I have before me a little eight-sheet brochure called “Guide To Jewish TV Programs.” It is advertising something called “The Jewish Channel”, abbreviated TJC, with a little Star of David above the “J”—very cute. Inside, the brochure refers to TJC as “A Jewish HBO”, quoting, apparently, the New York Times. From the brochure, one can get an idea of the programming available: award-winning movies with Jewish themes; Israeli films; the Jewish world’s only TV newscast; comedy, music, food, lifestyle and holiday specials; women’s issues; politics and religion; and, most interesting, a Jewish version of Friends and thirtysomething called Srugim. The title is a reference to the knitted skullcaps that modern Orthodox men wear, and which identify their place in contemporary Jewish subculture in contradistinction to those who wear leather skullcaps, very large knitted items, or nothing at all (on the head, that is). (Incidentally, there are similar ways to concord Muslim headgear with various subcultural Islamic strata.) The back page of the brochure tells you that you can get this channel from Comcast, and it lists various channels that serve it up. There’s a website: www.tjctv.com.
I plan to go to the website one day soon to check this out, but I have not yet done so. What I have done is have a conversation with my youngest son, who is now 24 years of age, about whether this idea is prima facie good, bad or indifferent. I think we both agree that anything that is likely to get more people, Jewish or otherwise, to watch more television is a bad thing. I despise television, and my young son is developing his own style of loathing it. But for people who are going to watch television anyway, maybe it’s better for intellectually curious people—again, Jews and others—to have this channel available along with several hundred alternatives.
Or not. Obviously, the producers of this channel think they can make money off of it or they wouldn’t have created it. One wonders what their marketing research showed, assuming they did some. Maybe they asked questions about the prevalence of identity politics, which in the more extreme Jewish cases might be described as a form of self-ghettoization. Maybe they had access to surveys suggesting that conspiratorially minded non-Jews would find this channel particularly appealing. Maybe they had in mind some especially well-heeled sponsors. I really would like to know.
Beyond that, there is a thin gray line between the terms “profit” and “exploitation” these days when it comes to media. I certainly have nothing against the former so long as it can be achieved without blatantly intending the latter, which often enough presumes a dumbing down of material to capture the largest possible market share. But is that possible? I honestly don’t know. I do confess to being skeptical, and a methodical dumbing down of programming of nominally Jewish content does not exactly fill me with joy and sunshine.
No one in our family has suggested actually buying this package, notwithstanding the fact that the programming is sure to supply a very rich source of Jewcentricity examples. So I suppose I will have to rely on others to get feedback about it.