'How Real Can You Get?': Recent Developments in 'Reality' Television


Kilborn R (1994) 'How Real Can You Get?': Recent Developments in 'Reality' Television. European Journal of Communication, 9 (4), pp. 421-439.

Since the late 1980s programme types loosely grouped in the category `reality programming' (RP) have made considerable inroads into both American and European television schedules. Sometimes, judging by the stir which various forms of RP have created, one might be led to believe that RP constitutes a major televisual innovation. As we shall discover, however, there is nothing intrinsically new about most of these reality strands. What is more striking is the speed with which they have caught on, together with the sheer multiplicity of different reality formats which have been developed. The vast majority of television networks and organizations, both in the US and in Europe, now produce their own reality programmes or screen acquired material, whilst the term `reality television' has achieved general currency, if not some notoriety. This article examines some of the more significant features of RP and also considers the reasons for its popularity. An attempt is also made to show how the rise in this form of programming is related to more general developments in television over the last decade. Is it more than just coincidence, for instance, that the rise of RP has taken place at a time when television, whether publicly or privately funded, is becoming increasingly dominated by market-place considerations?

European Journal of Communication: Volume 9, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/1994