Ethnic Minorities and the Media: Changing Cultural Boundaries

By Simon Cottle | Go to book overview

7
BLACK REPRESENTATION IN THE
POST NETWORK, POST CIVIL
RIGHTS WORLD OF GLOBAL MEDIA

Herman Gray


Introduction

Much about the world of American network television has changed in the years since I completed Watching Race (Gray 1995). I ended Watching Race with the 1992 television season. Although I was disappointed with the cancellation of several of my favourite programmes, I remained hopeful about the prospect of black representations on American network television. Black-oriented shows like The Cosby Show and It’s a Different World moved from premiere network schedules to the financially lucrative world of reruns and syndication. Although a perceptible shift from a focus on the middle class to urban youth appeared for a while, they were replaced in the network schedule with black shows preoccupied with domestic families, parenting, and social relationships. Fox Television continued its quest for legitimacy and financial profitability with black shows like New York Under Cover and a staple of hip-hop youth oriented comedies.

Two new networks – Warner Brothers (WB) and Paramount (UPN) – joined Fox in challenging the dominance of the three major networks. To do so the new networks used black-oriented programming to anchor their evening schedule. This use of black-oriented comedies to get a scheduling toehold in a network’s formative years continues the programming strategy that the Fox News Corporation used in its formative years. With the least to lose financially and reputationally, Fox Television took greater (aesthetic and marketing) risks by pursuing urban and youth audiences interested in black-oriented programming (Zook 1994; Gray 1995; Watkins 1998). Today new networks like Warner Brothers and Paramount operate in an

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