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Cable Visions

Television Beyond Broadcasting

Sarah Banet-Weiser, Cynthia Chris, Anthony Freitas

Publication Year: 2007

Cable television, on the brink of a boom in the 1970s, promised audiences a new media frontier-an expansive new variety of entertainment and information choices. Music video, 24–hour news, 24-hour weather, movie channels, children's channels, home shopping, and channels targeting groups based on demographic characteristics or interests were introduced.

Cable Visions looks beyond broadcasting’s mainstream, toward cable's alternatives, to critically consider the capacity of commercial media to serve the public interest. It offers an overview of the industry's history and regulatory trends, case studies of key cable newcomers aimed at niche markets (including Nickelodeon, BET, and HBO Latino), and analyses of programming forms introduced by cable TV (such as nature, cooking, sports, and history channels).

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

The idea for this volume emerged from a panel discussion about innovative practices in cable television in which we participated, along with Cheri Ketchum and Catherine Saulino, at the International Communication Association’s annual meeting in San Diego in 2003. Despite the richness...

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pp. 1-14

Cable TV, on the brink of a boom in the 1970s, promised TV audiences a new media frontier, an expansive new variety of entertainment and information choices. Cable seemed poised to provide access to a greater variety of media forms and points of view than could be found on oligopolistic...

Part I Institutions and Audiences

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pp. 17-23

At least since the 1970s and well into the 1990s, cable television has constituted a fast-growing new media market in which large, long-established corporate media entities and feisty upstarts do battle and do business. Over the last decade, cable has been joined by direct broadcast satellite...

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Chapter 1 The Moms ’n’ Pops of CATV

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pp. 24-43

Inasmuch as the early 1950s origins of the U.S. cable television industry have been documented at all, the story tends to be one of “mom ’n’ pop” entrepreneurship. In other words, media historians—and others affiliated with the modern cable industry—readily herald the small-town inventors...

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Chapter 2 A Taste of Class

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pp. 44-65

In 1950, long before HBO launched its pay-TV service in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on November 8, 1972 with a hockey game and a Hollywood movie, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized three pay-TV companies to conduct tests in New York City, Chicago, and Los...

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Chapter 3 Cable’s Digital Future

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pp. 66-84

The deployment of digital technology throughout the U.S. communication networks over the last decade promised “the end of scarcity” for television.1 Not only would fiber optics and electronics increase by orders of magnitude the capacity of each infrastructure—telephone, cable, or wireless...

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Chapter 4 If It’s Not TV,What Is It?

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pp. 85-102

British television scholar Charlotte Brunsdon presciently anticipated the quandary that “premium” cable networks would introduce when she titled a 1998 essay,“What is the ‘Television’ of Television Studies?”1 Brunsdon’s essay attends to the diversity of approaches scholars have used to study television...

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Chapter 5 Where the Cable Ends

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pp. 103-126

Why is it that in the United States there are 65.4 million homes with cable television subscriptions and only 26.1 million with direct satellite broadcasting services?1 This numerical disparity involves a complex set of issues ranging from federal policies to product designs, from landscape topographies...

Part II Channels

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pp. 129-136

In its brief history, television has experienced an explosion of networks. Especially since the implementation of fiber-optic and satellite digital delivery, channel availability in the United States has mushroomed from a few broadcast channels to hundreds of channels and on-demand programming...

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Chapter 6 Discovery’s Wild Discovery

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pp. 137-158

In the 1970s and into the 1980s, nonfiction wildlife filmmaking reached American television audiences largely in the form of low-cost, syndicated half-hours, such as Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and highbrow series and specials, such as Nature and National Geographic, featured by the Public...

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Chapter 7 Tunnel Vision and Food

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pp. 158-176

In the 1980s, television executives would have probably scoffed at the idea of a channel devoted entirely to food. Cooking shows were relegated mostly to public television channels or the occasional weekend afternoon slot of a commercial station’s offerings. Though programs like Julia Child’s had been successful and were relatively cheap to produce, they...

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Chapter 8 Target Market Black

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pp. 177-193

In November 2000, BET founder, President, and CEO Robert L. Johnson sold the then twenty-year-old Black Entertainment Television to Viacom, Inc. This sale hoisted Johnson into the billionaire’s club while simultaneously eliminating one of the few black-owned media entities. Before...

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Chapter 9 Monolingualism, Biculturalism, and Cable TV

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pp. 194-214

Home Box Office (HBO) is often described as a pioneer, a risk-taker, and even as a channel to which the title of “auteur” can be applied.1 Such titles were originally given to HBO because it was one of the first premium cable networks to offer original programming. It also drew from genres that...

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Chapter 10 Gay Programming, Gay Publics

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pp. 215-233

Between 2001 and 2005, several media firms introduced commercial channels aimed at lesbian and gay viewers. These very narrowly targeted channels employed innovative funding and programming strategies to overcome financial and regulatory barriers as well as anticipated negative reactions...

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Chapter 11 The Nickelodeon Brand

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pp. 234-252

As is well-known in the media industry, five multimedia conglomerates— Viacom, Disney, News Corporation, NBC Universal, and Time Warner— exert unprecedented power in marketing messages and products to young people, capitalizing on the lifestyle culture of “cool” and...

Part III Cable Programs The Platinum Age of Television?

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pp. 255-260

In recent years, cable programs have achieved the reputation of “quality TV”—expensively produced, intelligently written, they utilize edgy and graphic themes and are often humorous in a dark, ironic sort of way. The flexibility of the cable industry is largely responsible for these quality programs: the relatively light FCC regulation in terms of language, action,...

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Chapter 12 Cable Watching

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pp. 261-283

How might we write about the ways in which, in the complicated landscape of today’s big business media production, certain cultural products seem to stand out and gain distinction? To offer some reflections on cable television’s performance of distinction, I divide the following essay into two parts. The first starts with the point of reception—in...

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Chapter 13 Bank Tellers and Flag Wavers

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pp. 284-301

Forty-five years ago, John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s Federal Communications Commissioner, Newton Minow, called U.S. TV a “vast wasteland.”1 He was urging broadcasters to embark on enlightened Cold-War leadership, to prove the United States was not the mindless consumer world the Soviets...

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Chapter 14 Dualcasting

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pp. 302-318

In the summer of 2003, gays were big news in the United States and Canada: the U.S. Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws in all states, the Canadian government decided to award marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and Gene Robinson was confirmed as the bishop of New Hampshire...

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Chapter 15 “I’m Rich, Bitch!!!”

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pp. 319-337

In the Winter Quarter of 2003, I taught my first African-American television course. I introduced my students to the rarely screened The Richard Pryor Show, which debuted on NBC in 1977. The thematically innovative and racially provocative show lasted just six episodes.While there are several...

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Chapter 16 Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment’s Global Reach

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pp. 338-358

In 1999, community leaders in a working class, ethnically diverse neighborhood of a large Southern California city invited me to design a computer lab and an after-school program for children aged 8–12. This was the year that the federal government initiated its Community Technology...

About the Contributors

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pp. 359-362


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pp. 363-368

E-ISBN-13: 9780814739242
E-ISBN-10: 0814739245
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814799499
Print-ISBN-10: 0814799493

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2007