"This is an immensely original and innovative book on production processes and labouring practices within the world of television. Long overlooked within media studies until now, this ethnographic and interview-based analysis of groups including television assembly-line workers and soft-core TV producers marks a new departure for scholarship into precarious working lives in the global media." Angela McRobbie, author of The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change "At a moment when production studies and critical media studies are thriving, Below the Line has the potential to not merely refresh academic work of this kind but to re-conceive it in a way that is completely attuned to the global political media economy and the complications and paradoxes of labour within it." Diane Negra, co-editor of Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture "Vicki Mayer's excellent and extraordinarily thoughtful scholarship, commitment, and political imagination link aspects of the television and media industries that have simply not been considered together so well before."oNick Couldry, author of Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics after Neoliberalism
Below the Line illuminates the hidden labor of people who not only produce things that the television industry needs, such as a bit of content or a policy sound bite, but also produce themselves in the service of capital expansion. Vicki Mayer considers the work of television set assemblers, soft-core cameramen, reality-program casters, and public-access and cable commissioners in relation to the globalized economy of the television industry. She shows that these workers are increasingly engaged in professional and creative work, unsettling the industry’s mythological account of itself as a business driven by auteurs, manned by an executive class, and created by the talented few. As Mayer demonstrates, the new television economy casts a wide net to exploit those excluded from these hierarchies. Meanwhile, television set assemblers in Brazil devise creative solutions to the problems of material production. Soft-core videographers, who sell televised content, develop their own modes of professionalism. Everyday people become casters, who commodify suitable participants for reality programs, or volunteers, who administer local cable television policies. These sponsors and regulators boost media industries’ profits when they commodify and discipline their colleagues, their neighbors, and themselves. Mayer proposes that studies of production acknowledge the changing dynamics of labor to include production workers who identify themselves and their labor with the industry, even as their work remains undervalued or invisible.