Below the Line

Producers and Production Studies in the New Television Economy

Below the Line

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 5 photographs, 1 figure Published: May 2011

Author: Vicki Mayer

Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Media Technologies, TV

Below the Line illuminates the hidden labor of people who not only produce things that the television industry needs, such as a bit of content or a policy sound bite, but also produce themselves in the service of capital expansion. Vicki Mayer considers the work of television set assemblers, soft-core cameramen, reality-program casters, and public-access and cable commissioners in relation to the globalized economy of the television industry. She shows that these workers are increasingly engaged in professional and creative work, unsettling the industry’s mythological account of itself as a business driven by auteurs, manned by an executive class, and created by the talented few. As Mayer demonstrates, the new television economy casts a wide net to exploit those excluded from these hierarchies. Meanwhile, television set assemblers in Brazil devise creative solutions to the problems of material production. Soft-core videographers, who sell televised content, develop their own modes of professionalism. Everyday people become casters, who commodify suitable participants for reality programs, or volunteers, who administer local cable television policies. These sponsors and regulators boost media industries’ profits when they commodify and discipline their colleagues, their neighbors, and themselves. Mayer proposes that studies of production acknowledge the changing dynamics of labor to include production workers who identify themselves and their labor with the industry, even as their work remains undervalued or invisible.


“[T]his volume succeeds in enlarging the scope of television production studies significantly. It should encourage other researchers to cast their net widely.”
— Andrew Spicer, Screening the Past

“Mayer’s studies of television-set assemblers, soft-core cameramen, reality-program casters, and volunteers on television regulatory committees not only draw critical attention to the individuals whose roles, creativities, and values are frequently overlooked, but argues that their contributions to the industry can, and ought to be, viewed as creative and professional…. Mayer’s great contribution to television-production studies is in nudging the field toward a more inclusive and coherent definition of its objects of study. Below the Line provides a thoughtful example of just what stands to be gained by such a move.” — Nina F. O'Brien, International Journal of Communication

“This is an important if contentious contribution to the evolving field of cultural studies of labour…. Mayer’s invitation to researchers to broaden their understanding of what and where creativity is in television production is extremely useful, as is the provocation to reconsider different workers’ and roles’ value to media industries, and in particular to uncover the invisible labour on which media production relies.” — Ben Goldsmith, Media International Australia

“[T]he author presents a fresh approach, examining a class of producers unlike those studied before, which is the key difference between studies presented in this book and previous research.” — Erik Pöntiskoski, Journal of Communication Inquiry

“There is much to recommend in this book. Although Mayer’s accounts of the challenges faced by Brazilian electronics workers will probably read as all too familiar to readers of this journal, situating these individuals within a context of media production represents a fresh and welcome perspective on the artifacts of popular culture. Her other case studies break new ground in making visible the atomized work worlds of decentralized media industries.”  — Alexander Russo, New Labor Forum

“Vicki Mayer’s book, Below the Line, illuminates some of these critical trends within the context of a broader examination of work in and the production of television…. One major contribution of the book, beyond the insights provided within the individual case studies, is the author’s ability to illuminate how various facets of industry work and worker identity are transforming in the context of industry restructuring and macroeconomic forces.” — Susan Christopherson, Work and Occupations

“At a moment when production studies and critical media studies are thriving, Below the Line has the potential to not merely refresh academic work of this kind but to reconceive it in a way that is completely attuned to the global political media economy and the complications and paradoxes of labor within it.” — Diane Negra, co-editor of Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture

“This is an immensely original and innovative book on television production processes and laboring practices long overlooked within media studies until now. This ethnographic and interview-based analysis of groups including television assembly-line workers and soft-core television producers marks a new departure for scholarship into precarious working lives in the global media.” — Angela McRobbie, author of The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change

“Vicki Mayer’s excellent and extraordinarily thoughtful scholarship, commitment, and political imagination link aspects of the television and media industries that have simply not been considered together so well before.” — Nick Couldry, author of Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics after Neoliberalism


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Vicki Mayer is Associate Professor of Communication at Tulane University. She is a co-editor of Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Industries and editor of the journal Television and New Media.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgements vii

Introduction: Who Are Television's Producers? 1

Part I

1. Producers as Creatives: Creativity in Television Set Production 31

2. Producers as Professionals: Professionalism in Soft-Core Production 66

Part II

3. Sponsoring Selves: Sponsorship in Production 103

4. Regulating Selves: Regulation in Production 139

Conclusion: Rethinking Production Studies in the New Television Economy 175

Notes 187

Bibliography 207

Index 225

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5007-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4994-5
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