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The following appeared as part of an article on trends in television.
“A recent study of viewers’ attitudes toward prime-time television programs shows
that many of the programs that were judged by their viewers to be of high quality
appeared on (noncommercial) television networks, and that, on commercial
television, the most popular shows are typically sponsored by the best-selling
products. Thus, it follows that businesses who use commercial television to
promote their products will achieve the greatest advertising success by sponsoring
only highly-rated programs—and, ideally, programs resembling the highly-rated
noncommercial programs on public channels as much as possible.”
Discuss how well reasoned... etc.
This article concludes that businesses using commercial television to promote their products will achieve the greatest advertising success
by sponsoring only highly-rated programs—preferably, programs resembling the highly-rated non-commercial programs on public
channels. Supporting this claim is a recent study indicating that many programs judged by viewers to be high in quality appeared on
noncommercial networks, and that the most popular shows on commercial television are typically sponsored by the best-selling products.
This argument is weak because it depends on three questionable assumptions.
The first of these assumptions is that noncommercial public television programs judged by viewers to be high in quality are also popular.
However, the study cited by the author concerns viewer attitudes about the “high quality” of programs on noncommercial public
television, not about their popularity. A program might rate highly as to quality but not in terms of popularity. Thus, the author unfairly
assumes that highly-rated public television programs are necessarily widely viewed, or popular.
The argument also assumes that programs resembling popular non-commercial programs will also be popular on commercial television.
However, the audiences for the two types of programs differ significantly in their tastes. For example, a symphony series may be
popular on public television but not as a prime-time network show, because public-television viewers tend to be more interested than
commercial-television viewers in the arts and higher culture. Thus, a popular program in one venue may be decidedly unpopular in the
A third assumption is that products become best-sellers as a result of their being advertised on popular programs. While this may be
true in some cases, it is equally possible that only companies with products that are already best-sellers can afford the higher ad rates
that popular shows demand. Accordingly, a lesser-known product from a company on a smaller budget might be better off running
repeated—but less expensive—ads on less popular shows than by running just one or two costly ads on a top-rated show.
In conclusion, the results of the cited study do not support the author’s conclusion. To better evaluate the argument, we need to know
the intended meaning of the phrase “highly-rated.” To strengthen the argument, the author must limit his conclusion by acknowledging
that popularity in public television might not translate to popularity in commercial television, and that the best advertising strategy for
companies with best-selling products may not be feasible for other businesses.