This book explores how issues of power, form and subjectivity feature at the core of all serious thinking about the media, including appreciations of their creativity as well as anxiety about the risks they pose. Drawing widely on an interdisciplinary literature, the author connects his exposition to examples from film, television, radio, photography, painting, web practice, music and writing in order to bring in topics as diverse as reporting the war in Afghanistan, the televising of football, documentary portrayals of 9/11, reality television, the diversity of taste in the arts and the construction of civic identity. The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, three big chapters on each of the key notions provide an interconnected discussion of the media activities opened up for exploration and the debates they have provoked. The second part presents examples, arguments and analysis drawing on the author's previous work around the core themes, with notes placing them in the context of the whole book. The book brings together concepts both from Social Studies and the Arts and Humanities, addressing a readership wider than the sub-specialisms of media research. It refreshes ideas about why the media matter, and how understanding them better remains a key aim of cultural inquiry and a continuing requirement for public policy.
which documentaries present.
One of the aims of this book has been to develop a
theoretical framework through which mock-documentary can be analysed, and in
particular through which it can be distinguished from other fact-fiction
screen forms such as drama-documentary, RealityTV and docu-soap. Our
objective has been to describe and identify the range of mock-documentary
texts and in the process to illuminate the differing
pictures and the rhetoric of non-fiction’.
Not many members of the sample actually identified themselves as
regular viewers of realitytv, so most rejections of the form may be
based on limited viewing experience. Three respondents (all younger
than the average age of 44) wrote enthusiastically about realitytv.
These regular viewers of realitytv refused to characterise it as a debased travesty of documentary traditions.
Hill, ‘Big Brother’.
This is also evident in statements about attitudes to realitytelevision
and radio made in the similarly middle-class sample
familiar to the contemporary viewer –
perhaps curiously evocative of talk shows or celebrity RealityTV. If so,
this connection is pertinent to the historical intervention this book seeks
to make. The fact that the popular has an ambiguous role in British television history reflects on, while also contributing to, a degree of separation between television studies and television history. In his article
“Finding data, reading patterns, telling stories: issues in the historiography of television”, Corner rightly highlights how a “question of importance” is:
the way in which
Friday night ratings in its history.31 Both national and local newspapers used the
easy comparison between the two Houses and the Orwellian signiﬁcation of the
programme’s title to argue that young people are more likely to vote for realityTV shows, than in elections.32 BB and parliamentary democracy are both trying
to engage the same audience, the educated and upwardly mobile voter under 34.33
The two were conﬂated though, when politicians, like Ann Widdecombe, related
young people’s interest in realitytelevision to falling turnout at elections.34
‘I know it’s rubbish but …’. An example of this process is viewers of realitytelevision reproducing critical
stigmatisations of the genre. See Annette Hill, RealityTV: Audiences and
Popular Factual Television (Abingdon, Routledge, 2005), pp. 85–7.
Nichols, Representing Reality, p. 3.
See also this comment: ‘My brother had just bought a 32” Panasonic
set and as I had only a 14” one, I inherited it when he died a year ago
– it is great for documentaries and scenic displays.’ (Female, 83 years,
widow, retired teacher) (T1411).
Tom Gunning, ‘The cinema of attractions
interpreted as a grotesque and violent
‘RealityTV’ show as the Italian poet Gianni D’Elia
suggested. The entry into the villa with its priests (the four libertines)
and entertainers (the four madams), the simulations, progressive nominations
and eliminations of the ‘victims’ lead towards a totalitarian
horizon where true and the false are confounded in repetitive and obscene
performances. Everything is abstractly premeditated
expected to write about fictional television, as it relates to the politics of the US under George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and most probably Hillary Clinton. Her likely election, I suspected, would bolster the arguments made in Chapter 6 . How wrong so many of us were. Trump’s emergence as Republican frontrunner in 2016 was ground-breaking in a number of ways. One of its impacts was to inspire ‘analysis of realityTV’s impact on the political process’. 39 We were suddenly watching, then as before, ‘The Trump Show’, as his antics and strategy sucked the oxygen out of
boundaries between fact and
fiction, and to complicate what we might consider to be the documentary
project. Unlike the reflexive and performative modes, docu-soap and RealityTV, which
we consider next, blur boundaries in less reflexive or critical ways. Their
popularity has had an impact on the shape of contemporary television
documentary and there is now considerable international trade of such
formats. These forms have also
such a surprise, given
the halting pace at which qualitative audience studies have been
taken up within media and film scholarship in general. (The idea
of doing audience research has become well established, and has
been rehearsed in a number of overviews and review essays, but
new empirical work still remains relatively thin on the ground.)4
Audiences for screen documentary have been given even less attention than audiences for fiction film, or, more recently, for factual programming and ‘realitytelevision’.5 For instance, a major
collection of 27 essays on screen