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Television PolicyThe MacTaggart Lectures$
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Bob Franklin

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780748617173

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748617173.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 31 May 2020

Taboos in Television

Taboos in Television

The James Mactaggart Lecture 1978

(p.53) Taboos in Television
Television Policy

Norman Lear

Edinburgh University Press

In this lecture, the author, formerly a highly successful pioneer producer of situation comedies broadcast on American television during the 1970s, recalls the progress of television programmes, especially situation comedies, in addressing previously taboo subjects such as homosexuality, abortions and black family life. These taboos were overturned following confrontations between writers and producers such as the author and the Program Practices Department — which ‘is the euphemism for censor’: cuts in portrayals of sex and violence were typically the focus of their concerns. The author always responded by saying that if the edit was made ‘they could not expect to find us at work the next morning’. He suggests this stance was not heroic since he knew the ‘network would eventually buckle’, but reminds that the power of the three networks over creative workers' products is considerable. The most significant trigger of taboos is television ratings and the ‘fierceness of competition to be number one’: this also explains the absence of ballet, art and drama in prime time.

Keywords:   taboos, television programmes, situation comedies, homosexuality, abortions, black family life, censor, Program Practices Department, television ratings, competition

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