The Audience as Tyrant — an Elitist View of Television

  • Anthony Smith
Part of the Communications and Culture book series


It was the mass-produced newspaper at the end of the last century which gave rise to the notion that there exists a public right to be informed. Television has converted the notion into a right to be entertained. The new medium, from the start, was set in a competitive mould, and for that reason it has come to seem natural — in the nature of the medium, as they always say — that all programmes must be directed at a median audience, hour by hour. The programme-maker, in the very process by which he is professionalised and trained, is made to believe that his audience must be ‘held’ hour by hour, that it must be ‘grabbed’, that it must be addressed within the compass of an area of common allusion created by the medium of television itself. The programme-maker, the audience and the medium are assumed to be locked together within the same plane of meaning; all other meaning is excluded as lying outside the nexus. Inevitably, the terms in which the audience is addressed are derived from the world of entertainment. In other words, the television producer has to believe that he may speak to the audience only at the level of a public which has paid for a seat in the cinema, not at the level of a public which has filed into a lecture hall, or queued for the Strangers’ Gallery, or crowded into a church.


Lecture Hall General Audience Commercial Break Perfect Fusion American Peak 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Published as Tom Burns The B. B. C. — Public Institution and Private World (London: Macmillan, 1977).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Anthony Smith 1978

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  • Anthony Smith

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