From criticism to promotion? Television reviews in Helsingin Sanomat, 1967–2007


Heikki Hellman

What happens to daily television criticism in newspapers as the popular public sphere becomes more and more ’televisionized’ and television more and more ’marketized’? Arts review as a newspaper genre is often considered endangered due to its uncommercial nature and, as to television programme reviews, they are claimed to have become more promotional and descriptive instead of critical and analytical during the last few years. The article analyzes TV review pages of Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest daily newspaper, in 1967–2007, focusing both on quantitative and qualitative changes and also discussing the changing role of TV reviewers. Based on content analysis, the article shows that the ”golden era” of extensive television criticism is dated to the late 1980s. Recently, the reviews have become considerably shorter and, indeed, more neutral. Movies and documentaries have been the programme categories best covered by reviewers during the research period. At the same time, the number of reviewers used has increased and the signature of individual critics has become less poignant.