What's rare on air? News about arts

Plenty has been opined about the lack of network TV coverage of this summer's political conventions.

But that coverage has been absolutely lavish in comparison with the amount of airtime the networks give the arts. During the decades of the 1990s less than 3 percent of the nightly newscasts at ABC, CBS, and NBC were devoted to arts and culture topics - about 30 seconds per broadcast - a new study has found.

Even that figure is deceptively high. Most of the coverage was of popular music, TV, and films. Nostalgia items about the Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra were among the favorite subjects, along with scandals. Other top topics of the '90s included sex and violence on TV shows, rap music, and video games.

News about "high arts" - classical music, theater, painting, jazz, dance, photography, sculpture, opera, and poetry, along with news about publishing, represented less than one-third of the tiny time slot devoted to the arts.

The study, "Television and the Arts: Network News Coverage of Arts and Culture in the 1990s," was released recently by the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University in New York.

This week, cable TV and the Internet stepped in with political coverage when the networks lost interest. That may be an answer for the arts, too.

"This analysis of arts coverage in the most influential news outlets confirms that Americans are less informed about arts and culture through television than they were even 10 years ago," says Andrs Sznto, the study's co-author. "It also shows that broadcasters, the print media, and new media have tremendous opportunities to fill the void left behind by the major networks."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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