Life in the Box: The Local Scene


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When I was deciding what features to produce for my magazine show, part of my thought process was always tuned to “what’s not being done?” Our group always looked at doing “something a little different” and, in fact, used that as a promotional line. So it follows that, in order to be different, you have to know what’s already been done.

I want to look at what local commercial broadcasters are producing these days. Yes, I know there is another world of non-broadcast video out there on the web, but broadcasting still exists, and hey, they are online, too!

Local broadcasters do news. What else? Morning news. Noon news. Anything else? Hello, anyone? Oh, local weather on the “dot 1” channel. And, they produce local commercials. Oh, some of them will broadcast live local sports on occasion! Some will do an annual hour or weekend of fund-raising for a non-profit cause. That’s good. Hmm. But, by far the most common and largest expenditure is daily news.

Let’s look at this another way—if you wanted to get on your local television station, what show would you want to be on? The news, right? That’s really your only choice, right?

Are broadcasters, as Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman claim, in the business of selling audiences to advertisers? If so, is news the only local program that can grab an audience? Is there something else they could be doing that could sell ads?

I’m not against local news, in fact the more I study it, the more I admire what a handful of local producers are pulling off with small budgets and quick thinking, including “This is Iowa” with reporter Eric Hanson in Des Moines. More on his series in a future column.

At the same time, I do think much more could be done by local television stations. I’ve started looking for local television productions that add value to the community, create community, or in some way make the viewer know they’re in a unique place. And, I’ve already found some!! This is the direction I’m heading for the next few columns.

author-picture2smallerNancy Heather Brown is an Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, and editing for more than four decades. Today, she uses gems from this treasure trove of life stories to add sparkle to her reflections on the creative process both inside and outside the box.

 

Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model (1988) in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.

Eric Hanson’s “This is Iowa” Series