In Search of the Audience - Forty Years of German Public Television and Its Audience Driven Commercialization
University of Kansas
Film & Media Studies
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The long established dichotomy between public and commercial television into elite and mass programming, or commercial and public stations, has been changing in recent years. The divide is narrowing and many public stations, especially in Europe, attract large and devoted audiences and work with the commercial sectors in their respective countries. The changing television marketplace and vast amount of available programming has created niche markets and thus programming designed to attract specific audiences. Public and commercial stations alike have to attract audiences to keep afloat, be it through advertisers or government funding. Within the constraints of its basic assumptions that television is business-oriented and that all audiences are assumed "ideal" audiences within the industry, this study argues that there is an active (symbiotic) relationship between the industry and the "ideal" audience with regards to German television and the ARD series Tatort. Rooted in Mittell's modified circuit-of-culture, this study discusses forty years of German television history via its most established television drama, Tatort (1970- ). In each decade starting in 1970, it becomes evident that the public providers, reacting to competition, altered their programming to reflect not only changes in regulation but also in audience composition and expectations. The conclusion reached is that a) the "ideal" audience does have agency, even if assumed and then executed by the broadcaster, and b) that the audience is a vital part of television production, and is therefore commodified by the networks.
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