The idea of ‘quality’ television is almost an elusive concept that is defined and redefined through cultural shifts and changes. The initial discovery that must be made in discussing ‘quality’ television is in identifying why programs are made and how they are determined to be of value…
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Value is about finances, cultural importance, and artistic importance. However, it is financial value that must first be addressed to then move towards addressing the more esoteric values. Quality is determined by who is defining the concept. Cultural changes and shifts will also affect the concept of quality. Through an exploration of the concept of family in television, as an example, an understanding of how culture is influenced by television as much as it influences the nature of programming can be understood. The categories of culture that are defined for the concept of ‘quality’ television are related to the idea that the elite determine the distribution of information, thus informing the public and formatting belief systems and cultural boundaries. In an examination of the idea of quality and relating it to the idea of categories of culture, the nature of power and information control emerges. The concept of quality television is a topic for families, social groups, and theorists. It is not often, however, a topic of interest for programmers. The first issue in trying to determine how to define quality television is through an understanding that that those most interested in quality are not necessarily those who are responsible for making television. Television is business, therefore the interests of the programmers is to find television programming that will sell, which is not always in line with what is considered high quality. Television is the business of making programs that can be made for the least amount of money in order to gain the highest profit from advertising dollars. The interest from the business end that might contribute to higher quality television would be in the realm of writers, directors, creators and producers. McCabe and Akass quote Robin Nelson for having stated that “notions of quality are ‘an open narrative of the broad cultural and institutional context of the evaluation and the valuer, rather than a closed resolution answering the question of worth for all time” (McCabe and Akass, 4). Quality is a question of fashion as much as it is a question of culture. The nature of a piece of ‘art’ is considered of high quality only because society has determined that it represents a notion of quality. Quality means different things to different sectors of society. The very concept of quality cannot be determined through an overall sense of the idea as each individual provides their own framework of quality. According to Friske and Jenkins, the differences between quality as determined by the bourgeoisie and that of the elite, the concept of quality is determined through different criteria. Quality is relevant, to the bourgeoisie, through its functionality. Therefore, in trying to understand the nature of quality, the concept of relevance must be determined. The defining concept of relevance lays within “ A consensus of what is high quality can be reached through a determinant of what is valued. Relevance is a way in which quality is determined and judged as it is “activated in the specifics of each moment of reading: unlike aesthetics, relevance is time – and place bound” (Fiske and Jenkins, 103). It might be determined, then that the way in which quality is discovered is through an understanding of its relevance to time and space, the way in which it fits into the greater scheme of cultural meanings. Quality is a custom, rather than a specific identifiable quantity. To determine quality is to associate it to how something functions within the dynamics that are relevant during a time period. This is specifically relevant to the nature of television as most programs have a very small, finite time in
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