Audiences, Markets, and the Public
In its ideal-typical form, a public television system must provide a role in which citizens can be involved as more than simply passive audiences; public participation must be structured into the system. This chapter examines how public television workers perceive the role of the public and aims to compare it with the traditional role reserved for commercial television audiences. It assesses whether members of the public do indeed have a distinct relationship—at the structural, but perhaps more important at the ideological, level—with public television, a broadcast system explicitly designed to "serve" the public's needs. The chapter focuses on the role of audience ratings, one of the principal ways that commercial television audiences are turned into markets. Audience measurement has become a large-scale enterprise in many public broadcasting institutions". This is clearly the case in public television in the United States.