Black Television Travels

African American Media around the Globe

227 pages

2 tables, 7 halftones

April, 2013

ISBN: 9780814737217



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Timothy Havens is Associate Professor of Television and Media Studies in the Department of Communication Studies, the Program in African American Studies, and the Program in International Studies at the University of Iowa.

All books by Timothy Havens

Black Television Travels explores the globalization of African American television and the way in which foreign markets, programming strategies, and viewer preferences have influenced portrayals of African Americans on the small screen. Television executives have been notoriously slow to recognize the potential popularity of black characters and themes, both at home and abroad. As American television brokers increasingly seek revenues abroad, their assumptions about saleability and audience perceptions directly influence the global circulation of these programs, as well as their content. Black Television Travels aims to reclaim the history of African American television circulation in an effort to correct and counteract this predominant industry lore.
Based on interviews with television executives and programmers from around the world, as well as producers in the United States, Havens traces the shift from an era when national television networks often blocked African American television from traveling abroad to the transnational, post-network era of today. While globalization has helped to expand diversity in African American television, particularly in regard to genre, it has also resulted in restrictions, such as in the limited portrayal of African American women in favor of attracting young male demographics across racial and national boundaries. Havens underscores the importance of examining boardroom politics as part of racial discourse in the late modern era, when transnational cultural industries like television are the primary sources for dominant representations of blackness.


  • "Black Television Travels: African American Media around the Globe provides a detailed and insightful view of the roots and routes of the televisual representations of blackness on the transnational media landscape. By following the circulation of black cultural products and their institutionalized discourses—including industry lore, taste cultures, and the multiple stories of black experiences that have and have not made it onto the small screen, Havens complicates discussions of racial representation and exposes possibilities for more expansive representations of blackness while recognizing the limitations of the seemingly liberatory spaces created by globalization."  

    —Bambi Haggins, Ph.D., Arizona State University

  • "Global Black Television is a major achievement that makes important contributions to theanalysis of race, identity, global media, nation, and television production cultures. Discussions of race and television are too often constricted within national boundaries, yet this fantastic bookoffers a strong, compelling, and utterly refreshing corrective. Read it, assign it, use it."

    —Jonathan Gray, author of Television Entertainment

  • "A detailed, well-researched examination of the ways black television culturally circulates and the ways industry lore continues to police how blackness is defined televisually in international spaces"

    International Journal of Communications

  • “A useful resource for people in broadcast media, intercultural communication, intergroup relations, media studies, and critical cultural studies.”

    —W. Alvarez, Choice

  • "Timothy Haven’s meticulously well-researched and thoughtful study Black Television Travels provides an expansive perspective on the movement of African American programming and the media industry’s conventional wisdom that affects the feasibility of its journey. […]Black Television Travels offers a detailed and insightful view of the routes and roots of televisual representations of Blackness on the transnational media landscape and a model for the rigorous examination of the ways in which industrial conventional wisdom continues to define and confine how culturally specific televisual stories can be told and sold.”

    Cinema Journal

  • “Through his work, Havens breaks down the intricate dealings of the television industry, and reveals groundbreaking shows created by and/or portraying African Americans and the impact they had on setting both ‘industry lore’ and the global marketing of several genres of U.S. television programming.”

    The Journal of African American History