about its displeasure with
Bundy shopped for a bra. She tried to programming that presents conflicting
incite a boycott of the sponsor’s prod- values. Many such people complained
ucts. The movement backfired when about the inadequate supply of family-
many new viewers tuned in to see what friendly programming. Their complaints
all the hollering was about. Undeterred, did not go unnoticed, particularly when
Rakolta formed Americans for Respon- it became clear that there were dollars
sible Television, a group dedicated to the to be made by providing entertainment
restoration of family values in television the religious right would find appealing,
programs. possibly starting with the premiere of
Despite periodic attacks on the “Touched by an Angel” on CBS in 1994
“liberal slant” of public broadcasting, or the successful theatrical release of The
pressure groups generally tend to pay Omega Code in 1999, followed by the
less attention to cable and public televi- phenomenal success of The Passion of the
sion, partly because their audiences tend Christ in 2004.
to be smaller and more fragmented than Publications such as Christianity Today
those for commercial television. Com- and numerous websites direct the public
mercial television, which does not to fare that contains positive, wholesome
require viewers to pay a fee (ostensibly values. Cleanflicks edits videos to
to get what they are paying for), remains remove objectionable elements from
the main focus of most pressure groups. violent, sexually explicit films. Sensitive
Grumbles about cable pushing the enve- to this trend, Jonathan Bock formed a
lope may result in a lot more attention company called Grace Hill Media in
for cable. 2000. This company markets entertain-
Shows that touch on sensitive themes ment product to religious groups,
remain likely to draw fire. One day it groups that Hollywood tended to
may be the National Association for ignore. He consults on films and televi-
Advancement of Colored People; the sion programs alike.
next day it might be the Veterans of For Bock, “On any given weekend,
Foreign Wars followed by the National the number of people who attend reli-
Organization of Women, the Anti- gious services—roughly 122 million—is
Defamation League, or the Knights of vastly greater than the number who go
Columbus. What is a poor programmer to the movies—and that kind of ticket-
to do? “Show some courage,” said Steve purchasing power can be tapped.”4

If Bock or others cannot convince Drug companies are the nation’s fifth
religious groups that a particular work largest advertisers.6 Even though “Who
contains a strong moral message, then Killed Sue Snow?” had been carefully
fundamental religious groups are quick reviewed by USA’s legal department
to call for bans, advertiser boycotts, FCC before it received a green light, the
fines, or legislative action. threat of an ad boycott for the entire
network for a single film was not worth
Timing the risk for USA, regardless of how
responsibly the script handled the topic
A group or advertiser’s timing in apply- of drug tampering.
ing pressure can vary. An advertiser, The last-minute pressure exercised on
for example, may decide to embrace or “Who Killed Sue Snow?” was unusual.
avoid a program at the conceptual stage. Most often, ad buyers will decide where
Although most programmers advocate they want to place their ad dollars at the
making shows without the advertisers “up fronts” in May, when the schedules
in mind, some cautious executives will are announced. Buyers will purchase
avoid developing shows they do not “blocks” of advertising times at the start
think the ad buyers will want. Before of the season, although they may select
venturing into development, some may to buy time in individual shows during
even check with the sales force that may, the year, known as “scatter buys.”
in turn, “pass the idea by” a major Advertisers have the opportunity to
advertiser. screen advance copies of shows to see
Sometimes an advertiser will protest whether they want to keep the spots
the making of a show, blocking it from they have purchased or to pull out. For
getting made. For example, in 2000, pro- example, if an automobile manufacturer
ducer Ilene Amy Berg got a green light has bought blocks of time in a series and
from the USA cable network to make a one of the episodes deals with SUVs’
telefilm called “Who Killed Sue Snow?” poor safety performance, that advertiser
It was the story of a woman, Stella will have the opportunity to withdraw
Nickell, who in 1986 in Seattle killed the spot. The salesperson at the network
her husband by lacing Excedrin capsules will try to convince the ad buyer to stay
with cyanide. To draw suspicion from in, perhaps stressing that the driver of
herself and to make it look like a the SUV in the show was shown to be
copycat killing, Nickell put cyanide in negligent, but the advertiser still has the
other containers of Excedrin. opportunity to withdraw.
Five days before the start of shooting, Many times, salespeople will contact
USA pulled the plug on the movie the programming executive to get the
under pressure from Johnson & Johnson, right spin to describe a show, one that
the maker of Tylenol. Johnson & can be used to assuage an anxious buyer.
Johnson does not make Excedrin, but it (“Yes, the show does portray life on
objected to any portrayal of drug tam- the streets as dirty and depressing, but
pering. It figured that a movie that drew the show’s message is really about the
attention to drug tampering would be redemptive power of forgiveness.”)
harmful to the company. Johnson & If you are watching a prime-time
Johnson threatened to pull all its adver- show that contains numerous public
tising from USA, revealing “the growing service announcements, a lot of local
clout of major advertisers in the com- ads, and few national ads, chances are
petitive television market.”5 good that an advertiser pulled out,
7 Influences on Television Programming 169

maybe even at the last minute, feeling right, getting a finished film pulled after
the particular program was not an it had already been announced in the
appropriate venue for its product. press? Was pulling it at the last minute a
In 2003, a major controversy took valid moral decision by a man who
place when CBS opted to cancel its found the film unbalanced? Was it
$10 million miniseries “The Reagans” further evidence of the cowardly nature
2 weeks before it was scheduled to air of the networks? These and many other
during the November sweeps. The pres- points of view were expressed about this
sure was applied after the film was made, hot-button telefilm. As Meg James, Greg
after an airdate had been assigned, and Braxton, and Bob Baker noted in the
after the publicity had begun. In Los Angeles Times, “Never before had
announcing his decision to pull the a network pulled a major, completed
plug, CBS President Les Moonves said production off the air amid such
the film was not the one he had pressure.”11
ordered, that it was advocacy instead of
entertainment,7 and that he was making The Media
a moral decision not to air it,8 offering
it instead to Showtime, owned by Television reporting is news—big news.
Viacom, CBS’s parent company. “Entertainment Tonight,” “Access
At play in the timing of the decision Hollywood,” “Entertainment Weekly,”
about “The Reagans” was a strong and countless other outlets keep an eager
objection from conservative groups to audience informed about what is going
the project as a hatchet job, unfair to on in the television industry. Television
Nancy Reagan and to former President shows are reviewed and dissected daily.
Ronald Reagan, whose Alzheimer’s Cast changes, cancellations, station
condition prevented him from defend- defections, and ratings are breathlessly
ing himself. Conservatives (who had reported to a seemingly insatiable
not seen the finished film) labeled it public. The buzz about television can be
unfair and inaccurate, urging CBS not deafening, but what effect does the
to air it. media attention have on programming?
A groundswell of conservative When TV Guide publishes an article
protests ensued. The Media Research about good shows that viewers are not
Center sent a letter to 100 television watching, do ratings improve? Most
sponsors encouraging them not to often, no. Does a coveted TV Guide
advertise their products on the show.9 cover guarantee ratings? No. If media
Former Republican congressional staff observer Mark Andrejevic notes that
member Michael Paranzino started a reality shows “glamorize surveillance”
website called BoycottCBS.com.10 and that living under “Big Brother” on
Was the cancellation of “The reality shows is now cool, because twice
Reagans” a victory for the conservative as many people apply to be on MTV’s

“The Real World” (Figure 7.4) than to

attend Harvard University,12 will these
insights alter people’s viewing habits?
Again, probably not.
John McMahon and Karen Moore
produced many telefilms for USA under
the Wilshire Court banner.They used to
joke that they wanted bad reviews for
their movies, bad reviews that suggested
the movies might be fun to watch—
“guilty pleasures,” in other words. For
them, a review that said a program was
good for you, one that elevated the
Figure 7.4 genre, or one that would teach viewers
“The Real World” has connected with teen viewers for more than 10 a meaningful lesson was a ratings kiss of
years. (Globe Photos, Inc.) death. It might be necessary to take
medicine if you are ill, but there is no
appeal in a television program designed
to make you feel better.
Many programmers similarly dismiss
poor reviews, insisting that when it
comes to commercial television, good
reviews do not mean ratings. These pro-
grammers think that many media critics
are too lofty in their expectations and
that they do not understand the busi-
ness. A programming executive might
thus use ABC’s “According to Jim,” star-
ring Jim Belushi (Figure 7.5), as an
example of a show that would never
make any critic’s Top 10 list even though
it is a show that viewers have embraced,
to highlight how critics have no insight
into viewer tastes.
However, most programming execu-
tives do not like to see their shows con-
stantly pilloried in the press. A string of
negative reviews could make them more
receptive to a quality submission just to
relieve the heat.
Good reviews have a more significant
effect on cable and a much more sig-
nificant effect on public television.
There are so many options on cable that
Figure 7.5 a show singled out for praise can break
“According to Jim” has found an appreciative audience despite from the pack.“The Sopranos” on HBO
lukewarm reviews. (Photo © ABC Photography Archives.) more than likely owes its phenomenal
7 Influences on Television Programming 171

success to the reviews that praised the explore the effects of violence on
quality of the writing. children.13 These studies, supervised by 12
Although public television does not prestigious researchers, concluded that a
rely on advertisers and is not driven by modest relationship exists between vio-
ratings, it wants to program quality- lence viewed on TV and aggressive ten-
driven shows. Public television also wants dencies in children. These studies were
its shows to receive attention, partly to undertaken while ACT was promoting
keep underwriters committed to spon- reforms in children’s television. The
sorship. Good reviews are thus important reforms that came were the result of
for public television stations. Over the various factors; these research studies
years, the press has been generally were among them.
responsive to public television offerings, In 2002 and 2003, commentary about
giving public TV programs positive the state of television frequently
reviews and covers of Sunday television- included observations by Robert J.
magazine supplements—to the great Thompson, professor and director of the
frustration of commercial and cable pro- Center for the Study of Popular Televi-
grammers that would like the exposure. sion at Syracuse University. The author
But again, it is uncertain whether the of several studies, including Television’s
supplement covers significantly affect Second Golden Age (1996) and Prime
what the average viewer watches. Time, Prime Movers (1992), Thompson
presents a unique approach to the
Academic and Nonprofit Studies medium by refusing to undermine
“popular” television and refusing to
Universities and foundations frequently adopt the loftier-than-thou approach
examine aspects of television and many commentators cling to. By taking
publish their findings. Although pro- a friendlier approach to television,
grammers rarely make decisions based Thompson has brought a refreshing per-
on these reports, the studies can create spective to academic studies.
an environment that will eventually
influence program content. The The Government
National Coalition of Television Vio-
lence, a nonprofit organization of mental Commercial television transmits its
health specialists and media researchers, product using signals that pass through
periodically reviews the nation of trends the nation’s airwaves. These airwaves
in television violence. For several belong to the public and are, therefore,
decades, Dr. George Gerbner of the subject to the supervision of govern-
University of Pennsylvania has had a ment. In 1934, Congress passed the
staff counting incidents of violence on Communications Act that delineated the
television programs and conducting rights and limitations of broadcasters
various research studies about violence. and established the FCC to carry out
His studies have helped to create an the regulations prescribed in the act.The
awareness of the daily mayhem, but FCC is still the broadcasters’ main inter-
whether these studies have caused any face with government.
reduction is questionable.
One group of studies that probably The Federal Communications Commis-
affected programming was solicited in sion. The FCC is an independent
1969 by the U.S. Surgeon General to executive agency comprising five com-

missioners, no more than three of whom but it has happened. For example, in
may be members of the same political 1990, a Chicago station was denied
party, appointed by the president with license renewal partly because the
the consent of the Senate for 5-year station at one time aired pornographic
terms. Among its powers are the ability movies. In 1964, the FCC issued a
to grant, renew, revoke, or modify short-term license to WLBT in Jackson,
broadcast station licenses. Mississippi, because of the manner in
Although networks are not licensed, which it presented racial issues. This
all stations are. Because all of the net- station’s license was later revoked
works own and operate several stations, because of a court ruling.
the government can influence their per- If the FCC thinks a station is doing
formance by threatening them with the something improper, at license renewal
loss of one or more of their owned and time or at some other time, it can take
operated stations. In addition, networks actions other than revoking a license. It
do not want to cause problems for their can fine a station, or it can issue a cease
affiliated stations by sending them and desist order that notifies the station
programming that might give them dif- that it is to stop a certain action or it
ficulties at license renewal time. Syn- may receive further punishment.
dicators, too, are aware that the stations Many think that the fines levied
would not be happy with syndicated are simply gentle rebukes because the
material that placed their licenses in fine amounts are too low to cause the
jeopardy. broadcasting stations real discomfort.
License renewal depends on many In 2003, the maximum single fine was
factors, such as fulfilling equal employ- $27,500; the amount has since increased
ment obligations and broadcasting on significantly, as there is a concerted
the right frequency with the right effort in Washington to increase fines
power. The quality of a station’s pro- and levy more of them. This is evi-
gramming is also a factor in licensing denced by the 2004 fines stations owned
decisions. The FCC does not proscribe and operated by CBS received for the
any programming ahead of time—a Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction”
clause in the 1934 Communications Act and the fines Fox stations received for
prevents such prior censorship. But “Married by America.” For example,
another clause in the Communications the repeated fines levied on “The
Act states that “The Commission, if Howard Stern Show” over the years are
public convenience, interest, or necessity easily offset by the show’s considerable
will be served thereby, subject to the profits.
limitations of this Act, shall grant to any Many also think that the FCC is too
applicant therefore a station license pro- lenient. For example, in 2003, when
vided for by this Act.”14 This “public Bono used f—during the broadcast of
convenience, interest, or necessity” “The Golden Globes” on NBC, the
clause has become the keystone for FCC responded to complaints by deter-
license renewal. Its definition is suffi- mining that Bono’s use of the term was
ciently broad for any administration not obscene because it was not used in
to make life uncomfortable for any a sexual context. This ruling, which the
station that, in the FCC’s judgment, is FCC subsequently reversed, infuriated
misbehaving. many who want to FCC to be
Few TV stations have lost their tougher—possibly the same people who
licenses because of their programming, were surprised earlier when the FCC
7 Influences on Television Programming 173

ruled that a broadcast of a “Victoria’s answer was a stammered, “no.” Shortly

Secret Special” with women in sexy lin- thereafter, “Bus Stop” was canceled and
gerie did not constitute indecency. so was Treyz.
Although the FCC is the main gov- In 1993, intense congressional heat
ernment body that broadcasters deal was once again being applied to the
with, various facets of the executive, leg- industry, this time by Senator Paul
islative, and judicial branches of govern- Simon, author of the 1990 Television
ment can affect programming policies. Violence Act. The agreement by the
For example, after the FCC allowed four networks earlier in the year to affix
companies to own TV stations that col- viewer advisories to self-evaluated
lectively reach 45% of the nation’s violent programs apparently was not sat-
viewers, Congress voted to set the cap isfactory to the legislator. Broadcasters
at 39%. insisted that government interference
was not needed, and Simon insisted that
Congress. Congress, as already men- the broadcasters were not doing enough
tioned, approves FCC commissioners to curb violence on television.
and passes laws that govern or affect After the exposure of Janet Jackson’s
broadcasting. In addition, various con- breast at the Super Bowl half-time show
gressional committees occasionally inves- in 2004, a storm of protests gathered.
tigate aspects of broadcast programming. That children were in the audience
One subject investigated at least once fueled the outcry, although no one
a decade is violence on TV. As far back seemed to object that these children
as 1950, Senator Estes Kefauver mused saw many ads for erectile dysfunction
on the Senate floor that perhaps there products during the game. Shortly
was too much violence on TV. An inves- after the Super Bowl, Viacom President
tigation into violence that occurred in and Chief Operating Officer Mel
the 1961–1962 season was mainly the Karmazin, representing CBS, which
result of ABC’s attempt to reach its broadcast the Super Bowl, and National
target audience of 18 to 34 year olds by Football League Commissioner Paul
cranking up sex and violence in Tagliabue were urgently summoned to
action–adventure shows, which became testify before the Senate Commerce
known as “jiggle television.” As the Committee and a subcommittee of the
mayhem and heavy breathing increased, House Committee on Energy and
so did the audience. Commerce.
In response, the other networks went Congressional hearings have covered
up a few decibels and the nightly din many other programming-related sub-
was deafening. Viewers contacted their jects. During a 1950s House subcom-
Congress members, and network leaders mittee hearing, Charles Van Doren, the
were summoned to Washington to be most famous of the “Twenty-One” quiz
grilled before Senator Thomas J. Dodd show winners, confessed that he had
and his committee members. The ABC been helped with answers to defeat
president, Oliver Treyz, was a target. His contestants who were less appealing to
series, “Bus Stop,” had presented an the public. At the time, there was no
episode in which rock singer Fabian law that prohibited this practice, but
portrayed a psychopath who lived to kill it was unfair to other contestants
and torture. When a senator asked the and unfair to the audience that believed
beleaguered executive if he allowed his the competitions were genuine. As
own children to see such a show, the a result of its hearings, Congress

amended the Communications Act, President Nixon vetoed public broad-

making it unlawful to give such help to casting’s 1972–1974 budget.
a contestant. More recently, in 2001, Karl Rove,
President George W. Bush’s senior
The President. The president and other adviser, met with some 47 top Holly-
members of the executive branch do not wood executives to encourage them to
have as much formal power to influence make more patriotic, antiterrorist enter-
programming as Congress. Presidents tainment in the wake of the attacks on
can veto bills related to broadcasting, just the World Trade Center on September
as they can any other bills, and they 11, 2001. Although Rove and his
appoint the members of the FCC. colleagues said they were not asking
However, the power wielded over pro- Hollywood to make propaganda films, it
gramming by the executive branch tends was nevertheless clear that they were
to be informal. For example, in the late interested in having traditionally liberal
1960s and early 1970s when anti- Hollywood embrace the President’s
Vietnam War and civil rights demon- policies.
strations dominated the evening news,
the Richard Nixon administration The Military. The military can similarly
applied considerable pressure to the net- exercise significant influence over pro-
works and stations to present “a more gramming—especially any programming
balanced” perspective of the national that may wish to use images or assets
mood. In the administration’s judgment, from the military in production. By
the “silent majority” of Americans cooperating or not cooperating with a
supported the president’s policies, but particular production, the military can
the dissidents were receiving a dispro- substantially decrease or increase pro-
portionate amount of attention because duction costs. Although these costs
their demonstrations supplied the media primarily affect theatrical films, the
with interesting pictures. Although military’s stamp of approval of a partic-
the government never initiated any ular television program not only can
formal action against the networks, lower costs but also can provide much-
the capacity (some said “implied threat”) valued realism.
to do so caused industry executives In this regard, George Washington
to monitor carefully all footage with University law professor Jonathan Turley
political implications to avoid accusa- noted, “Most Americans are unaware
tions of bias. that the U.S. military routinely reviews
Theoretically, the CPB was set up to scripts that might require Defense
insulate public broadcasting from the Department cooperation and that the
government. The money allocated by Pentagon compels changes for television
Congress is forwarded to the CPB, and movies to convey the government’s
which then distributes it to stations and message.”15 He added that a team of
networks. The CPB’s role is to make military advisers embedded in Holly-
sure that the government does not pass wood worked on a “JAG” script “to
along its politics as it passes along its present its controversial military tri-
money. This has not always been the bunals as something of an ACLU
case; less money can be allocated if the [American Civil Liberties Union]
administration is not pleased with what lawyer’s dream.”16 If the military does
is being broadcast. This occurred when not like a particular portrayal, access to
7 Influences on Television Programming 175

military equipment, locations, and stock to run political ads, all other candidates
footage is readily denied. must have the opportunity to buy an
equivalent amount of time at the same
The Courts. The judicial system ad rate. A station cannot charge one
becomes involved with broadcasting candidate more money to place an ad
when cases are brought to it. These cases than it has charged another.
can be brought by individuals or compa- The equal time provision comes from
nies that think they have been wronged Section 315 of the 1934 Communica-
by some aspect of commercial broadcast- tions Act. Section 315 states that broad-
ing, or they can be brought by one media casters “shall afford equal opportunities
organization against another. In addition, to all other such candidates for that
if a broadcaster does not like an FCC office,”17 but over the years this section
decision, that broadcaster can appeal has been commonly referred to as the
through the U.S. Court of Appeals. equal time provision.
When cases related to programming Now that several actors have made
are tried in court, they are handled by their way into politics, a similar problem
lawyers rather than programmers. But arises with entertainment programming.
programmers are sometimes called as When Reagan ran for president, stations
witnesses or are asked to give back- were legally obligated to give equal time
ground information to the lawyers. to opponent Jimmy Carter anytime they
Often, the various branches of gov- ran an old movie with Reagan in it.
ernment interrelate. Congress may pass Most stations avoided the problem by
a general law interpreted by the FCC in making sure they did not run Reagan
a manner unfavorable to broadcasters. movies for the duration of the cam-
The broadcasters can take the FCC paign, but Carter also made light
ruling through the courts and, if the of the situation, joking that Reagan
ruling is still unfavorable, they can go would probably lose votes if his old
back to Congress to attempt to have the movies were shown. A similar situation
basic law changed.The interrelationship, occurred in 2003 when actor Arnold
involvement, and influence of the Schwarzenegger ran successfully for the
various branches of government can be governorship of California not long
seen by taking a close look at equal after his movie “Terminator 3” hit
time provisions. theaters with its accompanying broadcast
media marketing blitz, which featured
Equal Time. During political cam- Schwarzenegger prominently and often.
paigns, broadcasters are required to make Programmers who had previously
time available in their programming scheduled movies featuring Schwar-
schedules to all candidates running for zenegger to air on their stations had to
federal office. They are also strongly shuffle their offerings.
encouraged to allow time for state and But not all broadcast programming is
local candidates. When time is made subject to equal time provisions. News
available to one candidate for a particu- programs are exempted.The FCC deter-
lar office, equal time must be allowed for mines which programs are classified as
all other candidates running for the news. For example, the FCC classified
same office. This applies to political Howard Stern’s program as a news show,
commercials and to programs. If one so his program was not required to have
candidate buys $100,000 worth of time all the presidential candidates if he had
7 Influences on Television Programming 177

mail” by gay activists and called on KCET estimated it lost $55,000, most
Southern Californians to consider with- of it because one local businessman
holding contributions from KCET. pulled back a large pledge. Com-
According to Mahony, gays and AIDS pounding the problem, the controversy
activists had pressured the Los came during a recession, when contri-
Angeles station to run the controversial butions were hard to come by. But the
program by threatening to withdraw station claimed this experience would
their financial support of the station not change its programming philoso-
and to jam the switchboard during the phy. Barbara Goen, KCET’s vice
station’s August pledge drive to make president for public information, said,
it impossible for other donors to regis- “Any attempt at curtailing our income
ter their contributions. source, or threatening it, is very
At his press conference September serious. It probably has greater signif-
5, two days before the scheduled icance in hard times than in flush
broadcast, the Cardinal said, “This times. But does it mean we change the
absence of responsible leadership way we make program decisions? No,
at KCET leads me to believe that it doesn’t.”24 Despite the idealistic tone,
we should hold the station morally, it is also possible the station was
and possible legally, responsible for bowing to pressure from the activists,
every future act of terrorism against who could have caused the station to
churches, temples, and synagogues lose much more income had the
because KCET has told potential per- station not aired the program.
petrators of such hate crimes that not It is interesting to speculate what
only is such activity acceptable, it is advice a TV program consultant, had
worthy of televised documentaries one been retained, might have offered
celebrating and glorifying it.”22 the cardinal. “Stop the Church” regis-
Despite this blistering attack, KCET tered a 4.5 rating and a 9.0 share. For
held to its decision to air the show. At the five preceding weeks, the time
his own news conference held later the period averaged a 1.7 rating and a 3.5
same day, then KCET President share; for the five weeks following, the
William Kobin said that he was figures were 1.2 and 2.3. In short, the
“distressed by Mahony’s actions. heated controversy over the show
KCET believes strongly that its viewers generated an audience approximately
deserve the same opportunity as Car- three times greater than normal.
dinal Mahony to view this film and Perhaps the cardinal felt that no matter
make up their own mind regarding this what the audience results were, he
controversy.”23 could hardly let the broadcast take
A surface solution would be to honor place without protest. But on a purely
the judgment of the network officials statistical basis, an airing without any
and withhold the program. However, controversy would surely have resulted
activist organizations are well aware in a smaller audience, an outcome he
that individual PBS stations operate would have preferred.
with considerable autonomy and are Again, the question of whether con-
capable of broadcasting shows dis- troversy helps or hurts ratings comes
approved of, or discouraged, by the into play. In this instance from televi-
network. What to do? Either way the sion’s past, controversy raised aware-
station would alienate a broad con- ness and ratings. Whether ratings are
stituency and run the risk of revenue helped or hurt by controversy and the
loss. KCET chose to schedule the actions of pressure groups remains a
program and attempted to moderate constant. Many external corporations,
Catholic fury by scheduling an after- groups, and individuals work hard to
show panel session in which church promote programs that support their
advocates had an opportunity to rebut points of view and concerns and work
the charges. equally hard against programs that
Airing the program did have direct cross or question their values.
adverse financial consequences.

INTERNAL INFLUENCES for this. Simply put, salespeople under-

ON TELEVISION stand what sells. Although students may
feel that the sales division is less glam-
Internal influences also play a significant orous than development or production,
role. Different departments or divisions sales executives have a real pulse on
offer input that determines what types what the all-important advertisers are
of programming viewers experience. going to respond to. They also know
Every department in an organization from experience what the viewing
engaged in making or distributing pro- public will want to see.
gramming wants to ensure that its influ- Because of their antennas, salespeople
ence is duly appreciated. All divisions are are often consulted before final pro-
eager to make sure that they are not left gramming decisions are made. If the
out of success, and they are quick to lay salespeople screening pilots at a com-
blame elsewhere in failure. mercial or cable television network feel
The programming departments may strongly that a particular program will
be more visible than other television not appeal to advertisers or to the public,
divisions, but they do not function in that is important information for the
isolation. No programming department network to factor into the mix. Pro-
stands alone. Occasionally an adventur- grammers may publicly claim that the
ous programming executive will want to concerns of sales do not figure in pro-
make a decision on his or her own, gramming decisions, but this is not
choosing not to consult anyone, but always the case—nor should it be. It
such rash decisions often backfire. Pro- would be foolish to forge ahead with a
ducers often try to force executives to program that sales cannot sell, as was the
make instant decisions in their favor, but case in 2000 when ABC put on “Won-
even high-level programming executives derland,” a gritty series about life at a
are better off not committing to any New York psychiatric hospital. In the first
final actions without “consulting” with episode, a pregnant woman was jabbed in
other departments. the stomach with a dirty drug needle,
In support of this view, programmers causing viewers to flee. “Wonderland”
like to tell the story of a young develop- premiered March 30 and had its last
ment executive, a so-called baby mogul, airing a week later on April 6, proving
who was so sure everybody would love that the salespeople had been right.
a particular project that he, on his own, Salespeople also have knowledge
committed to a production order. To his about what will sell abroad. For
surprise, the network did not agree. Not example, suppose that a telefilm needs
one department agreed with his choice, $700,000 from the foreign market to be
and he had to “eat crow,” taking back his financially viable and the sales team says
commitment. Had he said he needed to that the most that can be counted on is
check with his and other departments, he $200,000. That is a $500,000 deficit, no
would have looked more like his own small matter. If the production of the
man than he did making promises he was film goes ahead and the salespeople
unable to keep. were correct about their predictions,
they will make sure everyone knows,
The Sales Department both to bolster their division and to
prevent similar mistakes.
Many industry professionals have a sales In previous chapters, we mentioned
background, and there is a good reason the adage that “sex sells.” There is ample
7 Influences on Television Programming 179

evidence that sexual content is prolific in

many programs, but many savvy sales
executives know that sex does not always
sell (Figure 7.6).A 2003 study at the Uni-
versity of Michigan supports this posi-
tion, finding that viewers remember ads
in programs that do not include sexual
content.25 Thus salespeople might speak
for programming that favors advertisers
by avoiding overt sexual content to keep
advertisers happy and rates high.
In syndication, two sales voices must
be heard: the one in charge of clearances
and the one in charge of barter. If
either states that the program is unsal-
able, the project likely will be aban- needs to be negotiated by the financial Figure 7.6
doned. But the ultimate decision maker, department. The amount of the license Sex does not
presumably the president of the produc- fee will, to a great extent, determine always sell, as the
tion company (or distributor), must be how a project turns out: Cheap? Well failure of NBC’s
alert. Many salespeople tend to evaluate produced? Somewhere between these “Coupling”
demonstrated in
programs on the anticipated degree of extremes?
2003. (Globe
difficulty in selling the show. A program Most programmers are respectful of
Photos, Inc.)
that will sell easily will be supported the influence of the finance department,
enthusiastically; one that looms as a careful to maintain a cordial relation-
tough sell will be received coolly. None ship; however, friction can develop
of this may relate to the inherent when it appears that the finance depart-
strength of the show. ment, always seeking to contain costs, is
standing in the way of the programming
The Finance Department department’s agenda. For example, when
Susan Lyne was head of TV movies at
No projects see the light of day without ABC in 2000, she was upset that a low
the finance department, sometimes offer had been made to an established
called business affairs. As noted in star. The star flatly rejected the offer.
Chapter 4, no project goes into devel- Lyne felt that a higher offer would have
opment until the finance department secured the star’s services, giving the
has closed a deal. Many programs are telefilm what all television executives
never made because money matters want—a star who never does television.
cannot be resolved. Showtime, for Generally, programming and finance
example, under Jerry Offsay’s leadership, work well together, but when costs are
would not put a project into develop- cut arbitrarily and quality begins to
ment if the finance department was not suffer, programmers should challenge
convinced it was financially feasible. financial dictates. Low-quality programs
Thus, programming executives had to lead to lower audiences, which lead to
get internal approval that the project reduced sales that lead to a devastating
being proposed could be produced bottom line. There is no such thing as a
within Showtime’s financial guidelines. cheap disaster.
In general, when a given project is Martin Carlson, vice president of
selected for production, a license fee business affairs at the Fox network, is a

tices department to catch an offensive

word or scene before it causes trouble
(Figure 7.7).
Networks cannot air entertainment
programming unless it has been cleared
by the broadcast standards and practices
department (this department does not
cover news or sports, though that may
change post–Janet Jackson and the Super
Bowl), which gives these “censors,” as
they are frequently called, a great deal
of influence. This creates many heated
discussions when the programming
department wants something included
in a program and the censors do not
agree, particularly if the broadcast stan-
dards and practices executives feel a
need to inflate their importance. For
example, Alfred Schneider, whose book
The Gatekeeper describes his 30 years as
a network censor, would ask his staff,
“Why are we making this?” as if the
broadcast standards and practices depart-
ment, not the programming department,
was deciding what to put on the air.
Broadcast standards and practices
editors need to be adept at the art of
Figure 7.7 full-service finance executive who negotiation to guide producers and pro-
“NYPD Blue,” defines his role as a facilitator, bringing gramming executives to accept their
starring Dennis parties together to make television. He rulings without appearing to be dictato-
Franz and Mark- negotiates a variety of contracts (for rial. Often, waiting for all of the partic-
Paul Gosselaar, actors, producers, directors, etc.) and is ipants to speak before requesting
carries advisories
intimately involved in all aspects of pro- changes can assist a censor in achieving
for language and
duction.What viewers see on Fox would the desired goal.
partial nudity.
(Photo © ABC not make it to air without executives Although many people believe that
Photography who take charge of the finances. broadcast standards and practices depart-
Archives.) ments have official lists of acceptable and
The Broadcast Standards and unacceptable content, there are no fixed
Practices Department rules. Being a network censor involves
making informed judgment calls, not
To operate profitably, a network must following set rules.
avoid offending any of its many con- Because judgments about program
stituencies: government, advertisers, affil- substance are largely subjective, pro-
iated stations, and the scores of groups grammers and producers frequently
that make up the general public. The view broadcast standards and practices
wrath of any one of these can inflict representatives as the enemy and accuse
heavy losses on the broadcaster. It is the them of being arbitrary and destructive.
job of the broadcast standards and prac- “Not so,” says Ted Cordes, former head
7 Influences on Television Programming 183

with issues that concern the people in Working with the legal department,
Washington, DC. Because the networks the broadcast standards and practices
do not want to risk censure, broadcast department also deals with matters of
standards and practices executives tend libel and invasion of privacy. Libel
to carefully monitor content for involves defaming someone’s character
obscenity and indecency. in a way that affects that person’s repu-
The present definition of obscenity tation or livelihood. Generally, the
stems from a 1973 court case, Miller v. people who believe they have been
California. According to this decision, for libeled take the broadcaster to court.
a program to be obscene it must contain One of the idiosyncrasies of libel is that
the depiction of sexual acts in an offen- people who are considered public
sive manner; must appeal to prurient figures have to prove that the disparager
interests of the average person; and must was malicious. In other words, famous
lack serious literary, artistic, political, or people have to prove that the broad-
scientific value (known as the SLAPS caster was out to get them and pur-
test). The difficulty is that material is posely broadcast false information.
perceived differently by various individ- Invasion of privacy is related to libel in
uals. One person’s art is another’s that it often leads to information that is
obscenity. Perceptions also change over damaging to a person. But the thrust here
time. What was offensive in one decade is on how the information is gathered.
may be acceptable in the next. Invasion of privacy laws are the province
Another problem is that obscenity of individual states. In most states, inva-
and indecency are often confused. sion of privacy means that a person has
Obscenity is never allowed; indecency is a right to be left alone. In terms of enter-
allowed at certain times, specifically tainment programming, libel and invasion
from 10:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M. This is of privacy are serious concerns, primar-
known as the safe harbor for adult ily in connection with docudramas and
programming, the assumption being that other fact-based programming.
this is not a time when children are Broadcast standards and practices
likely to be watching. The family hour departments and legal departments also
no longer exists, but the safe harbor work together to protect the network in
remains. Indecency is not as serious as matters involving copyright, that is,
obscenity and is generally considered to who controls the rights to a certain
occur when something is broadcast that property. If the rights are unclear,
is offensive in relation to the standards chances are that property will not be
of a particular community. found on television screens across the
Thus it is important for censors to country. As Mark Twain noted many
review all programming to evaluate years ago, copyright is so complicated
what is and is not acceptable, sometimes that even God cannot figure it out—so
preempting a show for another program many hours are spent determining the
that will be more in line with commu- rights situation. For example, in 2003,
nity standards. Local stations sometimes Disney expended considerable effort
even check in with the network trying, unsuccessfully, to claim it had the
(national) broadcast standards and prac- rights to the lucrative Winnie-the-Pooh
tices departments for guidance when merchandizing empire, trying to bar the
they are concerned about the accept- heirs of the writer and creator of
ability of a show in their particular area. Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne, from
Clearly, no one wants to incur the wrath producing and selling their own Pooh
of the FCC. merchandise.

In premium and basic cable and in owner will dictate what syndicated pro-
public broadcasting, broadcast standards gramming a station must play because it
and practices departments, if they exist, has purchased the programs, at a dis-
do not function in the same way as in counted rate, for all its stations.
commercial television. Basic cable has Influence from top management is
advertisers to worry about, but premium not necessarily bad. Programmers can
cable does not; it just has subscribers. get so bogged down in stress and minu-
Premium cable proudly proclaims that it tiae that they lose perspective. A good
has no restrictions regarding sex and top manager can point out new direc-
violence. It has, as Showtime, declares, tions or keep the programmer’s eye on
“No limits.” However, premium cable the target. But if everyone under the top
has extensive legal and research divisions manager is afraid to speak up for fear of
to ensure that fact-based programming losing a job, then the head person’s use-
in particular is free of factual inaccura- fulness in terms of making the right
cies and legal problems. Specifically, programming decisions may be severely
HBO would not want its fact-based compromised.“Whatever you say, chief,”
movies to be the subject of attacks by does not lead to first-rate programming.
the press for factual errors. Such criti- But members of top manage-
cism would clash with HBO’s brand. ment who micromanage the program-
Similarly, public television wants to ming department or constantly play
maintain viewer, government, and “Monday-morning quarterback” against
underwriter support and to avoid the head of programming can also be
censure in the press. Thus, its overseers destructive, as can top managers who are
will voice concerns about projects, timid and unwilling to take risks with
requesting any changes they think are new programming concepts.
needed. Factual accuracy, equated with The main external influence on cable
responsible broadcasting, helps to keep programming comes from within the
public television’s brand positive. cable structure—the MSOs. Cable TV
has a great deal of vertical integration
The Top Management wherein large companies have owner-
ship roles in organizations that produce
Programmers have bosses. They usually programs, networks that distribute pro-
report to station managers, general man- grams to systems, and systems that
agers, presidents, or chief executive offi- exhibit networks to the consumer. For
cers. Often the person the programming example, Time Warner is a producer of
head reports to has to go further up programs, a distributor of programs, and
the organization chart. For example, the an owner of cable systems.
network president may report to the MSOs frequently have a great deal of
chief operating officer of a parent say as to which cable networks their
company (NBC to General Electric, cable systems carry. They naturally want
ABC to Disney). their cable systems to offer all those net-
At the station level, the general works in which they have a financial
manager may be responsible to someone interest. Doing so fills the MSO’s
at the group owner (Cox, Hearst, coffers. Therefore, some cable networks
Gannett, or Tribune). These top execu- seek financial ownership by an MSO; in
tives can overrule the decisions made by that way, they can be included in the
the programming department. Some- “family” of channels chosen by the
times they do. Occasionally, a group MSO. The downside is that “he who
7 Influences on Television Programming 185

pays the piper calls the tune.” These 30 seconds in length). Once a promo has
MSOs will want some say in program- been slotted, it is up to someone such
ming philosophy. as Doreen Hughes at ABC to integrate
Some MSOs like to select virtually all the promo into the schedule. Hughes
the network services their systems reports that there is a lot of jockeying
should carry—even ones they do not for slots and that there are many last-
own. The degree of MSO control minute changes as different voices seek
depends primarily on the philosophy of particular placement. If a show is given
top management. few spots or if the spots are not placed
Arguments can be made for both where they will be seen by the targeted
approaches. Centralization produces viewers, a show is likely to suffer, leading
economies of scale. If the MSO is to programming changes. Thus, the
buying for all its systems, it can some- battle for slots is often intense.
times negotiate better deals from the Similarly, if the marketing department
networks than individual systems can. does not position a program correctly,
This centralized approach also cuts that program will suffer. For example, if
down on the need for local system pro- the marketing brochures take the wrong
grammers, a plus on the balance sheet tactic, the program will not connect
(but not for those who want jobs in with the intended audience, possibly
programming). On the other hand, such losing a place on the schedule. Not all
a policy is not likely to be responsive to television marketing chiefs are as savvy
local needs. Not all communities are as the film industry’s Harvey and Bob
demographically similar. Some skew Weinstein at Miramax, who have the
older or more rural than others. Because skill and the financial resources to
so many cable channels narrowcast, the enable such arguably mediocre films as
services desired by the citizens of one Chicago and Gangs of New York to
community might be different from become commercial and critical suc-
those of another. It would be a disser- cesses, but their television counterparts
vice to the subscribers if a system loaded have to do their best to market their
up on all the children’s services available slate of programs.
in a community consisting almost totally The conventional wisdom, as ex-
of senior citizens. pressed by Howard Schneider, former
With satellite television, the top man- head of on-air promos at Fox, is that
agement similarly will exercise a great good, well-placed promos can launch a
deal of control. Rupert Murdoch, head show by creating awareness and a desire
of Direct TV, is not a man afraid to take by viewers to sample a show, but that
a position. The voice of top manage- promos alone cannot keep a show on
ment will clearly be heard. the air if the audience loses interest.
Noting the complex dynamics that exist
The Promotion, Marketing, among different departments, Stu
and Research Divisions Brower, long-time promo head at ABC,
observed, “If a show fails, the failure is
The promotion and marketing depart- blamed on the promo department; if a
ments significantly affect programming. show succeeds, all the other departments
For example, promotion departments take the credit.”
make up weekly schedules indicating If a show cannot be promoted on air
where they have slotted on-air promo- or if extensive media coverage cannot be
tional spots for shows (5, 10, 15, or secured, shows will find it harder to

19. Sharon Bernstein. “PBS Network 23. Ibid.

Hit by Charges of Censorship,” Los Angeles 24. Sharon Bernstein.“KCET Pays Price
Times, August 14, 1991, p. F-1. in Flap with Church,” Los Angeles Times,
20. Ibid. October 10, 1991, p. F-1.
21. Ibid. 25. Kevin Downey. “Want Ad Recall?
22. Sharon Bernstein. “KCET Unwor- Avoid Sex and Violence,” http://www
thy of Public Support, Mahony Declares,” .medialifemagazine.com/news2003/aug03/
Los Angeles Times, September 6, 1991, p. a u g 1 1 / 1 _ m o n / n e w s 3 m o n d ay. h t m l .
F-1. Accessed August 13, 2003.
8 Influences on Radio
and Internet

In this chapter you will learn about the INFLUENCES ON RADIO

following: PROGRAMMING

• The limited scope of internal pressures The influences on radio are more simi-
on local radio station programming lar in form and intensity than those of
• How pressure groups and advertisers cable TV are to commercial television.
can flex economic muscle to affect But they are not as intense as those
radio programming exerted against TV, mainly because radio
• Government’s considerations and is more fragmented and less visible (no
problems with controlling obscenity pun intended) than TV.
and indecency on radio as it pertains Internal Influences on Radio
to both show hosts and music lyrics
• Government regulations to control Stations, networks, and syndicators have
payola in radio to work together, but they do not influ-
• Issues that corporate and personal ence each other a great deal. Local sta-
website developers should consider tions do not live or die by their network
before putting content on the web or syndicated programming. Networks
• Government’s trouble regulating con- affiliate with so many stations that the
tent within the unique global and on- ties to any one station are not that
demand qualities of the Internet strong. The situation is similar for
• How pressure groups may succeed in syndicators. In some instances, this loose
influencing web content where gov- relationship has tightened after the
ernment cannot consolidation of ownership that resulted
• The dream and reality of a democrat- from the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
ic, noncommercial Internet commons Megastation owners, such as Clear Chan-
• Privacy concerns related to collecting nel, have stepped up efforts to create
information about web surfers national brands, such as Clear Channel’s
• Entertainment-industry attempts to KISS stations that dot the nation. With
control illegal file-sharing online voice tracking of star deejays, these sta-
• How easy user access to international tions rely more on network-arranged
websites creates new competition programming, even if that programming
for local programmers and thus influ- is cleverly customized to make it seem
ences programming as if it originates locally.


Also, with the merger of radio own- were “banned” from playing any of the
ership, directives and “suggestions” for songs. A program director at Clear
programming choices have the opportu- Channel explained that “after and
nity to come from corporate entities to during what was happening in New
many stations at once. After the 9/11 York and Washington and outside of
terrorist attacks in 2001, for example, Pittsburgh, some of our program direc-
Clear Channel released a list to all of tors began emailing each other about
its stations of more than 150 songs it songs and questionable song titles . . . A
deemed to have questionable or difficult Clear Channel program director took it
lyrics in light of the terrorist event upon himself to identify several songs
(Figure 8.1). It did not, however, require that certain markets or individuals may
any of its stations to remove these songs find insensitive today. This was not a
from their playlists. mandate, nor was the list generated out
The circulation of this list received of the corporate radio offices. It was a
much attention in the media, and grassroots effort that was apparently cir-
rumors flew that individual stations culated among program directors.”

Artist Song

3 Doors Down “Duck and Run”

311 “Down”
AC/DC “Dirty Deeds,” “Hell’s Bells,” “Highway to Hell,” “Safe in New York
City,” “Shoot to Thrill,” “Shot Down in Flames,” “TNT”
Ad Libs “The Boy from New York City”
Alanis Morissette “Ironic”
Alice in Chains “Down in a Hole,” “Rooster,” “Sea of Sorrow,” “Them Bone”
Alien Ant Farm “Smooth Criminal”
Animals “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”
Arthur Brown “Fire”
Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian”
Barenaked Ladies “Falling for the First Time”
Barry McGuire “Eve of Destruction”
Beastie Boys “Sabotage,” “Sure Shot”
Billy Joel “Only the Good Die Young”
Black Sabbath “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” “Suicide Solution,” “War Pigs”
Blood, Sweat & Tears “And When I Die”
Blue Oyster Cult “Burnin’ For You”
Bob Dylan/Guns N Roses “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
Bobby Darin “Mack the Knife”
Figure 8.1 Boston “Smokin’”
Brooklyn Bridge “Worst That Could Happen”
Some of the songs
Bruce Springsteen “Goin’ Down,” “I’m On Fire”
Clear Channel Buddy Holly and the Crickets “That’ll Be the Day”
placed on its Bush “Speed Kills”
questionable lyrics Carole King “I Feel the Earth Move”
list. Cat Stevens “Morning Has Broken,” “Peace Train”
Chi-Lites “Have You Seen Her”
Creedence Clearwater Revival “Travelin’ Band”
zum.com/banned/ Dave Clark Five “Bits and Pieces”
incidents/2001_ Dave Matthews Band “Crash Into Me”
clearchannel.html, Dio “Holy Diver”
accessed February Don McLean “American Pie”
Drifters “On Broadway”
24, 2004.)
8 Influences on Radio and Internet Programming 191

Artist Song
Drowning Pool “Bodies”
Edwin Starr/Bruce Springsteen “War”
Elton John “Bennie and The Jets,” “Daniel,” “Rocket Man”
Elvis Presley “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise”
Everclear “Santa Monica”
Filter “Hey Man, Nice Shot”
Fontella Bass “Rescue Me”
Foo Fighters “Learn to Fly”
Frank Sinatra “New York, New York”
Fuel “Bad Day”
Godsmack “Bad Religion”
Green Day “Brain Stew”
Happenings “See You in September”
Hollies “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”
J. Frank Wilson “Last Kiss”
Jackson Brown “Doctor My Eyes”
James Taylor “Fire and Rain”
Jan and Dean “Dead Man’s Curve”
Jerry Lee Lewis “Great Balls of Fire”
Jimi Hendrix “Hey Joe”
John Lennon “Imagine”
John Cougar Mellencamp “Crumbling Down,” “I’m On Fire”
John Parr “St. Elmo’s Fire”
Judas Priest “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”
Kansas “Dust in the Wind”
Korn “Falling Away From Me”
Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”
Lenny Kravitz “Fly Away”
Limp Bizkit “Break Stuff”
Local H “Bound for the Floor”
Los Bravos “Black is Black”
Louis Armstrong “What A Wonderful World”
Lynyrd Skynyrd “Tuesday’s Gone”
Martha & the Vandellas “Nowhere to Run”
Martha & the Vandellas/Van Halen “Dancing in the Streets”
Megadeth “Dread and the Fugitive,” “Sweating Bullets”
Metallica “Enter Sandman,” “Fade to Black,” “Harvester of Sorrow,” “Seek and
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels “Devil with the Blue Dress”
Mudvayne “Death Blooms”
Neil Diamond “America”
Nena “99 Luftballons,” “99 Red Balloons”
Nine Inch Nails “Head Like a Hole”
Norman Greenbaum “Spirit in the Sky”
Oingo Boingo “Dead Man’s Party”
P.O.D. “Boom”
Paper Lace “The Night Chicago Died”
Pat Benatar “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “Love is a Battlefield”
Paul McCartney and Wings “Live and Let Die”
Peter and Gordon “A World Without Love,” “I Go To Pieces”
Peter Gabriel “When You’re Falling”
Peter, Paul and Mary “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane”
Petula Clark “A Sign of the Times”
Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight”
Pink Floyd “Mother,” “Run Like Hell”
Pretenders “My City Was Gone”
Queen “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Killer Queen”
Rage Against The Machine All songs Figure 8.1
Red Hot Chili Peppers “Aeroplane,” “Under the Bridge”

Artist Song

REM “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”

Ricky Nelson “Travelin’ Man”
Rolling Stones “Ruby Tuesday”
Saliva “Click Click Boom”
Sam Cooke/Herman Hermits “Wonder World”
Santana “Evil Ways”
Savage Garden “Crash and Burn”
Shelly Fabares “Johnny Angel”
Simon and Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
Skeeter Davis “End of the World”
Slipknot “Left Behind,” “Wait and Bleed”
Smashing Pumpkins “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”
Soundgarden “Black Hole Sun,” “Blow Up the Outside World,” “Fell on Black Days”
Steam “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey”
Steve Miller “Jet Airliner”
Stone Temple Pilots “Big Bang Baby,” “Dead and Bloated”
Sugar Ray “Fly”
Surfaris “Wipeout”
System of a Down “Chop Suey!”
Talking Heads “Burning Down the House”
Temple of the Dog “Say Hello to Heaven”
The Beatles “A Day in the Life,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Obla Di, Obla
Da,” “Ticket to Ride”
The Clash “Rock the Casbah”
The Cult “Fire Woman”
The Doors “The End”
The Gap Band “You Dropped a Bomb On Me”
Third Eye Blind “Jumper”
Three Degrees “When Will I See You Again”
Tom Petty “Free Fallin’”
Tool “Intolerance”
Trammps “Disco Inferno”
U2 “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
Van Halen “Jump”
Yager and Evans “In the Year 2525”
Figure 8.1 Youngbloods “Get Together”
Zombies “She’s Not There”

The New York Times reported the “Imagine” and others) happened to be
following: among the most-played songs on his station.
In the meantime, the station decided not to
Compliance with the list varied from station broadcast some songs even though they did
to station. Angela Perelli, the vice president not make the list, such as “When You’re
for operations at KYSR 98.7 FM in Los Falling,” a collaboration between Peter
Angeles, said the station was not playing any Gabriel and Afro-Celt Sound System that
of the listed songs and had previously pulled had fictional lyrics too eerily similar to the
a couple of the cited songs, “Jumper” by truth.1
Third Eye Blind and “Fly” by Sugar Ray, on
its own accord. On the other hand, Bob
Buchmann, the program director and an When a radio station is selecting
on-air personality at WAXQ 104.3 FM in or changing a format, it is influenced
Manhattan, said that some songs on the by owners, station representatives, the
list (“American Pie” by Don McLean, sales department, and others who have

In 2000, after a new round of office. “I was sitting there in my boss’s

Israeli–Palestinian hostilities began, office,” Hansen said, “when [the owner
Hansen says he did some research on of a major gambling casino in Reno,
the conflict’s origins and, based upon the Atlantis Casino, John] Farahi called
this research, said on air, “Look, the and my boss was actually holding the
majority of these problems, if not all phone six inches from his ear, because
of it, can be blamed on Israel and Farahi was screaming at him. Farahi
its behavior toward the Palestinian demanded a right to defend Israel and
people.” Almost immediately, Hansen said how he was pulling off all of his
said, “I was attacked as ‘anti-Semitic’ advertising.” Hansen was fired.
and called names. They started calling Though Hansen was off the air, he
my boss at the radio station, behind my still had his job as a columnist for a
back, and threatening to boycott the local paper, where he continued to
station. By ‘they’ I mean some local press the issue and question the
Jewish people.” motives behind his firing from the radio
According to Hansen, his boss station. “It’s kind of ironic,” Hansen
called him in and told him, “We’re said, “because I told [Farahi] through a
getting all kinds of heat from people newspaper column that I would have
over this. Knock off talking about gladly had him as a guest on my radio
Israel.” show and we could have discussed the
“Well,” said Hansen, “because it was issue. But instead he got me kicked off
pretty much the sword hanging over the air . . . I have had zero response
my head there, I stopped talking about from the local Jewish people who are
Israel.” But world events, specifically willing to go behind my back and
the terrorist attacks of 9/11, brought the boycott my radio station but don’t have
issue of Israel back into Hansen’s con- the guts to debate me in public.”
sciousness. He heard most media Hansen goes even further, implicat-
outlets in the United States scratching ing the entire radio industry: “I found,
their heads over the hostility that large after studying this and looking at
portions of Muslim and Arab society who owns what—even Citadel Com-
seemed to have for the United States. munications, which owns my former
To him, there was no mystery, and he station, was recently purchased (after
started saying so on air. “[The hostility] I got fired) by billionaire investor Ted
is not,” Hansen asserted, “necessarily Forstmann, a Jewish-American who is
even about ‘anti-Westernism,’ however a strong supporter of Israel. So there’s
you define it. It is about the absolute a definite dominance there. Critics say
blind allegiance of the United States to that pointing this out is ‘bigotry,’ but it’s
Israel and how we give Israel carte an absolute fact. If you look at who
blanche treatment. That is the root owns all the national media outlets, it’s
cause of the entire hatred of the no surprise that the media is totally in
Muslim world toward the United favor of Israel and totally biased
States.” against the Arabs.”2
Hansen’s return to the sore subject
of Israel landed him again in his boss’s

Whether the claims of bias are true have no room for that programming in
or not, managers have an indisputable their lineup. Even if media companies
point when they argue in favor of the have been purchased by owners with
purse strings. They do not have to specific political agendas, with the flour-
discuss the political implications of their ishing of the Internet, owners can point
hiring and firing choices, only the eco- out that they have neither the capacity
nomic ones. If they cannot make adver- nor the desire to silence dissident voices.
tising money from programming, they Anyone with an Internet connection
8 Influences on Radio and Internet Programming 195

can start a blog and share opinions and In 1946, the FCC issued an 80-page
points of view democratically with whom- document detailing what stations should
ever will listen. Why should a business do to have their licenses renewed. This
venture be burdened with broadcasting included numerous details about airing
unpopular or controversial opinions that local public affairs programs, keeping
might be bad for the bottom line—to commercials limited, and maintaining a
say nothing of being bad for an owner’s well-balanced programming schedule.
political aims? Radio broadcasters immediately dubbed
Because the frequencies on which this document the “Blue Book,” partly
radio broadcasts are owned by the because of its blue cover but mostly
federal government and only licensed to because blue penciling is associated with
broadcasters, a case can be made that censorship. The reaction to the Blue
broadcasts should serve the greater good Book was so negative that the FCC
of the community, not just the greater never really implemented its provisions.
good of the station owner’s pocket- In the 1960s and 1970s, radio stations,
book. But “greater good” is difficult, if and their TV counterparts, underwent
not impossible, to define objectively. elaborate license renewal that involved a
Nonetheless, the government intervenes process called ascertainment. Station
in some instances. personnel had to interview community
leaders about problems in the commu-
The Federal Communications Commis- nity and then propose program ideas to
sion. During the early years of radio deal with these problems. They would
when the Federal Radio Commission make promises concerning airing these
(FRC, the forerunner of the FCC) programs in documents submitted to
oversaw radio, several licenses were the FCC for their license renewal.
revoked because of improper program- When their next renewal came up (at
ming. One of these was for a station run that time, station licenses were up for
by Dr. J.R. Brinkley, who prescribed renewal every 3 years), they had to prove
medical treatments over the radio. that they had aired the programs on
Usually his listeners’ health problems community problems as promised in
could be cured only by special prescrip- their last renewal.This process was called
tions obtainable from druggists who promise vs. performance. Pressure
belonged to a pharmaceutical associa- groups of local citizens were also
tion that Brinkley owned. One of his involved in license renewal during this
most creative cures involved goat gland period. They would demand that sta-
treatments to improve male virility. The tions air certain types of programs (more
FRC took a jaundiced view of most of children’s programs, more Chicano pro-
these medical treatments, but Brinkley grams, more programs about commu-
was crafty, so it took some fancy legal nity organizations, etc.). If the stations
maneuvers to remove him from the did not respond to their liking, they
airwaves. would write nasty letters to be included
A few other early stations had licenses in the stations’ file at the FCC, submit
revoked for programming policies, formal petitions to deny the station its
mainly those of engaging in bitter license renewal, or even ask to take over
attacks against individuals or groups— the station.
politicians, Jews, prostitutes, or judges. In general, license renewal during
But overall, the number of station revo- this period was a complicated, paper-
cations was small. intensive process. Stations usually sent

large boxes of documents to Washing- Then came deregulation. Today, radio

ton, where they were supposedly read station licenses only are looked at every
by FCC staffers. The license renewal 8 years. Ascertainment is gone, as is
process placed great burdens on the promise vs. performance. Radio stations
programming departments in terms of do not even have to program news or
interviewing community leaders about public affairs. And license renewal can be
problems, dealing with pressure groups, obtained by filling out a perfunctory 4-
and preparing much of the mass of page application (Figure 8.2). The pro-
paper that was submitted. gramming department is hardly involved.

Figure 8.2
Application for
renewal of radio
station license.
8 Influences on Radio and Internet Programming 197

Figure 8.2

Figure 8.2
8 Influences on Radio and Internet Programming 199

Figure 8.2

Obscenity and Indecency Laws. The 1. The average person, applying con-
U.S. Supreme Court has carefully, if temporary community standards, would
vaguely, defined obscenity and inde- find that the work, taken as a whole,
cency in several cases over its history. appeals to the prurient interest
As described earlier, obscene material 2. The work depicts or describes in a
may never be legally broadcast on radio patently offensive way, as measured by
and elsewhere. The standards for de- contemporary community standards,
fining obscenity, laid out in Miller v. sexual conduct specifically defined by
California, are as follows: the applicable law

3. A reasonable person would find that fine per incident has stayed a steady
the work, taken as a whole, lacks $27,500, but in recent years there has
serious literary, artistic, political, and been a drive to increase the fine. With
scientific value the large amounts of revenue possi-
ble with syndication and megamergers,
Indecent material is defined by the
many, including FCC Chairman Michael
FCC as “language or material that, in
Powell, have argued that a $27,500 fine
context, depicts or describes, in terms
is “peanuts” to big media companies.
patently offensive as measured by con-
Rather than adjusting their broadcast
temporary community standards in the
practices to avoid fines, many believe that
broadcast medium, sexual or excretory
media companies have simply factored
activities or organs.” Indecent material
in fines as part of their “cost of doing
may not be broadcast if the conditions
of its broadcast are such that the fol-
Several high-profile indecency charges
lowing are true:
were filed against shock jock Howard
1. It has a pervasive presence in the lives Stern in the 1980s and 1990s. Infinity
of “all Americans,” and indecent Broadcasting, which airs Stern’s show,
material confronts citizens not only in fought the charges in courts for several
public but also in the privacy of the years then finally agreed to settle for a
home, “where the individual’s right lump $1.7 million payment in 1995.
to be left alone plainly outweighs The fine Infinity paid for Stern was
the First Amendment rights of an for a series of indecency infractions,
intruder” but fines have been growing, despite the
2. The “broadcasting [of the material] is $27,500 cap. In 2001 WXTB/Tampa
uniquely accessible to children, even morning host “Bubba the Love Sponge”
those too young to read”3 aired the live castration and mutilation
of a wild boar in the station’s parking
Reining in Radio Hosts. Obscenity and lot.The host of the show was suspended
indecency charges arise most often for several weeks and the state attorney,
about talk show topics and music lyrics. Mark Ober, filed animal-cruelty charges
During the 1980s, a phenomenon against the host, the show’s producer,
known as topless radio spread around and two listeners who carried out the
the country. People would call in and on-air slaughter. Although all were
recount to a talk show host (and the found not guilty by a Tampa jury, in
listening audience) their explicit sexual 2004, the FCC levied a belated fine of
experiences. After the FCC fined one $755,000 against WXTB owner Clear
station for this and the fine was upheld Channel. To get around the cap, the
in the courts, topless radio stopped. FCC apparently lumped various other
People still call radio talk shows and technical infractions with the indecency
talk about sexual experiences, but not as charge; nevertheless, the fines will
explicitly as they were encouraged to do undoubtedly have to wind their way
for the brief era of topless radio. Call through the courts.5
screeners, station employees who talk The U.S. Congress, however, has
to callers before they are allowed on the made some steps toward codifying
air, have been instructed to screen out higher fines into law. As of July 2004,
anyone who might talk too explicitly. there was pending legislation to boost
Stations may be fined by the FCC for the penalties for indecency almost
airing indecent material. The maximum tenfold, from $27,500 to $275,000, and
8 Influences on Radio and Internet Programming 201

to as much as $3 million a day for repeat station should or should not air. Some-
violations. times radio station program directors
make decisions about whether to play a
Dealing with Music Lyrics. Problems song based on how understandable the
arise with music lyrics when they lyrics are. A rock station deejay noted
contain words used to describe sexual or about one such track: “Unless you read
excretory acts. Again, this is a gray area the lyric sheet or are an incredibly huge
in terms of what is appropriate from one fan of the band, it’s hard to discern what
time to another and from one commu- they’re saying.”6 Then, too, if music
nity to another. groups fear their music might not be
The practice of banning “objection- played because of certain offensive
able” songs from radio play goes back words, they will change, bleep, or muffle
nearly as far as music radio. In 1956, the words on a recording sent to radio
for example, ABC radio banned the stations but leave the original words on
Cole Porter-penned Billie Holiday song CDs sold in stores.
“Love For Sale” from all of its stations Muffled offensive lyrics, however, are
because of its seemingly overt references not a guarantee against censorship and
to prostitution. ABC also arranged a fines. In 2001, the FCC fined two radio
lyric change for Porter’s “I Get a Kick stations for playing Eminem’s “The Real
out of You”—from “I get no kick from Slim Shady.” Wisconsin’s WZEE was
cocaine” to “I get perfume from Spain.” fined for airing the original (unedited)
Also in 1956, all three of the major radio version, but KKMG in Colorado was
networks banned the novelty hit by fined for playing a profanity-free radio
Dot and Diamond called “Transfusion” edit that other stations across the nation
because, according to an NBC execu- had played without incident. Although
tive, “there’s nothing funny about a the fine was reversed in 2002, it still
blood transfusion.” illustrates that perceived local norms
In the 1960s, some stations banned form the basis for government interces-
artists simply because some of their sion in radio indecency cases.7
lyrics might be offensive. An El Paso,
Texas, station, for example, banned all Other Laws and Regulations. Govern-
songs performed by Bob Dylan because ment regulations other than those
many of the lyrics were garbled in related to license renewal and obscenity
Dylan’s delivery. The station’s ban did affect radio programmers. In the 1950s,
not include songs written by Dylan and Congress held hearings on payola
performed by other artists who deliv- (accepting gifts in exchange for playing
ered the lyrics with better diction. a record on the air) and amended the
During the 1980s, a group of wives 1934 Communications Act to prevent
of congressmen made a strong case this practice. Payola still occurs, but it is
against sexually oriented lyrics, suggest- patently illegal. Plugola (promoting a
ing that records with such lyrics should certain restaurant, concert, music store,
be labeled and that such material should etc., in exchange for favors) is also a
be kept off radio. About all they suc- station no-no.
ceeded in doing, as far as radio was con- The U.S. Criminal Code says radio
cerned, was taming things down for a and TV stations cannot hold lotteries.
while. A contest is deemed a lottery if people
Station programmers mostly make have to pay to enter, if chance is
individual decisions about what their involved, and if a prize is given. Radio
8 Influences on Radio and Internet Programming 203

falsely state or otherwise misrepresent but not limited to, regulations pro-
your affiliation with a person or entity; mulgated by the U.S. Securities
(d) forge headers or otherwise and Exchange Commission, any rules
manipulate identifiers in order to dis- of any national or other securities
guise the origin of any Content trans- exchange, including, without limitation,
mitted through the Service or develop the New York Stock Exchange, the
restricted or password-only access American Stock Exchange or the
pages, or hidden pages or images NASDAQ, and any regulations having
(those not linked to from another the force of law;
accessible page); (l) “stalk” or otherwise harass
(e) upload, post or otherwise trans- another;
mit any Content that you do not have (m) collect or store personal data
a right to transmit under any law or about other users;
under contractual or fiduciary relation- (n) promote or provide instructional
ships (such as inside information, pro- information about illegal activities,
prietary and confidential information promote physical harm or injury
learned or disclosed as part of employ- against any group or individual, or
ment relationships or under nondisclo- promote any act of cruelty to animals.
sure agreements); This may include, but is not limited to,
(f) upload, post or otherwise transmit providing instructions on how to
any Content that infringes any patent, assemble bombs, grenades and other
trademark, trade secret, copyright or weapons, and creating “Crush” sites;
other proprietary rights of any party; (o) use your home page (or direc-
(g) upload, post or otherwise trans- tory) as storage for remote loading or
mit any unsolicited or unauthorized as a door or signpost to another home
advertising, promotional materials, page, whether inside or beyond Yahoo
“junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letters,” GeoCities;
“pyramid schemes,” or any other form (p) have multiple Yahoo GeoCities
of solicitation, except in those areas of addresses that are within the same
the Service that are designated for Yahoo GeoCities neighborhood or that
such purpose; have the same theme; or
(h) upload, post or otherwise trans- (q) engage in commercial activities
mit any material that contains software without enrolling in Yahoo-approved
viruses or any other computer code, affiliate programs. This includes, but is
files or programs designed to interrupt, not limited to, the following activities:
destroy or limit the functionality of any
• offering for sale any products or
computer software or hardware or
telecommunications equipment;
• soliciting for advertisers or sponsors;
(i) disrupt the normal flow of dia-
• conducting raffles or contests that
logue, cause a screen to “scroll” faster
require any type of entry fee;
than other users of the Service are
• displaying a sponsorship banner of
able to type, or otherwise act in a
any kind, including those that are
manner that negatively affects other
generated by banner or link
users’ ability to engage in real time
exchange services, with the sole
exceptions of the GeoGuide Banner
(j) interfere with or disrupt the
Exchange program and the Internet
Service or servers or networks con-
Link Exchange; and
nected to the Service, or disobey any
• displaying banners for services that
requirements, procedures, policies or
provide cash or cash-equivalent
regulations of networks connected to
prizes to users in exchange for
the Service;
hyperlinks to their websites.
(k) intentionally or unintentionally
violate any applicable local, state, (http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms.
national or international law, including, Accessed July 20, 2004.)

Issues for Major Public Sites. Obviously cial that showed children working in
brick-and-mortar and highly public factories and other blue-collar jobs, then
entities will want to carefully control asked the question, “Guess who is going
the content of their websites because to pay off President Bush’s $1 trillion
anything put on the site will reflect deficit?” was later rejected by CBS
upon their company or organization and as unsuitable to air during the Super
could become fodder for public or legal Bowl, although there is considerable
action. In 2004, for example, the well- controversy over how CBS defined
known liberal political activist website “unsuitable.”
MoveOn.org landed in hot water when
it sponsored a competition, “Bush in Issues for Personal Sites. Although mil-
30 Seconds.” The competition publicly lions of websites get little or no traffic,
solicited 30-second television com- the more traffic a site gets, the more it
mercials critical of President George W. will become susceptible to influence. In
Bush’s administration, which it then put many cases, web developers, especially
on its website for visitors to view and individuals, have no desire for mass
comment on. The winning entry was traffic to their sites. A person who puts
slated to be aired during the Super up a website with a photo album of a
Bowl. The controversy occurred when summer trip to Mexico so that friends
two of the entries that MoveOn.org and family can see it usually intends the
posted on their website compared site to be seen only by a select few.
George W. Bush to Nazi leader Adolph Nonetheless, if that person wants the site
Hitler. One entry even showed the face to be effective, he or she has to take into
of Hitler morphing into Bush’s face. account the audience. If grandpa is a
A great outcry came from the pub- web neophyte, a straightforward design
lic, especially Jewish and Republican might be in order. If Aunt Mabel is
leaders. Jack Rosen, president of the using a dial-up connection with a slow
American Jewish Congress, writing in modem, small picture files will help her.
the Wall Street Journal, said the compar- But just because a web developer may
ison is “not only historically specious, not want outsiders to view a site, this
it is morally outrageous.” The ads were does not mean others will not chance
quickly removed from Moveon.org’s upon it.
website, but the maelstrom lingered for Developers should keep in mind
weeks in the press. The Republican that this technology that allows them to
National Committee made copies of the so effortlessly exchange information
controversial ads available on its website, with friends and family also makes it
allowing its visitors to view the “outra- easily available to interlopers. This fact
geous” ads for themselves, adding fuel does, and should, influence developers’
to the flames. Wes Boyd, president of choices about what to put on the web.
MoveOn.org Voter Fund, said in a state- Chris Bryant, a member of the British
ment, “None of these was our ad, nor Parliament with aspirations to become a
did their appearance constitute endorse- leader of the Labor Party, learned this
ment or sponsorship by MoveOn.org lesson the hard way when a photo of
Voter Fund.”8 him scantily clad was discovered by a
Despite Boyd’s denial, the organiza- journalist on an Internet chat site and
tion had to shoulder all the blame and was subsequently published in a British
a public relations nightmare.The winner daily paper in 2003. Although Bryant’s
of the contest, a more benign commer- status as a public figure made the
8 Influences on Radio and Internet Programming 205

publishing of his picture legal—if ethi- with sites on the Internet, which can
cally suspect—a heavy toll can be paid originate from and be distributed to any
for a moment’s indiscretion.9 location worldwide.
Although the United States arguably
External Influences on has the strongest free speech and expres-
Internet Content sion protections in the world, some
forms of expression outlawed in the
The Internet is not a one-way medium United States (such as child pornogra-
like radio and television. So, there are phy) are not outlawed or are defined
more issues to deal with, champion, differently in other countries. Likewise,
condemn, and regulate—or at least try certain kinds of speech allowed in the
to. Many different activities occur on the United States are illegal in other coun-
Internet, including the following: tries (such as hate speech associated with
racism or neo-Nazism, which is illegal
• Websites deliver content. in Germany). Can the United States
• Websites collect information about prosecute foreign distributors of materi-
those that visit them. als illegal in the United States but not
• Users communicate and exchange in their home countries? Questions such
information and data directly in as these will take years to iron out in
peer-to-peer networks or using courts around the world.
email. Another similar concern takes place
in the United States, where definitions
All activities that take place on the of indecency and obscenity, at least
Internet have and will doubtlessly con- partly, depend on the social boundaries
tinue to inspire great controversy—in of local communities. What is consid-
the halls of government, in courtrooms, ered indecent in one locality may be
and in the court of public opinion. viewed differently in another locality.
Because access to sites on the Internet
The Delivery of Content. As mentioned is not limited by locality, whose social
previously, content delivered using the boundaries should be applied to make a
Internet is, in theory, susceptible to the determination of indecency? Again, this
same influences and regulations as all issue is still being tackled by local, state,
other broadcast material. However, many and federal governments across the
unique attributes of the Internet have United States and around the world. In
altered or confounded the application of addition, indecent material is often legal
these influences and regulations. to broadcast at night because the law
assumes that children will not be awake
The Government. The greatest differ- to experience it. But the delivery time
ence between the radio and television of much content on the Internet is
and the Internet is that the radio and determined not by the deliverer but by
television are localized and, in the case the consumer, who can click on content
of aerial broadcasts, the frequencies for to view it anytime. Even if on-demand
broadcasting are “owned” by the federal indecent content were disabled during
government and licensed to broadcast- daylight hours, the question would then
ers. This fact alone gives the federal become, during whose daylight hours?
government significant leverage over The United States and its territories
broadcasters that violate indecency and alone stretch across 11 of the 24 world
obscenity standards. This is not the case time zones.

Because of concern that indecent access the Internet. Opponents of the

material on the Internet would be too act argued that Internet filters would
accessible to children, the 1996 Tele- unduly restrict library patrons’ rights
communications Act included a section to access free speech. They suggested,
called the Communications Decency for example, that filtering software
Act. Although all obscene material is might block Internet resources for breast
illegal according to U.S. law already, cancer because the word “breast” might
the Communications Decency Act be flagged by the filtering software as
sought to criminalize all indecent mate- potentially indecent. Nonetheless, in a
rial as well. But in June 1997 the U.S. 6–3 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld
Supreme Court ruled that most of the the constitutionality of the law.10
act was unconstitutional, protecting, at One problem that some web devel-
least for now, indecent content on the opers have encountered as a result of all
Internet. of these ill-defined legal concerns is that
With all of the pitfalls in regulating nearly anyone who places content on
indecency on the Internet, prosecutors the Internet that could be construed as
have tried to play the obscenity card indecent or obscene in any locality runs
instead, charging that objectionable the risk of being prosecuted and, some
material “lacks serious literary, artistic, might say, harassed or intimidated by
political, and scientific value” and is government authorities. Many devel-
therefore not protected by the First opers of web content are individuals
Amendment. But here another wrinkle or small entities that do not have the
unique to the Internet is encountered. resources to fight off the dizzying
The full wording of the third definition onslaught of charges that can be foisted
of obscenity set by the U.S. Supreme upon them by an eager prosecutor.
Court in Miller v. California is as follows: Rather than fighting, they often choose
“That a reasonable person would find to close shop under the pressure. Those
that the work, taken as a whole, lacks that do fight charges on the basis of First
serious literary, artistic, political, and sci- Amendment rights often find that civil
entific value.” What, on the Internet, is liberties legal watchdog groups are sym-
the whole work? A court cannot rule that pathetic to their plight and the wider
one page of a printed book is obscene— implications of the outcome of their
it must make its determination based case. The ACLU has stepped up to bat
upon the book as a whole. If an Internet in many instances, but this support does
page has links on it to other pages, are not keep defendants’ names and reputa-
those pages considered part of the whole tions from being dragged through the
of the work? Those subsequent pages media in a way that they might not like
may link to still other pages—are those to have advertised.
part of the work in question as well? At In most cases in which defendants
this writing, the courts are still tackling do not immediately fold, charges have
this issue. eventually been dismissed. Prosecutors
One provision of Internet regulation are wary to let courts have the cases,
has seen success in the U.S. Supreme many argue, because they are afraid
Court. In 2000, the Children’s Internet that judges might find against them,
Protection Act was signed into law. The which would make them less able to
law denies federal funding to libraries bring the same charges (scaring many
that do not install content filters on into desisting without a fight) in similar
computers that allow library patrons to cases.
8 Influences on Radio and Internet Programming 207

Pressure Groups. Although the hands of restaurants with their signs stating, “We
the government may be legally bound, reserve the right to refuse service to
for better or worse, when it comes anyone,” have no legal obligation to
to influencing web content through continue to host a site that they find
legal channels, pressure groups and pub- objectionable, just as any other business
lic outcry has seen some success. In can refuse to take a job or provide a
2003, during the war in Iraq, Arabic service that someone asks of them. A
news organization Al-Jazeera broadcast web developer is free to look elsewhere
graphic videos of American prisoners of for a hosting service that will agree to
war and war casualties. Although all host a site turned down by another
major U.S. news outlets decided not to hosting service. Anyone with an Inter-
rebroadcast the videos, an Internet news net connection and the right hardware
site, YellowTimes.org, captured stills of and software can become a hosting
dead American soldiers from the broad- service—but they may receive public
cast and placed them on their site. complaints if they host controversial
Vortech Hosting, YellowTimes’ host- material, even if that material is pro-
ing service, began receiving complaints tected by the free speech clause of the
about the photos and suspended the First Amendment.
YellowTimes account for “inappro- In 2002, complaints and news reports
priate graphic content.” Later, photos that surfaced about a website glorifying
included images of dead American sol- the Palestinian group Hamas’s “martyr
diers were posted on the conservative- brigade” of suicide bombers. U.S.
leaning website DrudgeReport.com, but Department of Justice spokeswoman Jill
that site was not shut down. Stillman indicated that the department
YellowTimes’ Editor Erich Marquardt was aware of the site but that it would
sees a troubling contradiction because do nothing about the site, even amid the
his site was shut down and the Drudge U.S. government’s “war on terrorism.”
Report was not, even though the com- Hamas was classified as a terrorist
plaints cited by the hosting company organization by federal officials and was
when it shut down YellowTimes could therefore subject to stricter controls.
be made about the Drudge Report But, Stillman said, because the site did
images: “No mother, brother, sister, wife not solicit funds for Hamas, the site’s
or child should see their love (sic) one support, in speech only, was protected by
plastered all over the Net wounded U.S. law.
or dead.” Marquardt contends that the It was, however, found that the site was
photos on the Drudge Report site, hosted by a U.S. hosting company, and
which included a grinning Iraqi stand- the name of the company, Connecticut-
ing over dead American soldiers, were based OLM, was publicized in the media.
chosen to enflame Americans into sup- The site, without explanation, was soon
porting the war, whereas Marquardt out of commission.12
says his site posted casualties on both
sides of the war in a nonsensationalistic The Move for an Internet Commons.
manner.11 When the Internet was first envisioned
The remedy that most pressure as a worldwide tool for the dissemina-
groups have for their displeasure with tion of information and communica-
web content is to contact the hosting tion, there was great excitement about
service to complain, as was done in the its potential to allow a democratic,
YellowTimes case. Hosting services, like balanced environment where everyone’s

sites that feature differing and opposing

opinions. Sunstein suggests that govern-
Figure 8.3 ment could even regulate this kind of
After his home was open and multifaceted Internet debate
raided, his by enforcing compliance upon websites
computer equipment guilty of “failure to attend to public
was confiscated, issues.” Sunstein therefore suggests that
and Sherman the definition of free speech on the
Austin was sent to
Internet should be broadened from the
jail, his website,
standard definition of people being able
was taken down. to say what they want to providing a
platform for this free speech, where
what people say can be given a good
views and experiences could be chance of being heard.13
expressed and weighted equally. Web A consortium called the Digital
“surfing,” it was imagined, would be an Opportunity Investment Trust (DO IT)
experience of organized anarchy, like a has been formed to encourage this
public sidewalk in a metropolitan city public sidewalk aspect of the Internet,
bustling with diverse pedestrian traffic. which has been dubbed the commons
With the Internet’s easy ability to because in it each opinion, idea, and
hyperlink, users of the Internet would expression is ideally given common
have unanticipated encounters with the weight and attention. DO IT has
thoughts, ideas, opinions, and experi- received many grants from private foun-
ences of others. dations and has received some appropri-
Although the mechanical structure of ations from the federal government, but
the Internet allows the promiscuous many argue that the “chance encoun-
panoply of information of which Inter- ters” that DO IT hopes to encourage
net pioneers dreamed, many have been are already a staple of the Internet expe-
dismayed at the way commercial entities rience. The search engine Google.com,
have co-opted, twisted, and reined in the for example, gets more traffic than any
Internet’s democratic potential. Cultural other site on the Internet, connecting
critics had plenty of complaints about users to an exhaustive listing of Inter-
America Online’s dominance as an net content from all corners of the
Internet service provider in the late globe. But proponents of the Internet
1990s and early 2000s—not just because commons, like DO IT, complain that
it drove up the cost of Internet access Google.com and other search engines,
but also because it, to an extent, priva- because they are for-profit businesses,
tized the promise of the Internet by “feature” websites that pay a fee and
offering “premium” services and content favor “popular” sites over obscure ones,
only to its subscribers. thus making their results less than the
Proponents of true Internet democ- ideal democracy that DO IT proposes.
racy, such as University of Chicago law To some extent, legal culpability
professor Cass Sunstein, would like to concerns and pressure group protests
see websites “designed to ensure more limit democratic hyperlinking “designed
exposure to substantive questions.” to ensure more exposure to substantive
Websites containing commentary or opi- questions.” Web developers, such as
nion about controversial issues, Sunstein self-described “nonviolent anarchist”
thinks, should have hyperlinks to web- and RaiseTheFist.com (Figure 8.3)
8 Influences on Radio and Internet Programming 209

Webmaster Sherman Austin, have seen freely collect information from users by
first hand how indiscriminate hyper- scanning their email. These portals offer
linking can lead not just to trouble but users of their email services generous
also to jail. In 2002, at the age of 18, storage space on their servers of a giga-
Austin’s Los Angeles home, where he byte and more. What many users do not
lived with his mother, was raided by know (and many probably do not care
approximately 25 heavily armed FBI about) is that electronic information,
and Secret Service agents in one of the unlike the information contained in
government’s first attempts to exercise U.S. mail or other printed text, does not
the new U.S. Patriot Act. Austin said that have the same legal privacy protections.
he was “interrogated for several hours Any information that anyone stores on
while they ransacked my room and someone else’s computer, or even just
they seized a network of computers passes through someone else’s computer
which I used to run my website on its way to its final destination, is fair
RaiseTheFist.com. They also seized game for the owner of that computer to
protest signs, and political literature. rifle through. In other words, it would
Their excuse was a protest guide (which be as if, when you hand a bill payment
I didn’t author) that was posted to my to a postage worker, that postage worker
site which a small portion contained and any other that comes in contact
information on explosives . . . [This with the letter on its way to its destina-
information] doesn’t compare to what tion could open it up, see what you
you can find on many other web- are paying for, and then use that
sites such as HowThingsWork.com, information to target you for similar
Loompanics.com, BombShock.com, products.
Totse.com, Amazon.com, or the many Some citizens and legislators have said
neo-Nazi websites.” When Austin is this is an invasion of privacy. Informa-
released from jail he will be banned, tion about an individual’s buying habits,
by court order, from associating with interests, and proclivities, as evidenced
anyone who wants to “change the gov- by where they go and what they do on
ernment in any way.”14 the Internet, should not be collected or
distributed, they say, because it could be
Controversy over the Collection of Infor- abused. Internet marketers counter that
mation. With the controversy and pres- they are only providing a service for
sure about what the Internet delivers to consumers and businesses—helping
web surfers are concerns about what to bring them together. Rather than
websites and developers gather from bombarding and annoying consumers
web surfers. As explained in chapter 6, with random advertisements, why not
through the use of cookies websites are eliminate the guessing game that televi-
able to gather, save, and access informa- sion and radio are victim to because
tion about their visitors. Not only do of their nondynamic, one-size-fits-all
sites use this information for their own medium? Certain television advertisers
purposes, but there is nothing to stop choose to air their ads on the reality
them from selling it to others—and show “The Bachelor” and not on
many do. “World News Tonight” for a reason, and
Web portals, such as Yahoo and some businesses would rather advertise
Google, instead of buying information on alternative rock radio stations than
about web surfers from third parties, talk radio because they assume that the
have set up services that allow them to rock audience will be more interested

in their products. But these are only Contending with Peer-to-Peer Net-
assumptions that will not apply to all works. Perhaps one of the most con-
listeners of the station. Maybe there troversial and dynamic developments
are alternative rock aficionados who, brought about by the proliferation of
contrary to marketing stereotypes, are the Internet is the facility that the In-
interested in facial care products. Would ternet gives to individuals to exchange
not the consumer, the radio station, and information and data one on one, or
the advertiser be better served if, in peer to peer. Although the Internet has
place of a commercial for beer, a com- allowed, in this respect, individuals to
mercial for medicated facial scrub with share their creations freely and widely to
apricot seed extract could be played a practically unlimited audience—often,
specifically for the rock consumer con- instead of sharing their own creations
cerned about the size and cleanliness of freely, they have used the Internet to
his or her pores? share copyrighted materials created by
Though considerable pomp and cir- others without the copyright holder’s
cumstance goes into complaints about permission or remuneration.
the loss of privacy on the Internet, For many, this rampant phenomenon
many, including Michael Lewis, author has called into question the idea of
of the Internet culture-skewering book copyright law. These people think that
Next: The Future Just Happened, think copyright law has far exceeded its
that consumers are “willing to feign original purpose, as outlined in Article
outrage on command, until they see the 1, Section 8, of the Constitution:
benefits of relinquishing their privacy.” “to promote the progress of science and
Lewis says that if businesses are able to useful arts, by securing for limited times,
more efficiently target their advertising, to authors and inventors, the exclusive
getting more sales out of fewer ads, right to their respective writings and
the savings in marketing costs can be discoveries.” Copyright law has changed
passed on to the consumer in lower throughout the years, but protections
prices.15 were broadly expanded in 1998, to the
Nonetheless, legislation continues to dismay of many, when Disney fought to
be proposed to rein in the collection keep its copyrights for Mickey Mouse
and distribution of information on the and other central Disney characters.
Internet. Some have proposed “opt out” The characters were poised to enter the
legislation, which would allow web public domain in 2003 and thus be free
surfers the option to disallow collection game for anyone to profit from or
of data about them, much like the tele- reproduce for no profit—75 years after
marketing “do not call” list enacted by their debut in 1928. Disney, a $6.3
Congress in 2003 bars most telemar- million contributor to political cam-
keters from making cold calls to those paigns in 1997–1998, got a 20-year
who register their phone numbers with extension from Congress and President
the national registry. Others have pro- Clinton, and, in the process, gave similar
posed more stringent “opt in” legisla- copyright extensions to tens of thou-
tion, where websites would be barred sands of other works about to enter the
from collecting information about web public domain. Some wondered if, in
surfers unless the surfers specifically 2023, when the extension is to expire,
request that the website collect infor- Disney might decide to make Washing-
mation about them. ton the “Happiest Place on Earth” again
8 Influences on Radio and Internet Programming 211

with political contributions and get owners have decided to fight fire with
another extension of ownership for its fire, putting up fake or corrupted files
mascots.16 Copyright law, many argued, on peer-to-peer networks that only
is a joke. reveal themselves to be fakes after they
But, joke or not, it is the law—a fact have been fully downloaded. The hope
driven home when Napster, a peer- is that these hoaxes will discourage
to-peer networking program that would-be pirates when they tie up their
allowed untold hundreds of thousands computers for hours downloading what
of copyrighted songs to exchange hands they thought would be a full-length
in the late 1990s, was shut down in motion picture only to find a “gotcha”
2000. But Napster’s demise did not message.
spell the end for a copyright-flouting
public whose appetite for getting for Giving Them What They Want. Proba-
free what they used to have to pay for bly the biggest influence on Internet
was only whetted by flash-in-the-pan programming, however, is users. More
Napster. As high-speed Internet access people are turning to the Internet
became more common, with the staple for news, information, commerce, and
of song swapping, complete first-run entertainment. Start-up companies and
movies and television shows started individuals want to make their mark
streaming over the web using software and claim their space in a medium only
and services provided by a host of bound to grow, even if in fits and starts.
Napster copycats. Established media companies that want
In 2003, the Recording Industry to keep their brands alive see that they
Association of America (RIAA) opened must make inroads into the Internet or
a new salvo in the fight against Internet be left in the dust. The on-demand
piracy when it brought lawsuits against quality of the Internet holds the promise
individual Internet users who had that anyone could request and receive
shared large numbers of copyrighted anything they want whenever they want
songs and promised to bring more suits it, rather than, as with traditional radio
against individuals, which it did in 2004. and television, having to tune in at a
The RIAA also infamously offered an specific time or program a recorder to
amnesty program (which many dubbed capture it as it is broadcast. This unique
a “shamnesty”) wherein those who had quality of the Internet has drawn in
illegally downloaded copyrighted mate- many viewers—and drawn them from
rial could admit to it, remove all the other mediums.
ill-begotten files from their possession, The Internet’s global reach is also
and escape prosecution from the RIAA. affecting local television and radio
There were not many takers, however, programming and producers of Internet
as legal experts quickly pointed out that content who want to capture a local
although the RIAA could promise it audience. The lesson is this: If your
would not bring suit, those who admit- audience has interests that you are
ted to violating copyrights could still be not satisfying, it can and will go else-
sued by individual artists and record where. At the start of the war in Iraq in
companies that owned the copyrights to March 2003, according to web intelli-
the pilfered works. gence company Hitwise, “BBC Online
Given the limited success of prosecu- received more U.S. visitors . . . than
tion in copyright cases, many copyright either of the top U.S. news sites Fox

15. Crews and Thierer. 17. Jemima Kiss.“BBC Online Beats US

16. Chris Sprigman. “The Mouse That News on Its Own Turf,” http://www
Ate the Public Domain,” http://writ.news .journalism.co.uk/news/story637.html.
.findlaw.com/commentary/20020305_sprig Accessed February 23, 2004.
man.html. Accessed February 19, 2004.
9 Scheduling
Strategies for

In this chapter you will learn about the ence are all factors to be assessed before
following: the show is committed to the schedule.
• The importance of scheduling
• The scheduling strategies of commer-
Many of the strategies used in schedul-
cial and cable networks
ing commercial television can be found
• How the urge to compete molds
in cable. There are differences, but more
similarities exist. Clearly, both share a
• How sweeps affect schedules
desire to program to the available audi-
• How changing a show’s time slot on
ence and a desire to employ scheduling
the schedule can improve a show’s
techniques that will work the best for
them. Commercial stations, cable sys-
• How patience or the lack of it can
tems, and satellite providers all want to
affect a program’s success
protect their programming with the best
To construct a successful programming possible schedules.
lineup, programmers must do more than It is different with syndication. Syn-
just fill the time periods. Many TV dicators sell to stations and rarely, at least
shows that, at first blush, seemed to initially, are able to dictate time periods.
contain all the right ingredients for a After a syndicated show has been on the
long and profitable life have had short air awhile and has developed a large fol-
and painful demises for reasons apart lowing, the distributor may be strong
from their inherent merit. Programs not enough to demand a specific position
only have to be developed but also have on the schedule. One suspects, for
to be nurtured. Too many productions example, that when Oprah Winfrey’s
have simply been tossed on the air with company, Harpo, launched “Dr. Phil,”
no plan, no promotion, no lead-in, and she was able to require that “Dr. Phil”
therefore, no chance. not compete directly with her and that
Once programmers have produced a it be given a good time slot. (In Los
promising show, they must be equally Angeles, Oprah airs at 3:00 P.M. on
adept at placing and treating it on the ABC and “Dr. Phil” airs at 4:00 P.M. on
schedule. The time period, the compe- NBC.) Certain shows are designed for a
tition, and the receptivity of the audi- particular daypart and cannot be sched-


uled effectively anywhere else. But the a show with a predominant teen appeal
syndicators mostly sell the shows, and on a Saturday night. That audience is
the stations place them whenever they not home. They are at movie theaters,
wish. basketball games, or anywhere other
Ideally, programmers seek a large than in front of the set with mom and
audience with the leadoff show and dad.
structure the programs that follow so ABC relearned this lesson in the
that the audience will watch continu- 1990–1991 season. The network bucked
ously throughout the schedule. This is the conventional wisdom and scheduled
not always possible. Sometimes a com- a nightlong lineup for the 18 to 34 year
petitor’s opening program will be an olds: “The Young Riders,” “Twin Peaks,”
established blockbuster that makes it and “China Beach” (replaced midseason
impossible for others to start effectively. by “Under Cover”). ABC hoped that if
Other times the competitor’s strength it built the franchise, the young viewers
may be in the middle of the schedule. would come. They did not. In the last
Then, the only strategy is to ride out the week of their Saturday telecasts, “Twin
“bad” period and attempt to rebuild Peaks” and “Under Cover” were tied for
when the power block is over and the 85th place among 89 programs rated by
audience is released. Nielsen. But late Saturday night? That
When putting together a schedule, is something different. Many young
programmers should consider the ele- viewers have returned home by then
ments described in the sections that and are eager for entertainment, as “Sat-
follow. urday Night Live” has impressively
proved for more than 4 decades.
Fitting the Show to the When buying syndicated shows,
Available Audience station programmers look for series
appropriate to the time period. When-
As we explained earlier, most programs