Linguistic Proximity and Global Flows of Television: A Study With Gatekeepers

Jelle Mast, Kelly de Ruiter, An Kuppens


This article starts from two principal observations. First, television flow studies have abundantly demonstrated that language is an important factor in the global circulation of television programs. Second, scholarly work on the global television industry has shown that the television executives who trade in television programs function as highly important gatekeepers within global television flows. When combining these two observations, the question arises about which ways language is a significant criterion in television buyers’ purchasing decisions. In-depth interviews with five prominent heads of acquisitions with major broadcasting networks in the Dutch-speaking region in Europe reveal that gatekeepers’ perceptions of audiences’ linguistic preferences largely explain why they prefer programs in English and Dutch. In addition, the interviews reveal that a number of vicious circles reinforce the global dominance of English-language content.


television, globalization, linguistic proximity, English, gatekeepers

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