Several studies have pointed out that despite television’s omnipresence science programmes are hard to find. Neither scientists nor governments are said to fully recognize its possibilities when it comes to science and technology. Nonetheless, empirical data concerning science on television are largely absent. This study explores the presence of science programmes on Flemish television (Belgium) between 1997 and 2002 in terms of length, science domains, target groups, production mode, country of origin, and type of broadcast. Because science programmes are absent on the commercial networks, our data collection is limited to the public broadcaster VRT. These results serve as a case study to discuss the influence of public policy and other possible motives for changes in science programming. The aim of this paper is to gain a clearer insight into the factors that influence whether and how science programmes are broadcast on television. Our data show that for nearly all variables 2000 can be marked as a year in which a decade‐long downward spiral for science on television was reversed. Three factors were found to be crucial in this respect. First, a traditional emphasis of public service philosophy on education clearly distinguishes public broadcasters from other television networks. Second, a strong governmental science policy providing structural government support ensures the survival of, and may help to find a creative impetus for, science on television. And finally, the reversal in 2000 reflects a societal discourse that increasingly articulates a need for more hard sciences.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

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Pieter Maeseele   Ghent University

Lieve Desmet   Erasmushogeschool Brussel

Several studies have pointed out that despite television’s omnipresence science programmes are hard to find. Neither scientists nor governments are said to fully recognize its possibilities when it comes to science and technology. Nonetheless, empirical data concerning science on television are largely absent. This study explores the presence of science programmes on Flemish television (Belgium) between 1997 and 2002 in terms of length, science domains, target groups, production mode, country of origin, and type of broadcast. Because science programmes are absent on the commercial networks, our data collection is limited to the public broadcaster VRT. These results serve as a case study to discuss the influence of public policy and other possible motives for changes in science programming. The aim of this paper is to gain a clearer insight into the factors that influence whether and how science programmes are broadcast on television. Our data show that for nearly all variables 2000 can be marked as a year in which a decade‐long downward spiral for science on television was reversed. Three factors were found to be crucial in this respect. First, a traditional emphasis of public service philosophy on education clearly distinguishes public broadcasters from other television networks. Second, a strong governmental science policy providing structural government support ensures the survival of, and may help to find a creative impetus for, science on television. And finally, the reversal in 2000 reflects a societal discourse that increasingly articulates a need for more hard sciences.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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