Friday, November 25, 2011

What Happened to The Learning Channel (TLC) ?

Today my sister was watching TLC, and all the shows started to blend.  There were two shows about weddings, and I honestly could not tell the difference nor did I see the purpose in either of these shows.  One of the shows had a girl planning here wedding, and the other had two sisters who owned a cupcake shop working on one their weddings.  I watched these show while I was eating my lunch and could not take much more!  I thought this network was about something different.

When I was going for my Master degree at Bowling Green State University an alum from the Popular Culture department Eileen O'Neill came to speak to our class.  O'Neil is currently the Group President at Discovery Communications.

Now before talking about O'Neill, her role within the company, and the current programming content, I
  Jon and Kate Plus 8 have to highlight that when The Learning Channel came to be to be called that name in 1980 it was different and a rival of The Discovery Channel.  In its early days TLC featured  mostly documentary content related to nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, home improvement and other information-based subjects.  To make a long history short the network began to change its programming due to dwindling ratings.  This evolution started in the 90s, and really gained ground in the late 90s early 2000s with shows like Trading Spaces, and Junkyard Wars.  The network changed the direction of their programming and moved towards shows that were not as focused on learning, but more towards unscripted television.  Of course this network would also eventually become the face of Jon and Kate Plus 8, and would eventually be part part of a larger network system that included The Discovery Channel.

While meeting with O'Neill she talked briefly about the history of TLC and how it came to be linked with its former competitor, The Discovery Channel, but we mainly focused on the current state of the network, and the evolution of the actual learning aspect of the channel.  During our sit down conversation with Ms. O'Neill one of my class mates asked the question "How is Kate Plus 8 an educational show?"  I do not remember her exact answer, nor would I want to misquote her, but her answer had something to do with parenting tips for people.  Now, in my mind I was stunned, baffled, and appalled at her logic.  During our conversation Ms. O'Neill seemed to be using the ratings logic that in order for the network to survive they had to keep up with the Joneses.

According to her biography on the Bowling Green State University wesbite Eileen O'Neill is "Group President for Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel (TLC), two of the most popular channels on cable. In her new role, she will supervise general managers for each network in the Discovery family.
In her most recent role as president and general manager for TLC, she helped the network introduce such reality series as “Say Yes to the Dress,” “Cake Boss,” and “19 Kids and Counting.”She is also credited as the original developer of “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” a reality series that follows the life of Jon and Kate Gosselin as they raise sextuplets and twins. The program set new cable rating records in 2009. Other achievements during her career at Discovery Communications including launching Planet Green, the first and only eco-lifestyle network, while serving as the network’s president and general manager, leading Discovery Health Channel as executive vice president and general manager, and serving as director of scheduling for the Travel Channel."

After learning this information I can understand why she defended Jon and Kate plus 8, because she created it, and people always defend their own work (how could she have seen the crazy coming?)  I have to also applaud her for creating an eco friendly green network, and pushing this agenda, but this is also trendy.  O'Neill's only going with the flow, and while speaking with her she had no clear vision that made TLC unique from all the other garbage out there.  There are so many shows about baking, leave that to the Food Network.  The current programming content of this network has nothing to do with learning.  Shows like Toddler and Tiaras and Sister Wives are what draw people into this network.  This network maintains the TLC abbreviation in hopes people will forget the network is supposed to be about learning.


Anonymous said...

Excellent article. I came upon it researching why The "Learning" Channel had turned into absolute $h!t.

What's equally as sad and pathetic is that it has high ratings, which indicates how primitive the American public is, my fellow countrymen :(

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should change the name to "The Lousy Channel"

....seems to fit...

Anonymous said...

This is why I no longer own a TV after my last one broke...I went online to sample and tried handling 5 minutes of the garbage that is took over the 'Learning' and 'Discovery' channels. I stopped eating and shut it down, cause I felt myself being made all the more ill. Hell Beavis and Butthead was better than this bullcrap.

Anonymous said...

We refer to TLC as The Lobotomy Channel around my house