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Boring Broadcaster

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KJAZZ: 152 Americans can't be wrong!
"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."
Hans Moleman, The Simpsons, "'Round Springfield"

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, fine 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 (although the format has since evolved to be more inclusive to music that is upbeat yet "safe").

Similarly, television channels and radio programs devoted to public affairs (such as coverage of governmental sessions and other political events) are 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 an informal event such as the White House Correspondents' Dinner).

Some public access shows on community cable TV channels or community radio stations run by amateurs may also fall into this category if they are not deliberately aiming for that kitschy, No Budget feel. Even mainstream broadcasters may have shows that evoke this trope if they are low-budget shows for the barely-watched "graveyard shift". It can also arise with shows that the broadcasters are reluctantly putting on because government broadcast regulators require it as a condition of license. The station does the minimal effort to create a local news show about Everytown, America's plans for a new stop sign on Main Street or does a community cooking show to get the checkbox ticked.

It's no surprise that these outlets and shows are often a target for satire, stereotyping them as having little or no viewers due to their reputation or poor quality, attempting to stay relevant with a Ratings Stunt or two, outright begging for money because they have No Budget, or portraying a character's interest in such programs as an example of their geeky intellectualism.

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

Contrast with Dumbass DJ and Large Ham Radio.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Good Morning, Vietnam, the first voice we hear is Dan Levitan, a DJ who speaks in a dry monotone. Adrian, when introducing him at the end of one of his shows, warns people not to operate any heavy machinery when they're listening to him.
  • Reservoir Dogs parodies this with K-Billy's Super Sounds of The '70s, hosted by a DJ whose lines are written as typical Large Ham Radio fare but who reads them in Steven Wright's trademark deadpan.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied in the late-1990s Saturday Night Live sketch "The Delicious Dish", which focused on an eponymous cooking show on NPR. The hosts, Margaret Jo McCullen and Teri Rialto (Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon) speak in unenergetic monotone voices, and discuss mundane, cooking-related topics with their guests. The most famous edition of the sketch (almost always featured in the show's Christmas Clip Show) featured the hosts contributing to a barrage of double entendres about a chef's "Schweddy Balls", without breaking character.
  • 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.
  • Referenced by the quiz show Remote Control, which featured a "Public Television" category with difficult questions involving subjects such as science, rather than music and pop culture like the rest of the show. The host outright claims that nobody knew the answer to these questions because people rarely watch public television. However, there were moments when a contestant correctly answered something from this category (of course, the contestant in the linked clip couldn't name the lead singer of Queen: you win some, you lose some).
  • Played with in The Big Bang Theory episode "The Vengeance Formulation". Sheldon gets an interview with Ira Flatow on NPR's Science Friday to a discuss a "recent so-called discovery of magnetic monopoles in spin ices", since they wanted to "goose the ratings" for pledge week with something controversial. When Barry Kripke pumps helium into the office where Sheldon was doing the interview from, hilarity (and payback) ensues.
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy, which aired on PBS, parodied this with the occasional segment "Community Access Television: The High Dilly School" which is introduced by a very bored-sounding announcer.
  • Look Around You is an Affectionate Parody of the educational programming aired during the daytime by the BBC and ITV until the early 1990s (intended to be watched live at school before the advent of the VCR), right down to the 1970s production values. In the second series it becomes a parody of the earnest-but-dull science and technology show, Tomorrow's World.
  • The The Nanny episode "The Rosie Show" also joined in on poking fun at C-SPAN, with guest star Rosie O'Donnell finding out while filming her daytime show that her son wouldn't go down for his nap.
    Fran: (yelling from the audience) Put on C-SPAN! Those senators put each other to sleep!
  • Parks and Recreation features Derry Murbles, the host of the Pawnee Public Radio show Thoughts for Your Thoughts
  • The Wire: When driving to Philadelphia, Bodie is surprised when the Baltimore radio station starts fading out, and looking for a new channel stumbles onto Prairie Home Companion on NPR which confuses him. However he seems to pick up a liking for it, as he listens to it on the way back in the other car he picked up.
  • In one Hollywood Squares episode: "Scientists say it's physically impossible to keep your eyes open when you do what?"
    Bear: Watch C-SPAN.

    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?"

  • 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."

    Video Games 
  • Fallout 4: Travis Miles is the head of the game's primary music station "Diamond City Radio." In contrast to the boistrous Three-Dog and the charismatic Mr. New Vegas, he's an anxious wreck with No Social Skills that's barely able to report on the news around him. NPCs will very frequently complain about the station; it's even the impetus of the "Confidence Man" sidequest, wherein Vadim Bobrov (One of Travis' only friends) enlists the Sole Survivor in helping him fix it through a Confidence Building Scheme. If the player completes the quest, Travis does a complete 180 a few in-game days later and becomes the much-suaver Travis "Lonely" Miles.
    Vadim: Either we have customers listening to bad DJ or no music and customers have boredom!

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • 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 wearing it as a hat).
    • In an Easter Egg of "Date Nite", Strong Sad is heard listening to an ad on Public Radio Sounds promoting a wrestling match between Ira Glass and Ira Flatow (a Brick Joke about remarks made by Marzipan earlier). Strong Sad thinks this is a sign that they were really getting desperate.

    Web Video 

    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.
    • In another episode, DW is upset that her favorite show, Mary Moo Cow, was cancelled in favor of a financial news program. It turns out that the anchorwoman was actually the person who played Mary Moo Cow, and had decided it was time for a change. It's partly Truth in Television, as a number of early children's shows on local TV were hosted by news anchors portraying characters.
  • Johnny Bravo: In "Karma Krisis," Johnny tears up a chain letter and starts suffering from a string of extremely bad luck. The first sign of the curse is his favorite TV show, Bikini Bungee Jumping, being preempted by "an old man reading the Pennsylvania penal code."
    Old Man: Whosoever is found loitering near a filling station during the hours of 3:00 and 5:00 AM...
  • The Simpsons
    • "Like Father, Like Clown" had a religious themed radio call-in show whose panel included Reverend Lovejoy and Krusty's father, Rabbi Krustovsky. The moderator actually opened the show by saying "In order to keep our broadcasting license we have to devote our less valuable airtime to intellectual programming of limited commercial appeal."
    • 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 the viewers was Groundskeeper Willie: luckily, he had footage showing an alternate angle of the incident which 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 weak signal only able to reach 152 listeners, and that Hans Moleman was its morning host. But when lightning strikes its transmitter, the station's signal briefly became powerful enough to cover Springfield, allowing the station to give Murphy the tribute he deserved.
    • 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 featuring two cardboard boxes "fighting" each other in a boxing ring).

    Real Life 
  • 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 four times per-day, which provide weather conditions for sailors navigating the British isles. 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 12:45 a.m. before the station signs off for the night. Its reception, however, subverts this trope; the shipping forecast has a cult following for 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.


Video Example(s):


Is Debate Club Boring?

Craig's final training challenge is to watch a video of his brother giving a boring debate on whether Debate Club is boring or not.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / BoringBroadcaster

Media sources: