SCMS, Day 1

What follows are my notes from the first session I attended today. They’re a little sketchy and a little incomplete (I got there about 10 minutes late), but they’ll at least remind me of what I heard.

Session 1, Thursday, March 4, 12.00 noon

A6: It’s Just Business: Institutional Strategies of Global Media Networks

Jennifer Holt (University of California, Los Angeles), “Regulating Reality: The FCC and Industrial Design”

  • came in on commentary on AOL/Time Warner merger
  • Hollywood logic of removing AOL from corporate name, as if it will hide merger’s failures
  • Viacom/CBS
  • recent revision of network station-ownership rules
  • “there was a media frenzy over the media frenzy”
  • NBC’s parent (GE)’s purchase of Vivendi’s entertainment arm (including Universal)
  • NBC’s purchase of Universal (esp. Law & Order) makes logic of such media mergers clear: why rent when you can own?
  • FTC is reviewing Vivendi purchase; nearly lost the right to do so when Ashcroft declared all media mergers to be solely the province of the justice department
  • since Reagan era, the justice department has viewed consolidation in media realm as benign (or even positive)
  • UHF discount: audiences on UHF stations count as half, not full stations; Viacom and News Corp’s 39% ownership is thus larger than the number makes it appear
  • FCC has become “lapdog” rather than watchdog
  • local market/community broadcasting have become nothing more than theoretical interest
  • large consolidated networks become immune to community protest
  • networks are now just a cog in much larger media machines; mode for advertising rest of conglomerate
  • regulation’s role in determining whether network broadcasting will become tail or dog

Mike Budd (Florida Atlantic University), “Private Disney, Public Disney”

  • Disney “aura”; conflicts between public image created by products and corporate image created by embittered labor relations
  • conflict between public image of company and carefully constructed aura
  • Disney products possess a certain immunity from critique in mainstream US imagination, including difficulty getting students to read critically
  • derives in part from Disney’s appropriation of childhood innocence
  • more people becoming aware of contradictions, however; some have come to view corporation as behaving in greedy fashion; perceptions of corporate hypocrisy
  • shift in print-media coverage of Disney; now at times critical — and the contrast between corporate practices and the aura make such critical stories news-worthy
  • excessive executive pay, exploited workers, aggressive litigiousness over copyright
  • “Mickey Mouse Protection Act” — Lawrence Lessig
  • such stories are more than just headaches for public relations: symptoms of larger issue: skirmishes over boundaries of definition of public and private — Disney’s appropriation and privatization of public spheres, while others attempt to hold the company publicly accountable

Christine Becker (University of Notre Dame), “From High Culture to Hip Culture: Transforming the BBC into BBC America”

  • commercials read like “it’s not TV, it’s BBC America” — ad campaign seems to connect BBC to HBO (brand has previously been connected to PBS)
  • marketing and programming choices that separate BBC from PBS; larger strategies for corporate survival
  • traditional positioning of British TV as superior to American (And Now for Something Completely Different); inclusion of British programming on US cable channels as mode of creating sense of cultural value
  • high culture/low culture split created between BBC and US tv as mode of marketing and corporate distinction
  • development of BBC America — began 1998; originally PBS-like; now shifting from an A&E model to an HBO model; airs solely on digital cable
  • explicit distancing from BBC brand in advertising
  • “distinctive” qualities (marketing modes): risk, realism, refinement
  • “The Office” as prime mode of realism; “Faking It” as mode of refinement
  • original BBC mode — bring high culture to masses (“high pop”); mode of BBC America: embrace popular culture, but elevate to higher level of cultural understanding (“poplifting”)
  • BBC America has set forth model for successful digital cable channel — rehetoric of quality separating channel from traditional network broadcasting
  • impact of strategies reverberates back in Britain; BBC under fire there for abandoning original mandate; accused of becoming “too American”; in trying to retain position, argues that only they, as publicly funded, can provide successful (i.e., both popular and culturally important) programming in global era
  • The Office as ultimate success: won Golden Globes; outdoes US programming; couldn”t be done by US networks — BBC thus not becoming Americanized, but instead leading US networks in new directions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *