Controlling Prime-Time: Organizational Concentration and Network Television Programming Strategies

By Bielby, William T.; Bielby, Denise D. | Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Controlling Prime-Time: Organizational Concentration and Network Television Programming Strategies


Bielby, William T., Bielby, Denise D., Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media


**********

In a pioneering study of the production of popular culture, Peterson and Berger (1975, 1996) examined whether industrial concentration among producers of popular music leads to homogeneity in the recordings produced by that industry. Their thesis--that popular culture industries are subject to "cycles of symbol production"--is based on two hypotheses. The first is that long-term trends toward oligopoly in popular culture industries are periodically punctuated by relatively brief periods of competition and innovation. The second is that industrial concentration produces homogeneity of culture products and, conversely, competition fosters diversity. If both hypotheses are correct, then we should observe cyclical trends in the diversity of a popular culture industry's products that follow the cycles of industrial concentration. Peterson and Berger's data from the recording industry for the period from 1948 through 1973 supported both hypotheses. Subsequent research has modified their thesis to take into account new organizational forms in the recording industry. For example, Lopes (1992) and Dowd (1992, in press) document the emergence of a new, hybrid organizational form in which music labels run by semi-autonomous subunits allow media conglomerates to reap the benefits of independent production while maintaining corporate control. Nevertheless, the general finding that market structure and organizational strategy shape the diversity and form of popular music remains intact.

Our article is part of a larger project to examine whether the thesis of "cycles of symbol production" applies to the production of network prime-time television programming. In this work, we are examining: (1) trends in concentration among the suppliers of prime-time programming; and (2) whether periods of high concentration among suppliers are associated with greater homogeneity in program content. Although we do not measure program content directly in the results reported here (a formidable task), we do examine how issues of content and quality are invoked in industry debates. Specifically, our focus is on the terms of the debate over market concentration and programming diversity and whether television deregulation has shifted the balance of market power among suppliers of prime-time network programming. We explore these issues at two levels. First, we examine qualitatively the rhetorical claims made by parties with different economic interests about network financial stakes in programming and control over the creative process. Second, we quantitatively analyze trends in the networks' approaches to acquiring new series for the prime-time schedule.

The Fin-Syn Rules

The relationship between concentration and diversity of program content is one that is debated within the television industry itself. An issue in the late 1980s and early 1990s was whether FCC policies known as the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (or "Fin-Syn") had reduced the level of concentration in the industry and whether elimination of those rules would lead to greater concentration and homogeneity of content. From 1970 to the early 1990s, the Fin-Syn Rules constrained the then three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) from producing all but a small amount of the programs they broadcast in prime time and barred them from participating in the syndication of prime-time series.

At the time they were implemented in the early 1970s, the rationale for the Fin-Syn Rules was as follows. Original prime-time programming reached U.S. homes through limited channels of distribution--basically, the three major networks. If the networks, which control distribution, were also allowed to profit from the production of series, then they would have little incentive to look to independent producers for sources of programming. Decisions about what kinds of television series to develop would be made by network executives, and the programming would originate from a small group of affiliated producers.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Controlling Prime-Time: Organizational Concentration and Network Television Programming Strategies
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.