Follow TV Tropes

Boring Broadcaster

Go To

Media outlets and/or programs that are overly intellectual and/or dull in their content

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Lirodon on Dec 27th 2017 at 7:51:01 PM
Last Edited By:
Lirodon on Mar 22nd 2018 at 12:50:02 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Not every radio or television station is created equal. While many often aim to entertain mainstream audiences or cater to the Lowest Common Denominator, others may go in the other direction, aiming to serve a more narrow or intellectual audience.

Public radio and television, especially the U.S. NPR and PBS networks, tend to delve into more serious topics (such as education, politics, science, the arts, classical and/or jazz music, and the occasional pledge drive) than the average commercial broadcaster. Similarly, the "soft adult contemporary" radio format tries to be inoffensive in its content to appeal to workplaces and an older demographic, focusing primarily on "soft rock" and ballads, new and old.

Similarly, television channels and programs devoted to public affairs (such as coverage of governmental sessions and other political events) are similarly intended to be a public record rather than exciting entertainment by design (that is unless a protester or quick-witted politician livens things up, or they're covering the White House Correspondents' Dinner), Some public access shows may also fall into this category if they are not deliberately aiming for that kitschy, No Budget feel.

It's no surprise that the these types of broadcasters are often a target for satire, stereotyping them as having little to no viewers due to their reputation or quality, attempting to stay relevant with a Ratings Stunt or two, outright begging for money because they have No Budget, or portraying a character as having an interest in shows on such channels just to prove how much of an intellectual they are.

See also Biting-the-Hand Humor if the show claims this of its own network.


Examples:

Live-Action TV

Newspaper Comics

  • Jim Borgman's daily strip Zits for Wednesday 27 December 2017 has apathetic teenager Jeremy riding in the family car with his father at the wheel. National Public Radio is playing, which Walt prefers. Jeremy, however, feels compelled to snark: "Just curious ... have you ever had a passenger die of boredom, Dad?"

Radio

  • Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! sometimes makes jokes about this at their network NPR's expense.
    • They once asked teen fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson a question about NPR in a Not My Job game titled "Stuff Old People Like".
    • When former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy played Not My Job, Peter read off some side effects of public radio:
    "Public radio may cause extreme drowsiness. Before listening to public radio, make sure your doctor says you're healthy enough to have sex, not that it will matter."
  • BBC Radio 3 is thought of this way. It began in 1946 as the BBC Third Programme, out of the institution's built-in need to educate and inform as well as entertain. And it has been remarked that whenever the BBC feels a compulsive need to educate, then entertainment goes out of the window, as if the two are mutually exclusive concepts. The output of the station has always been slanted towards heavy classical music and seriously intellectually highbrow literary talk shows. It has been said that you need an university-level education to even understand the station's announcer. Very much a minority channel, Radio 3 has its ardent and fanatical devotees who remain alert to any sign of even the slightest "dumbing down".
  • BBC Radio 4 (a sister station involved primarily in spoken word programming) broadcasts a series of shipping forecasts (which provide weather conditions for sailors navigating the British isles) four times per-day. They are mainly fed on the station's longwave signals only, but two of them are relayed on the FM signals — including one most famously aired at 00:45 before the station signs off in favour of the BBC World Service until the next broadcast day. Its reception, however, subverts this trope, as its iconic Theme Tune, mysterious subject matter (to those unfamiliar with where Tyne and Dogger are located, and why they are Northeast 3 or 4), and its strict and hypnotic delivery, have given it a Cult Following and a place in British popular culture.

Web Animation

  • Strong Bad Email: In "radio", Strong Bad describes the voices of various radio show hosts. As its slogan promises, the host on Public Radio Sounds is "Smooth 'n' Smarmy", as he reports on events at Capitol Hill and the United Nations. The station also distributes gifts such as bottle openers and tote bags to its supporters, such as Marzipan (who wondered why she had not received her tote bag yet. Somehow, Homestar got it and was using it as a hat).

Western Animation

  • In an Arthur episode, Grandma Thora acknowledges that she only has over-the-air antenna television at her house, but tells Arthur that there's always public television — a remark that elicits a somewhat negative response. Also a bit of Biting-the-Hand Humor, as it's a PBS program.
  • The Simpsons
    • In "Homer Badman", Homer resorts to using public access TV to issue a rebuttal of his sexual harassment allegations without it being manipulated. The man in charge of the station immediately says that their lines were ringing ... with just two calls. One is a wrong number and the other is a salesman, implying that very few people were watching. One of them was Groundskeeper Willie, who, luckily, had an alternate angle of the alleged incident that clarified what had actually happened.
    • In "'Round Springfield", Lisa has the local radio station KJAZZ play a tribute to Bleeding Gums Murphy after his death so that Springfield could appreciate his music. However, it's revealed that the station has a very short range, and that Hans Moleman was its morning host;
      Hans: Hello, this is Moleman in the Morning, good Moleman to you. Today, part four of our series on the agonizing pain in which I live every daaaay.
    • In "Missionary: Impossible", Homer becomes fond of the British sitcom Do Shut Up airing on a PBS station, but it gets interrupted by a pledge drive. Homer tries to be an Anonymous Benefactor by offering to donate $10,000, that he doesn't have, just so they could get back to the show. However, they have "insta-trace" technology that attributes the call back to Homer anyway, and PBS tries to shake him down by sending Betty White, Mr. Rogers, the casts of Sesame Street and Teletubbies, and Yo-Yo Ma after him. Homer escapes by volunteering to do missionary work in the South Pacific. The end of the episode is cut off by another pledge drive ... by Fox, promoting that low-brow entertainment such as Family Guy wouldn't exist without viewer support. Bart phones in with a $10,000 donation.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • From "No Free Rides":
      SpongeBob: If you think I'll let go for a little EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION?! OH NO!
    • In "The Thing", Squidward tries to watch a clarinet concert on public television.
    • In "Tentacle-Vision", Squidward gets his own show, Squidward Chat, on Bikini Bottom Public Access (because, apparently, they'll give a show to just about anybody). When it becomes a massive success thanks to SpongeBob and his friends taking over, its president points out that it's doing just fine in the ratings — after which he brings in a small bag of money, and says, "This is actually a lot by Public Access standards.".
    • In "Idiot Box", Squidward's Your Television Hates You moment has him channel surfing through several shows bringing up boxes, one of them being a professor using one to demonstrate an equation (and then there's "Championship Boxing", which ends up being somewhat literal).

Feedback: 13 replies

Dec 27th 2017 at 9:40:42 PM

  • Sponge Bob Square Pants:
    • From "No Free Rides":
      SpongeBob: If you think I'll let go for a little—EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION?! OH NO!
    • In "The Thing", Squidward tries to watch a clarinet concert on public television.
    • In "Tentacle-Vision", Squidward get his own show on Bikini Bottom Public Access (because, apparently, they'll give a show to just about anybody).

Dec 27th 2017 at 11:26:37 PM

The Simpsons has multiple digs at PBS and public television. As an example, "Homer Badman" has Homer going to the local public station (the only place where his broadcasted plea will not undergo Manipulative Editing) in order to say that he's not a sex offender. The man in charge of the station immediately afterwards says that "the lines are ringing"... by which he means only two calls are coming in... and one is a wrong number and the other is a salesman.

Dec 28th 2017 at 7:45:35 AM

Late-night comedy shows, such as The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, and so on, loved and still love to poke fun at C-SPAN for being a walking stereotype, with dull broadcasts of congressional sessions and very little levity outside of the occasional prank call.

Dec 28th 2017 at 9:37:26 AM

Web animation:

  • Strong Bad Email: In "radio", Strong Bad describes the voices of various radio show hosts. His public radio host is "smooth 'n' smarmy" as he reports on events at Capitol Hill and the United Nations.

Dec 28th 2017 at 12:52:30 PM

Newspaper Comics

  • Jim Borgman's daily strip Zits for Wednesday 27 December 2017 has apathetic teenager Jeremy riding in the family car with his father at the wheel. National Public Radio is playing, which Walt prefers. Jeremy, however, feels compelled to snark: "Just curious ... have you ever had a passenger die of boredom, Dad?"

Dec 28th 2017 at 2:17:40 PM

If the work that uses this trope airs on a public broadcasting network itself, it's probably also an example of Biting The Hand Humor.

TV:

Radio:

  • Wait Wait Dont Tell Me sometimes makes jokes about this at their network NPR's expense.
    • They once asked teen fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson a question about NPR in a Not My Job game titled "Stuff Old People Like".
    • When former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy played Not My Job, Peter read a spoof Surgeon General's Warning about public radio:
      "Public radio may cause extreme drowsiness. Before listening to public radio, make sure your doctor says you're healthy enough to have sex, not that it will matter."

Dec 28th 2017 at 2:23:27 PM

@ KartoonKid95: Another detail regarding the "Tentacle Vision" example; when "Squidward Chat" becomes a massive success thanks to SpongeBob and his friends taking over, the President of Bikini Bottom Public Access says, "Actually, I'd say the show's doing just fine, at least according to our latest ratings!". He then brings in a small bag of money, and says, "This is actually a lot by Public Access standards.".

Dec 28th 2017 at 6:16:42 PM

TV

  • Subverted inThe Big Bang Theory episode "The Vengeance Formulation". Sheldon states that an NPR station wanted to interview him about the "recent so-called discovery of magnetic monopoles in spin ices" so they could "goose the ratings" for pledge week with something controversial. Of course, Kripke secretly pumps helium into the room Sheldon is in to sabotage it. Hilarity Ensures instead.

Jan 1st 2018 at 4:02:36 PM

Boring Broadcaster? Public Borecasting?

Jan 3rd 2018 at 5:21:58 AM

Look Around You is a parody of 1970s BBC educational programming with much Stylistic Suck along these lines.

Jan 3rd 2018 at 2:00:28 PM

Radio

  • BBC Radio Three is thought of this way. It began in 1946 as the BBC Third Programme, out of the institution's built-in need to educate and inform as well as entertain.And it has been remarked that whenever the BBC feels a compulsive need to educate, then entertainment goes out of the window, as if the two are mutually exclusive concepts. The output of the station has always been slanted towards heavy classical music and seriously intellectually highbrow literary talk shows. It has been said that you need a university-level education to understand even the continuity announcer. Very much a minority channel, Radio Three has its ardent and fanatical devotees who remain alert to any sign of even the slightest "dumbing down".

Top