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Cinema and Media Studies American Television Industry
by
Michele Hilmes

Introduction

Critical exploration of the broadcasting industry began in the 1920s, during the period of network radio. As with film, the industry (and its audiences) became an object of study before its texts, styles, and genres did—manifesting the anxieties many felt over the 20th century’s “industrialization of culture” with its overturning of traditional hierarchies. Not until the 1980s did critical/cultural study of the television industry emerge from the social scientific and economic research that had predominated earlier. During the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, the period of television’s prehistory in radio, broadcasting-industry structures were developed, national networks were established, program styles and genres emerged, and audiences formed around the radio set in the home. Then, in the 1950s, radio’s structures met film’s visuality in television, accelerating the ever-growing convergence of Hollywood and broadcasting. By the 1980s, American television dominated the global marketplace and continues to do so in the digital era, though transnational exchange has become far more complex. The emphasis here on American broadcasting reflects the fact that radio and television, more than other media, developed in highly national contexts. Some work on other national and regional traditions is included, particularly those that have intersected in important ways with the development of American television. Besides academic scholarship, this bibliography includes key sources produced by the industry itself: trade journals; archives of major institutions, producers, and artists; and participant/observer accounts.

General Overviews

The titles in this section survey American and other national television industries. Several are part of the British Film Institute’s International Screen Industries series: Curtin and Shattuc 2009; Kraidy and Khalil 2010; and Iosifidis, et al. 2008 provide in-depth overviews on American, Arab, and European television, respectively. Holt and Perren 2009, an edited volume, is the first to bring together history, theory, and methods of industry study. Gomery and Hockley 2006 assembles over sixty very short, original essays mostly contemplating the United States and the United Kingdom. Smith and Paterson 1998, another edited volume, reaches around the world in short chapters focusing on single nations or regions, taking a historical approach.

Reference Works

Encyclopedias on radio and television, sponsored by the Museum of Broadcast Communications and edited by two of the most renowned broadcasting scholars in the country (Newcomb 1997 and Sterling 2004), form the backbone of this category. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) gives detailed credit information for an amazing range of programs and so must be considered a crucial research source. Others, such as Castleman and Podrazik 1984 and Summers 1971, are compilations of scheduling information often vital to industry analysis. American Broadcasting (Lichty and Topping 1975) features a mixture of academic and primary print sources and is particularly strong on regulatory history.

  • Castleman, Harry, and Walter J. Podrazik. The TV Schedule Book: Four Decades of Network Programming from Sign-On to Sign-Off. New York: McGraw Hill, 1984.

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    Lays out in grid form the major network schedules from 1947 until 1984, with short introductions to each decade that discuss the major innovations and highlights of each period.

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  • Internet Movie Database.

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    Despite its name, IMDB covers television programs and even some radio programs, offering essential information such as production credits and dates of broadcasts and allowing searches by program title, names of individuals, and production companies. Not completely reliable, but a good place to start.

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  • Lichty, Lawrence Wilson, and Malachi C. Topping, eds. American Broadcasting: A Sourcebook on the History of Radio and Television. New York: Hastings House, 1975.

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    A collection both of scholarly and popular articles and other materials, organized into topics: technical, stations, networks, economics, employment, programming, audiences, and regulation.

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  • Newcomb, Horace, ed. Encyclopedia of Television. 3 vols. Chicago: Fitzroy-Dearborn, 1997.

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    The first edition of this multivolume work is available online. The second edition, expanded, is available only in hardcover. An excellent and comprehensive overview of the medium, also supplying reliable filmographies and bibliographies.

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  • Sterling, Christopher H., ed. Encyclopedia of Radio. 3 vols. New York: Fitzroy-Dearborn, 2004.

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    A major intervention into radio study, this encyclopedia proffers original scholarship from internationally recognized scholars across a wide spectrum of topics, along with valuable bibliographies for each entry.

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  • Summers, Harrison B. A Thirty-Year History of Programs Carried on National Radio Networks in the United States, 1926–1956. NY: Arno, 1971.

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    Thank you, Harrison B. Summers, for compiling this information, which is impossible to obtain anywhere else. Simply a list of radio programs broadcast on the major networks by year, showing their times on the schedule, their sponsors, and their length of run. Originally published in 1958.

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Scholarly Journals

There is no scholarly journal that focuses entirely on the television industry. Most of the journals listed below publish a wide variety of articles, many of which include analysis of industry context even when looking at textual or audience issues; this is particularly true of Critical Studies in Television, FlowTV, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, New Review of Film & Television Studies, and Television & New Media. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media and Journal of Film and Video publish primarily humanities-oriented work, but with some social-science-based articles. New Review of Film and Television Studies declares itself to publish only critical humanities research.

  • Critical Studies in Television.

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    A biannual journal focusing on “fictions made for the small screen,” founded in 2006. Strong on UK, US, and European television. Part of a useful website that offers teaching and learning resources for students and scholars of television.

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  • FlowTV.org.

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    The first online journal devoted to television, it frequently comments on industry issues. Shorter articles, by a wide variety of television scholars, are replete with images and clips. Accessible to undergraduates.

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    • Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.

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      The journal of the International Association for Media and History, the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television often explores the industry in its historical and cultural context and considers the role that media play both in history and in historiography. Peer reviewed. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media.

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      Published quarterly for the Broadcast Education Association. Covers a range of broadcast media from a variety of perspectives. Peer reviewed. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Journal of Film and Video.

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      The quarterly publication of the University Film and Video Association. Includes industry scholarship amidst a range of focus both on film and television, from a variety of methodological perspectives. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • New Review of Film and Television Studies.

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      Published quarterly. More emphasis on film than on television, and primary focus on programs brings in industry as a secondary, but often crucial, topic. Peer reviewed. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Television & New Media.

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      Published bimonthly and focused on contemporary media, with an emphasis on critical policy and industry issues. Peer reviewed. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    Trade Publications

    Like most industries, broadcasting has its own lively sphere of trade-oriented publications. Broadcasting and Cable and Variety have published continuously since the early decades of the 20th century and are essential sources for the historian as well as the contemporary industry scholar. Radio Broadcast and Sponsor are now defunct but important historically. Current is the only one to focus on the nonprofit sector. Television Quarterly marks the effort of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to reflect on the industry it represents.

    Archives

    Because broadcasting is organized nationally, nearly every nation holds archives for its public radio and television services. In the United States, records are more scattered. Major collections both of recorded and written materials are held by the Library of Congress, the Wisconsin Historical Society and University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the Library of American Broadcasting (LAB) and National Public Broadcasting Archives (NPBA) at the University of Maryland. The Performing Arts Special Collections (at the University of California at Los Angeles) and the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) and Paley Center for Media collections consist primarily of audio/visual recordings. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Written Archives and CBC (Library and Archives Canada) archives include not only records from those countries but also much about US broadcasting, given the history of influence and exchange between them.

    Participant Accounts

    The television industry always produces a large number of books, often aimed at the professional or popular market and written by or about industry participants; these include biographies, autobiographies, recollections, and journalistic accounts. It is not always the most prominent person who produces the best insights. Here, William Paley (Smith 1990), David Sarnoff (Lyons 1966), Edward R. Murrow (Persico 1988), and Fred Friendly (Friendly 1967) are well-known figures, but popular writers and reporters such as Ken Auletta (Auletta 1992), Les Brown (Brown 1973), Gleason Archer (Archer 1939), and Bill Carter (Carter 2006) provide acute observations from an outsider perspective.

    Textbooks

    There are many “how-to” textbooks in the television production and industry field. The selections here focus on critical studies and comprehensive overviews. Croteau and Hoynes 2005, as well as Hesmondhalgh 2007, focuses on the contemporary industry; Hilmes 2009 and Sterling and Kitross 2002 provide a historical approach, up to the present.

    History

    This selection focuses on books tracing the history of the broadcasting industry, both radio and television, that are significant either for their scope—surveying developments over several decades—or for their focus on major industrial shifts. Barnouw 1966–1970 is the foundational work, covering the 1920s up to the 1970s, while Hilmes 2011 covers US/UK interactions similarly. Hilmes 1997 focuses on US broadcasting’s roots in radio. Anderson 1994 reveals the Hollywood roots of television in the 1950s, while Boddy 1990 takes a close look at debates over television’s introduction. Others narrow in on a sector or aspect of industry history, such as Engelman 1996 and Ouellette 2002 on public broadcasting, Kompare 2005 on recording and syndication, Mullen 2008 on cable television, and Holt 2011 and Lotz 2007 on early-21st-century developments.

    Critical Analysis and Theory

    Industry study has been less well theorized than other aspects of media scholarship, but some works have provided essential concepts for thinking about the media industry and its role in society. The advent of mass-produced media, and the popular culture they presented to audiences far outside the social and political elite, produced social anxieties about the erosion of cultural values and the creation of a whole new social sector—media producers—who seemed to wield influence unrestrained by the power hierarchies of an earlier period. Later scholars cast a critical eye at media institutions as they developed into global politico-economic powers; cultural studies intervened to focus attention on the representational politics of texts and the uses made of them by audiences.

    Early Theory

    Early theorists, such as in Arnheim 1936, Horkheimer and Adorno 1972, and Innis 1991, grappled with the 20th century’s industrialization of culture and communications.

    • Arnheim, Rudolf. Radio: An Art of Sound. London: Faber & Faber, 1936.

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      One of the very few theoretical considerations of radio as a medium by this visual-arts scholar, it provides insights about the origins of radio as an industrial and national medium that remain relevant today. Reprinted in 1972 (New York: Da Capo).

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    • Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Herder & Herder, 1972.

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      These founders of the Frankfurt School famously critiqued the “culture industry” that they observed during their brief exile in America, deploring the ideological effects of the intersection of commerce and culture and the erosion of the influence of the individual. Originally published in 1944.

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    • Innis, Harold A. The Bias of Communication. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

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      This teacher of Marshall McLuhan theorized that the structures of communication themselves functioned as organized forms of power that shaped the societies that produced and used them. Originally published in 1951.

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    Political Economy

    Political-economy analysis developed in the 1960s and 1970s, drawing in particular on the Frankfurt School to critique the ideological effects of media on society. Gitlin 1983, a critical ethnography of a television program, and Herman and Chomsky 1988, a classic analysis of news production, illuminate the television industry’s classic network period. Schiller 1969, an early warning of American media’s global impact, resonates today in McChesney 2004, which is a contemporary reworking.

    Cultural Studies

    Cultural studies arose in the 1980s, no less critical in its orientation but turning to the politics of race, gender, class, and sexuality, and focusing on an integrated model of analysis that combines consideration of industry with texts, audiences, and social context. Williams 1975 opened up the territory for later crucial interventions in Hall 1980 and Fiske 1987. D’Acci 1994 focuses on gender and sexuality, and Gray 1995 focuses on race, building on culture studies’ emphasis on discourse analysis and identity.

    Production and Authorship Studies

    Industry study received a new theorization in the 1990s that extended the concept of authorship beyond the writer/producer/director model and into the below-the-line professions. These theories build on the primary documentary work done by scholars such as the authors of Newcomb and Alley 1983 and Thompson and Burns 1990. John Caldwell (Caldwell 2008), Vicki Mayer (Mayer 2011; Mayer, et al. 2009), and Desmond Hesmondhalgh (Hesmondhalgh and Baker 2011) are the leaders in this new production-studies approach. Meanwhile, Bignell and O’Day 2004 is a good example of a new series that takes traditional authorship seriously, detailing and theorizing the complexities of small-screen production. Caves 2002 links television to the other creative arts.

    • Bignell, Jonathan, and Andrew O’Day. Terry Nation. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004.

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      Bignell and O’Day produce a richly detailed study about the author of the Doctor Who series. Part of a Manchester University Press series on British television authors that critically interrogates the notion of television authorship.

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    • Caldwell, John Thornton. Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

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      Theorizes and closely observes the various kinds of authorship and creativity that go into film and television production, particularly from “below the line” perspectives not usually taken into account.

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    • Caves, Richard. Creative Industries: Contracts between Art and Commerce. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.

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      Links the economics and culture of media with the other creative arts such as film, music, theater, and book publishing to create a rich matrix of intersecting concerns.

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    • Hesmondhalgh, Desmond, and Sarah Baker. Creative Labour: Creative Work in Three Cultural Industries. London: Routledge, 2011.

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      Offers a critical approach to cultural production, drawing on political-economy perspectives, but also on cultural studies, sociology, and social theory, to theorize and analyze media both in the United States and the United Kingdom.

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    • Mayer, Vicki A. Below the Line: Producers and Production Studies in the New Television Economy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

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      Mayer extends and expands production studies to include seemingly peripheral producers such as television set assemblers, reality-program casters, and public-access and cable commissioners in the global television context.

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    • Mayer, Vicki A., Miranda J. Banks, and John Thornton Caldwell, eds. Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Industries. New York: Routledge, 2009.

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      Brings together a work using ethnographic, sociological, critical, material, and political-economic methods to analyze contemporary industrial contexts.

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    • Newcomb, Horace, and Robert S. Alley. The Producer’s Medium: Conversations with Creators of American TV. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

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      Less theoretical, more anecdotal, but an invaluable collection of well-crafted and well-interpreted interviews with 1980s-era producers, writers, and directors.

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    • Thompson, Robert J., and Gary Burns, eds. Making Television: Authorship and the Production Process. New York: Praeger, 1990.

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      A documentary look at television authorship that probes the relationship among the various authors at work within the institutional, cultural, and economic settings that characterize the television industry.

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    Regulation and Policy

    Policy is central to the television industry and has a literature of its own. Streeter 1996 analyzes early concepts of radio spectrum regulation. Baughman 1985 provides an overview of television’s formative decades, while Classen 2004 focuses on one landmark decision. Fowler and Brenner 1982 lays the groundwork for deregulation in the 1980s, and Aufderheide 1999 addresses the consequences of deregulation a decade later. Hendershot 1998 focuses on the important topic of children and television. Others broaden the focus: Raboy 2002 to the global level, and Suman and Rossman 2000 to forces outside the Beltway.

    Genre

    Genre is a concept used widely in media industry practice and scholarship to describe and categorize television programs. Since the turn of the 21st century, scholars have worked to better conceptualize genre as a process of shifting negotiated understandings shared by networks, producers, publishers, writers, performers, and audiences alike. These works look critically at genre, examining its assumptions and consequences across a range of media forms, historical periods, and textual variations. Mittell 2004 provides a well-theorized reconceptualization of genre, with in-depth case studies, in contrast to the more prevalent approach shown in the edited collections in Creeber 2008, Edgerton and Rose 2008, and Geraghty and Jancovich 2007. Rose 1985 is the classic original study.

    • Creeber, Glen, ed. The Television Genre Book. London: British Film Institute, 2008.

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      An edited volume of short articles, focusing both on British and US television, organized into eleven sections that examine drama, soap opera, comedy, news, documentary, reality television, children’s television, animation, prime time, and daytime.

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    • Edgerton, Gary R., and Brian Rose, eds. Thinking Outside the Box: A Contemporary Television Genre Reader. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2008.

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      Brings together significant scholars of television, whose contributions range across genres and national settings.

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    • Geraghty, Lincoln, and Mark Jancovich, eds. The Shifting Definitions of Genre: Essays on Labeling Films, Television Shows, and Media. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.

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      Though the primary emphasis is on film, essays include consideration of television and comics as well.

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    • Mittell, Jason. Genre and Television: From Cop Shows to Cartoons in American Culture. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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      The most frequently cited book on television genre today, thanks to its attention to rethinking genre theory in the specific context of television. Ranges across historical periods, focusing on genre as a cultural practice that actively shapes television forms.

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    • Rose, Brian G. TV Genres: A Handbook and Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1985.

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      An early compendium of TV genres and their development up to the early 1980s. Covers genres not often included, such as documentary, variety shows, and sports.

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    Audiences and Reception

    The study of broadcast audiences has been an industry concern for commercial reasons since the 1920s. Scholarly studies of the audience critique industry methods and augment them with considerations of identities, uses, and reception. Napoli 2003 and Ableman and Atkin 2011 engage directly with methods of industry audience measurement, offering perceptive critiques. Ang 1990 compares commercial and public-service conceptions of audience in the context of national identity, while Joyrich 1996 focuses on gender and class. Means Coleman 1998 hones in on race and the situation comedy, while Seiter 1999 expands reception study to new-media audiences.

    International Industries and Transnational Exchange

    The US television industry expanded globally in the 1950s and has since become the world’s biggest exporter of programs. Nordenstreng and Varis 1974 was the first report to describe and quantify this global flow; the oft-cited Straubhaar 1991 provided an important new interpretation. Later works, including Chalaby 2005, Havens 2006, Steemers 2004, and Bielby and Harrington 2008 look closely and critically at modern institutions and practices that support this exchange, while Bignell and Fickers 2008 focuses on inter-European exchange.

    Digital Convergence

    By the late 1990s, the emergence of digital media brought television into convergence with other forms of media, new production contexts, and new uses. Jenkins 2008 is an influential book that takes a broad view of the phenomenon, while Lotz 2009, Gillan 2010, and Bennett and Strange 2011 examine shifts in television industry structures and practices.

    LAST MODIFIED: 06/26/2012

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199791286-0178

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