Highbrow omnivorousness on the small screen? Cultural industry systems and patterns of cultural choice in Europe

Authors: 
Omar Lizardo and Sara Skiles
Citation: 
Lizardo, Omar, and Sara Skiles. "Highbrow omnivorousness on the small screen?: Cultural industry systems and patterns of cultural choice in Europe." Poetics 37.1 (2009): 1-23.
Publication Date: 
February, 2009

To date, Peterson and Kern's (1996) “highbrow omnivorousness” hypothesis has been examined mainly for the case of musical taste. In this paper we attempt to extend this framework to a relatively unexplored cultural domain, that of television consumption. Using data from the 2001 Eurobarometer we hypothesize that highbrows will be more likely to consume a wide variety of other forms of popular culture, namely television programming. The results fail to unambiguously confirm the highbrow omnivorousness hypothesis: in some EU countries, highbrows consume a wider variety of television programming than non-highbrows, in other countries, highbrows are indistinguishable from non-highbrows, while in a third group of countries, highbrows are snobbier than non-highbrows in their television consumption choices. We attempt to explain this cross-national heterogeneity in the highbrow/non-highbrow difference in television consumption using DiMaggio's (1977) organizational theory of culture production. In our “contingent highbrow omnivorousness” framework, we propose that in commercialized, profit-oriented cultural industry systems, highbrow snobbery rather than omnivorousness will be the norm. In relatively less commercialized, profit-oriented contexts, highbrow the snobbery effect will be weaker. Classifying countries by the degree of market orientation of the television production field yields results that are consistent with this hypothesis.