In Horace Newcomb and Paul Hirsch's “TV as a Cultural Forum,” the authors argue that it is not very useful to worry about what “message” television is giving us, because television is not one, impoverished message. Rather, it is a complex and rich forum of ideas where debate and process is a key part of the medium. “The forum offers a perspective that is as complex, as contradictory and confused, as much in process as American culture is in experience. Its texture matches that of our daily experience.” (571)
While I agree with much of this and will spend a good deal of my presentation time on Wednesday applying this analysis to my own personal experience and favorite shows, I think this idea of the plurality of TV as a cultural forum has some limits, limits which Newcomb and Hirsch themselves acknowledge.
“We recognize, of course, that this variety works for the most part within the limits of American monopoly-capitalism and within the range of American pluralism.” (566) I would argue that it also exists within the limits of the storytellers' experience. If the majority of television storytellers come from similar backgrounds, it will be difficult to get that variety of opinion and experience that Newcomb and Hirsch see as intrinsic to television as a cultural forum.
Unfortunately, television has not had a great track record of diversity, and even today most of its storytellers are a relatively homogeneous group. In 2013, white males directed 73% of all television episodes. (The Directors Guild of America, press release, 10/2/13.) In 2014, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of at least 9 to 1 among creators of broadcast comedies and drama. (The 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report by the Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.)