Early yesterday, January 21, Viacom Media owned television channel, CMT (Country Music Television), announced via Twitter that all CMT branded channels would immediately institute complete parity between male and female country artists during airtime that plays music videos.
Effective immediately all music video hours on CMT and CMT Music channels will have complete parity between male and female artists. That means 50/50. #CMTEqualPlay
— CMT (@CMT) January 21, 2020
Given the long and sometimes futile-feeling battle fought by female artists and country music fans for progress with inclusivity in regards to this exact aspect of artist representation, one would imagine CMT’s announcement to be one that’s instantly and massively welcome, without exception. But that would be presuming too much unanimous thinking among a demographic that spans many types of individuals. The swift and decisive change to CMTs male to female artist airtime ratio seems totally logical at the surface but it’s not without chance that some might see the decision as a form of quota establishment or an affirmative action on the part of a media outlet. The argument here could be that a designated structuring of artist presentation isn’t the same as “organic” presentation in the form of what is perceived as genuinely most popular or desired by fans and viewers – particularly considering CMT still airs a countdown style show called the Hot 20 Countdown, that’s somewhat akin to MTVs iconic program, Total Request Live.
Here’s food for thought on the idea that this “policy” instituting equal parity isn’t a unilateral destroyer of organic enjoyment:
If certain groups of things are the only choices permitted out from behind the curtain for enjoyment, then how can anyone question that group’s level of popularity in favor of a different alternative?
The possible idea that certain male artists are the ones who are big right now and are thus, what viewers want to see and hear about on the channel might be the complete truth. But if nothing and no one else ever even had a chance at the same level of outward recognition by the platform in an effort to get viewers on board and possibly made into fans, how can it be a fair argument to think that any non-male option just doesn’t measure up and therefore would only be getting airtime because of a free designated handout?
Say a grade school class is given a movie afternoon as a reward for good behavior and test grades, on the last day of classes before every holiday break. The teacher lets the class to pick a movie to watch and the most popular one is what gets shown. If the options for movie choices are limited to only sci-fi movies or Disney films, does that mean whichever of those two types gets chosen is then by default the most desired film? Clearly there are many other kinds of movies but if the teacher never even shows the class what else could be considered for presentation, then how can they know the class really likes sci-fi or Disney more than anything else, when there never is anything else?
Yes this is a limited and simplistic example but the point is, it’s widely known there are more than two film makers or film genres but a lack of consideration skews the meaning of popular, as well as organic. And for more analogous premises, just think about the long history of skewing that the Oscars conducted, which limited even mere exposure for other great films people didn’t even know they were missing. Then beyond that, if the idea is that female artists who are big enough won’t need a handout of airtime because they’ll get there in other ways and earn the visibility, again, if gate keeping policy or any other kind of arbitrary preventative decision making stifles the amount of support for female airtime, then any organic merit shown by a female artist becomes moot.
this poor fellow feels so threatened by women being able to now have equal play on CMT. We really aren’t trying to take anything away from you buddy .. so you can relax mmmk? We don’t wan’t a pedestal just a level playing field. pic.twitter.com/6WQBw2ohM3
— lindi ortega (@lindiortega) January 22, 2020
“[Female artists] don’t want a pedestal, just a level playing field.” sums up the disconnect quite effectively.
If a demographic of artist has never been or been extremely limited in their allowance of participation for things like music television, radio play, magazine covers, or any other media based exposure to the listening public, then it’s only logical that the outlets in question might start by simply designating space for those who have gone previously unacknowledged. The worst of it is when the claims for reduced or nonexistent airtime comes from a place of perceived poorer ratings when given less attention to begin with. Stick ‘Band A’ that is comprised of male players, on the big, flashy, center stage of a festival and give them an hour set. Stick ‘Band B’ that is comprised of female players, on the smaller auxiliary stage at the very edge of the festival grounds. To then say when all is said and done that “Band A was better received so we need to push them more going forward,” wouldn’t be a fair analysis of reception, would it? That’s why efforts in media to correct structures and provide equal time among artists matters. In an ideal world, artists of all kinds would be covered and explored equally. Then whomever turned out to be a favored figure of the public could claim a more authentic kind of organic popularity. But a combination of unwillingness and-or deliberate limitations in scope of discourse and exposure are what lead to the call and need for the kind of re-calibration CMT is starting on its channels.
And honestly, knowing that there are plenty of female artists who either match or in some cases outshine their male counterparts, its not as though there is a lack of presence or fans thereof that CMT or any country media outlet for that matter, would have to reach into the dark because there’s no supply or demand from the side of female musicians, songwriters, or performers.
Once the acknowledgement of female country artists by the genre’s mainstream media makes that awareness the norm, maybe the idea of a “policy” to correct an imbalance can go away. Until then, change has to start somewhere, right?