imported television


imported television
   Imported television refers to the flow of programmes into a nation’s broadcasting system from other national systems. While this has traditionally meant the inward flow of individual programmes, the term can now be applied, with the advent of cable and satellite technologies, to the importation of complete television channels (for example, CNN). The importation of programmes by British broadcasters started in a small way before the Second World War, with short films and cartoons, but it was only with the arrival of ITV in 1955 that imported material, especially American programmes, found a major place on British television screens (for example, Bonanza, Raw Hide and I Love Lucy). Such well-made popular programmes, which could be sold cheaply as they had already covered production costs in the home market, were used both by BBC and ITV to attract and keep new audiences. Since the 1960s, ITV and the BBC have kept to a limit of 14 percent of foreign programming.
   Those arguing in favour of importation point out that broadcasters and audiences in Britain benefit from the new forms of programming and different cultural outlooks, which also keep down the costs of providing a full schedule. For example, Channel 4 has become infamous for using successful and popular American series to attract audiences and therefore advertisers, a strategy that has freed money up for domestic production. Others argue, in reference to the dominance of the commercial American product, that this ‘Wall-to- Wall Dallas’ is eroding and Americanizing the indigenous culture and identity.
   As broadcasting enters the third age (the first was radio, the second was terrestrial television) with the appearance of satellite, cable and digital television, so the flow of programmes, both as discrete packages and in terms of television services, is becoming more international. With more channels coming on-stream, many without the resources or revenue of the established channels, there is an increased reliance on the cheaply sold popular American product (though other sources of supply do exist, such as Australia for soaps and Japan for cartoons). Likewise, the existing terrestrial broadcasters, trying to cut costs and compete with the new channels, also see imports as an important part of their strategy for survival. However, research suggests that domestically produced material is more popular than imports; for example, domestically made soaps constantly top the rating tables of most nations.
   Further reading
    Collins, R. (1990) Television: Policy and Culture, London: Unwin Hyman.
   PAUL RIXON

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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