Shaping the real: Democratization and commodification in UK factual broadcasting



Kilborn R (1998) Shaping the real: Democratization and commodification in UK factual broadcasting. European Journal of Communication, 13 (2), pp. 201-218.

As European television becomes ever more competitive, fears are often expressed about the future of documentary programming as it has traditionally been conceived. Will those investigative, consciousnessraising documentaries produced by public service providers gradually be replaced by more accessible, entertainment-oriented programmes deemed more likely to attract a larger audience? Is the development of high quality lightweight recording equipment leading to more democratic forms of viewer involvement or is it being seized upon by broadcasters as a way of cutting production costs? Is factual programming being progressively commodified? This article explores recent developments in British factual programming. Taking as its starting point the series Video Diaries in which aspects of the access programming tradition can be clearly discerned, the article considers how producers have gone on to develop new formats which combine `Diaries' characteristics with other qualities more in tune with the perceived programming needs of the late 1990s. The clear trend in recent years has been to develop hybridized, magazine-type formats focusing on softer topics with high ratings appeal.

access television; camera technology; documentary programming; Video Diaries; Video Nation

European Journal of Communication: Volume 13, Issue 2

Publication date30/06/1998

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Professor Richard Kilborn

Professor Richard Kilborn

Honorary Professor, Communications, Media and Culture