Below the Line
Producers and Production Studies in the New Television Economy
Duke University Press 2011
In Below the Line: Producers and Production Studies in the New Television Economy (Duke University Press, 2011), Vicki Mayer provides a major theoretical contribution to media production studies. The book self-consciously challenges the idea of the “TV producer” that industry figures and scholars alike often assume. Mayer traces how the “TV producer” category came to be associated with–indeed defined by–creativity and professionalism. Below the Line upends this definition, through four empirical case studies of largely invisible television production: (1) television set assemblers in Brazil, (2) soft-core video cameramen in New Orleans, (3) reality TV casters, and (4) local cable television citizen regulators. The book weaves a theoretical thread through these ethnographic portraits that are themselves framed by political economic analysis of the industry and the broader economy. What once seemed stable–the idea that TV producers are above-the-line creative professionals–lies in elegantly written tatters by the book’s conclusion.