The SAGE Handbook of Television Studies


Edited by: Manuel Alvarado, Milly Buonanno, Herman Gray & Toby Miller

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    Notes on the Editors and Contributors

    The Editors

    Manuel Alvarado† was Secretary of the Society for Education in Film and Television; editor of Screen Education; Head of Education at the British Film Institute; an academic at the Institute of Education, the University of Luton, West Surrey College of Art and Design, City University of London, and the University of Sunderland; and a publisher with John Libbey Publishing, University of Luton Press, and Intellect Books. He was also a governor of Sir John Cass’s Foundation. Manuel authored and edited many books, which include Hazell: The Making of a TV Series (BFI Publishing, 1978), Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text (St Martin’s Press, 1984) and The Media Reader (The MIT Press, 2003). He died in 2010.

    Milly Buonanno is Professor of Television Studies at La Sapienza University of Roma. She is the founder and director of the Observatory of Italian TV Drama and the head of GEMMA (GEnder and Media MAtter) research programme. Her scholarships include television theory and history, TV drama, feminist media studies, journalism. She is the author and the editor of more than fifty books and her work has been translated into English, French, Spanish, Portuguese. Recent publications are the monographs Italian TV Drama and Beyond: Storiesfrom the Soil, Stories from the Sea (Intellect, 2012), and The Age of Television. Experiences and Theories (Intellect, 2008).

    Herman Gray has held appointments on the faculties of Northeastern University and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication. He is currently Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has published widely in academic journals and popular media on black cultural politics, representation, music and television. Gray’s books include Producing Jazz (Temple University Press, 1988), Watching Race (University of Minnesota Press, 1995), Cultural Moves (University of California Press, 2005), and Towards a Sociology of the Trace, (co-edited with Macarena Gomez Barriś) (University of Minnesota Press, 2010). Gray’s current research considers the limits of a cultural politics of media visibility and neoliberalism.

    Toby Miller is Emeritus Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Riverside, the Sir Walter Murdoch Professor of Cultural Policy Studies at Murdoch University and Professor of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University/Prifysgol Caerdydd. The author and editor of over thirty books, his work has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish, German, and Swedish. His two most recent volumes are Greening the Media (with Richard Maxwell) (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Blow Up the Humanities (Temple University Press, 2012). His adventures can be scrutinized at

    The Contributors

    Mark Andrejevic is Associate Professor and ARC QEII Research Fellow at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Queensland (Australia). He is the author of Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003), iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era and Infoglut: How Too Much Information is Changing the Way We Think and Know (Routledge, 2013), as well as numerous articles and book chapters on surveillance, popular culture and digital media.

    Miranda J. Banks is Assistant Professor of Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College. Her research focuses on Hollywood’s creative labour and American media industry history. She is the author of The Writers: A History of American Screenwriters and Their Guild (Rutgers, 2015), and co-editor of Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Industries (Routledge, 2009) as well as the forthcoming Production Studies 2. Her work has appeared in Television & New Media, Popular Communication, The Journal of Popular Film and Television and Montage/AV, as well as the anthologies Teen Television: Genre, Consumption, and Identity (BFI, 2008) and How to Watch Television (NYU, 2013).

    Martín Becerra is a Professor at Universidad Nacional de Quilmes and Universidad de Buenos Aires on media policy and information and communication technologies, and researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET). He has a PhD and a Masters in Communication Sciences from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain. He is co-author of Cajas Mágicas: el renacimiento de la televisión pública en América Latina with Luis Arroyo, Ángel García Castillejo and Oscar Santamaría (2013) and three books on the politics, structure and concentration of the Latin American media system (Los dueños de la palabra: Acceso, estructura y concentración de los medios (2009); Los monopolios de la verdad (2009); and Periodistas y magnates (2006) with Guillermo Mastrini). He is author of the book Sociedad de la Información: proyecto, convergencia y divergencia (2003). Recently, he wrote, with Guillermo Mastrini and Santiago Marino, the paper ‘Mapping digital media, Argentina’, organized and edited by the Open Society Foundation (2012).

    Oliver Boyd-Barrett acquired his PhD from the Open University (UK). His publications include 20 books and over 120 journal articles and book chapters, principally in the fields of international communication, news agencies, propaganda and educational communication. As author or co-author, editor or co-editor his books include Hollywood and the CIA: News Agencies in the Turbulent Era of the Internet, Globalization, Communications Media and Empire, The Globalization of News, Educational Reform in Democratic Spain, Contra-Flow in Global News and The International News Agencies. He has taught at the Open University (UK), California State Polytechnic University (Pomona, CA) and Bowling Green State University, Ohio.

    Clare Cannon is a graduate student in the PhD programme, City, Culture + Community at Tulane University. Her areas of interest are political economy of the environment and media ecologies. She currently researches waste using quantitative and qualitative methods at the local, national and international levels. She received her MA from Union Theological Seminary and her BA from Scripps College.

    Michael Curtin is the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Professor of Global Studies in the Department of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Curtin is also Director and co-founder of the Media Industries Project of the Carsey-Wolf Center. His books include The American Television Industry, Playing to the World’s Biggest Audience: The Globalization of Chinese Film and TV and Reorienting Global Communication: Indian and Chinese Media Beyond Borders. He is currently working on a comparative analysis of media capitals around the world, including Hollywood, Miami, Lagos and Mumbai.

    Matthew Delmont is an Associate Professor of History at Arizona State University. His research and teaching areas include popular culture and media studies, urban history, education and comparative ethnic studies. He has published articles in American Quarterly, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Journal of Urban History, History of Education Quarterly and the Journal of Pan-African Studies. His first book, The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia, was published by University of California Press (American Crossroads series) in 2012. He is currently doing research on bussing for school desegregation in the 1970s, focusing on how anti-bussing activists successfully used television to turn public opinion against bussing.

    André Dorcé is Professor at the Communication Sciences Department in Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana Cuajimalpa, in Mexico City. His research has addressed interdisciplinary questions of media and political culture, especially in relation to particular instances of media production and consumption in the context of historically grounded cultural practices of media convergence. His interests are focused on the role of both material and symbolic communication technologies as expressions – and constitutive elements – of contemporary subjectivities, social organization and power relations. He is a member of the executive board of the UCCS (Union of Socially Committed Scientists) where he coordinates the media and communication group. He also collaborates with Public Broadcasting Channel 22 as the Channel’s Ombudsman. He is currently working in a book about telenovelas and politics in Latin America and another volume on critical perspectives on media convergence. He is collaborating with several local and regional initiatives for progressive change in media legislation.

    Roderick Flynn lectures in the School of Communication, Dublin City University where he has also held posts as Chair of the MA in Film and Television Studies, and member of the School Executive. His research interests include: broadcasting, audiovisual and telecoms policy in Ireland, Europe and USA; social history of communications; and political economy of the media. His book-length publications include: John Huston: Essays on a Restless Director (McFarland, 2010); Historical Dictionary of Irish Cinema, co-edited with Pat Brereton (Scarecrow Press, 2007) and Here’s Looking at You Kid: Ireland goes to the pictures, co-edited with Stephanie McBride (Wolfhound Press, 1996).

    Des Freedman is Professor of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of The Politics of Media Policy (Polity, 2008) as well as co-author (with James Curran and Natalie Fenton) of Misunderstanding the Internet (Routledge, 2012) and co-editor (with Daya Thussu) of Media and Terrorism: Global Perspectives (Sage, 2012). His latest book is The Contradictions of Media Power (Bloomsbury, 2014) and he is the current chair of the Media Reform Coalition in the UK.

    Laura Grindstaff is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of The Money Shot: Trash, Class, and the Making of TV Talk Shows (2002) as well as numerous articles and essays on media and popular culture; she is also co-editor of the Handbook of Cultural Sociology (2010, 2012).

    Felicia D. Henderson is currently a PhD candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at UCLA. She writes about cultural politics and creative economy in television writers’ rooms and issues of race, gender and othering in this same space. She is also the creator of Showtime’s award-winning, critically acclaimed, Soul Food. Other writing and producing credits include: Fringe, Gossip Girl, Everybody Hates Chris, Sister-Sister, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Moesha. Currently, she has one-hour drama pilots in development at BET and HBO, where she is ­partnered with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. Her critical essays have been published in the Cinema Journal, Popular Communication, Media/Cultural Studies: Critical Approaches, Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Industries, and Emergences. She has also endowed two scholarships at UCLA: The Four Sisters Fellowship (endowed along with her sister-colleagues, Sara Finney-Johnson, Mara Brock Akil and Gina Prince-Bythewood); and the Felicia D. Henderson Screenwriting Scholarship.

    Darnell Hunt is Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and Professor of Sociology at UCLA. He has written extensively on race and media, including four books and numerous articles and book chapters. He is also author of a series of reports examining the state of diversity in the Hollywood entertainment industry. These include The Hollywood Writers Report, issued by the Writers Guild of America in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2012, and The African American Television Report, released by the Screen Actors Guild in June of 2000. Prior to his academic positions, he worked in the media and as a media researcher for the US Commission on Civil Rights’ 1993 hearings on diversity in Hollywood.

    Jason Jacobs is Associate Professor and Head of the School of English, Media Studies and Art History, the University of Queensland. He has an international reputation as a historian of television drama, its institutions, technology and aesthetics. He is author of The Intimate Screen (Oxford University Press, 2000), Body Trauma TV (BFI, 2003) and Deadwood (BFI, 2012). He is currently working on an Australian Research Council funded project called, ‘The persistence of television: how the medium adapts to survive in a digital world’. He is also completing a book for Manchester University Press on the writer David Milch.

    Jennifer Lynn Jones is a doctoral candidate in Film and Media Studies in Indiana University’s Department of Communication and Culture. She is a feminist media scholar working in comparative media and critical cultural studies. Her research centres on identity, embodiment and representation, and her dissertation is on celebrity, convergence and corpulence in contemporary American media. She has published in Antenna and In Media Res, and has an article forthcoming at Camera Obscura.

    L.S. Kim is Associate Professor of Film and Digital Media at UC Santa Cruz. Her areas of teaching, writing, and public scholarship are in television, racial discourse, feminist film/media criticism, media and social change, and Asian American cultural production; her related interests include music and dance, and genres. She has taught at Northwestern, Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and UCLA. L.S. Kim appears in the new film, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines (2012), directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Uploaded: The Asian American Movement (2012), a feature-length documentary about Asian American artists utilizing new media and transmedia modalities.

    Guillermo Mastrini is a Professor at Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, where he is also the Head of the Masters in Cultural Industries, and at Universidad de Buenos Aires. Together with Martín Becerra, he published Los dueños de palabra, Los monopolios de la Verdad (both in 2009) and Periodistas y magnates. Estructura y concentración de las industrias culturales en América Latina (2006). He also published Mucho ruido, pocas leyes. Economía y política en la comunicación en la Argentina (1920–2004) (2005), among other books. He has been the President of the Argentine Federation of Social Communication Careers and Head of the Communication Science School at Universidad de Buenos Aires.

    Vicki Mayer is Professor of Communication at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana. She is author of two books: Producing Dreams, Consuming Youth: Mexican Americans and Mass Media (Rutgers University Press, 2003) and Below the Line: Producers and Production Studies in the New Television Economy (Duke University Press, 2011). She has also edited two volumes: Media Production (Wiley Blackwell 2013) and Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Industries (Routledge 2010), and has authored over 30 publications on media industries, media production, media consumption, and the identities of producers and consumers. She edits the journal Television & New Media (SAGE) and directs the digital humanities project MediaNOLA (

    Lisa McLaughlin is Associate Professor with appointments in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film and the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies programme at Miami University-Ohio, USA. She has published on transnational feminism, the public sphere, political economy, and women, work, and information technologies. She is founding co-editor, with Cynthia Carter, of Feminist Media Studies, an international, peer-reviewed journal which she co-edited for 16 years. She has published articles in journals including Media, Culture & Society, Sociological Review and Television & New Media, along with a number of chapters in edited collections. Recent publications include Current Perspectives in Feminist Media Studies (co-edited with Cynthia Carter, 2013) and The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender (co-edited with Cynthia Carter and Linda Steiner, 2014).

    Albert Moran is Professor in Screen Studies at Griffith University in Brisbane. His earlier research concerned the history of Australian film and television, while more recently his attention has focused on programme formats and transnational television. TV Format Mogul: Reg Grundy’s Transnational Career (Intellect, 2013) is one of his latest publications. Currently he is writing a history of transnational television development as well as a study of Australian television from a transnational perspective.

    Michael Morgan is Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research interests include television, socialization and enculturation; international and intercultural effects of mass media; new media technology and policy; and social and familial contexts and consequences of media exposure. He has authored or co-authored over 100 journal articles and book chapters on cultivation analysis and media effects. He has directed or collaborated on numerous international comparative research projects, and he was a Fulbright Research Scholar in Argentina. His most recent books are George Gerbner: A Critical Introduction to Media and Communication Theory (Peter Lang, 2012) and Living with Television Now: Advances in Cultivation Theory and Research (edited with James Shanahan and Nancy Signorielli, Peter Lang, 2012).

    Guillermo Orozco is a Senior Researcher of TV Reception Analysis and Media Education at the Social Communication Studies Department of the University of Guadalajara, México. He is UNESCO Professor of Communication, International Co- Coordinator of OBITEL: Iberoamerican Observatory of TV Fiction and Academic Coordinator of TVMORFOSIS, a major annual university forum focused on research and broadcast seminars about transformations of TV and its audiences. He is the editor of Historias de la TV en América Latina (Gedisa 2002), co-author of Televisiones en México, un recuento histórico (Universidad de Guadalajara 2007), and coeditor of Social Memory and TV Fiction in Ibero America, OBITEL Yearbook (2013) (Globo Universidade).

    Stylianos Papathanassopoulos is Professor at the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He has written extensively on media developments in Europe and especially on television issues in various journals. He also edits the Greek communication journal Zitimata Epikoinonias/Communication Issues. He is the author, co-author or editor of 19 books about the media. Among his most recent books are (with Ralph Negrine) European Media, Structures, Policy & Identity (Polity Press, 2011); Media Perspectives (editor, Routledge, 2011), Television in the 21st Century (Kastaniotis, 2005); and European Television in the Digital Age: Issues, Dynamics and Realities (Polity Press, 2002).

    Allison Perlman is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Film and Media Studies and History at the University of California, Irvine. She is currently completing a book on the intersections between media activism, broadcasting policy and social movements in the US. Her publications include articles in Critical Studies in Media Communication, Television & New Media, Cinema Journal, Feminist Media Studies, The Journal of Popular Film and Television and Communication, Culture and Critique.

    Paschal Preston holds a research professorship at the School of Communications in Dublin City University. He is the founding director of the Communication, Technology, Culture (COMTEC) research unit which has a distinguished 25-year record of collaborative research, including many multi-country or comparative research projects. He is also a member of the Management Board of the Irish Social Sciences Platform (ISSP), and co-ordinator of the Knowledge Society research pillar. His books include: Making the News (Routledge, 2009) and Reshaping Communications (Sage, 2001).

    Arvind Rajagopal is a Professor in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication, and an affiliate faculty in the Department of Sociology, and the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, at New York University. His book Politics After Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Public in India (Cambridge, 2001) won the Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Prize from the Association of Asian Studies in 2003, and his edited volume The Indian Public Sphere appeared in 2009. His recent articles include ‘The Emergency and the New Indian Middle Class’ in Modern Asian Studies, 2011, and ‘Special Political Zone’ on the anti-Muslim violence in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in South Asian Multidisciplinary Academic Journal from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociale, Paris, in their special issue on Rethinking Urban Democracy in South Asia, 2011. His latest book, under contract with Duke University Press, is on the political culture of post-independence India. He has held fellowships at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, and at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and visiting professorships at the University of Goettingen, Germany, the Delhi School of Economics at the University of Delhi, and the Central University of Hyderabad.

    David Rowe is Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, Australia. His principal research interests are in media and popular culture, especially sport, journalism and urban leisure. Among Professor Rowe’s current research projects is a study of the relationships between sport, nation and cultural citizenship. His most recent books are Global Media Sport: Flows, Forms and Futures (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011); Sport Beyond Television: The Internet, Digital Media and the Rise of Networked Media Sport (authored with Brett Hutchins, Routledge, 2012); Digital Media Sport: Technology, Power and Culture in the Network Society (edited with Brett Hutchins, Routledge, 2013) and Sport, Public Broadcasting, and Cultural Citizenship: Signal Lost? (edited with Jay Scherer, Routledge, 2014). His work has been translated into several languages, including Chinese, French, Turkish, Spanish, Italian and Arabic.

    Kathleen M. Ryan (PhD University of Oregon; MA University of Southern California; BA University of California Santa Barbara) is an Associate Professor of journalism and mass communication in the College of Media, Communication, and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her areas of research include visual communication, freelance news labour, oral history and media production practices. She has spent nearly 20 years in television news production before moving to academia full time. She is also an active documentary filmmaker, with films including Homefront Heroines: The WAVES of World War II (2013) and Pin Up! The Movie (in production). She is the co-editor of Television and the Self: Knowledge, Identity and Media Representation (Lexington, 2013) and How Television Shapes our Worldview: Media Representations of Social Trends and Change (2014). Journal articles have appeared in Electronic News, Visual Studies and other journals.

    Kevin Sanson is the Research Director of the Carsey-Wolf Center’s Media Industries Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also teaches in the Department of Film and Media Studies. His current book project focuses on the shifting relationships between locations and labour in global film and television production. He is co-editor of Connected Viewing: Selling, Streaming, & Sharing Media in the Digital Era (Routledge, 2014) and Distribution Revolution: Conversations about the Digital Future of Film and Television (University of California Press, 2014). He also serves as part of the founding editorial collective of Media Industries, the first peer-reviewed, open-access journal for media industries research.

    James Shanahan is a mass media effects researcher. He is the Associate Dean of the College of Communication at Boston University. He holds a PhD in Communication from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His research interests focus on cultural indicators, cultivation theory, media effects and public opinion. Special areas of focus are communication in relation to science and the environment. His studies in this area have dealt with the impact of media (especially television) on environmental attitudes, the environmental content of media, and the narrative structure of environmental news. His books include Democracy Tango (1995) and Television and its Viewers (both with Michael Morgan, 1999) and Nature Stories (with Katherine McComas, 1999).

    David Sholle is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film at Miami University-Ohio and teaches television and film production, documentary and media theory. He is the co-author of Media Education and the Reproduction of Culture (1994) and Rethinking Media Literacy (1995). He has written articles on alternative media, Negt and Kluge’s ideas on the public sphere, critical media pedagogy, and new media technology. His articles have appeared in Javnost: the Public, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Cultural Studies and The Journal of Education. Sholle also has directed several documentaries, including A Cold Day in D.C. (on the 2nd Bush inauguration), The Hour Has Come (on the 97th Bomb Squad from World War II) and What Good are the Humanities?

    Nancy Signorielli (PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 1975) is Professor of Communication and Director of the MA programme in Communication at the University of Delaware (USA). Her research focuses on images in the media, specifically on gender roles, television violence, ageing, minorities and health and how these images are related to people’s conceptions of social reality. She has authored or co-authored over 100 articles or book chapters in this research area as well as written or edited eight books. She was named a distinguished scholar of the Broadcast Education Association in 2010 and a centennial scholar of the Eastern Communication Association in 2009.

    Ruth Teer-Tomaselli is the UNESCO Chair of Communication in the Centre for Communications and Media in South Africa, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Her research interests include broadcast media, specially public service broadcasting, broadcasting history and news and drama on radio and television. She is an avid reader of crime fiction and grows bonsai trees for pleasure.

    Deborah Tudor is the Associate Dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts at Southern Illinois University. She received her doctorate from Northwestern and taught at DePaul University prior to coming to SIU in 2006. She served as the Chair of the Department of Cinema and Photography before moving to the MCMA Associate Dean position in 2009. Dr Tudor’s research interests lie in two areas: culture and technology, and globalization and cinema. Her most recent publications include a chapter on Star Trek in Neoliberalism and Global Cinema, (2011), and articles on digital cinema production tools in Cinema Journal (2008) and Jump Cut (2011). Additional articles include publications on digital audience monitoring tools in Media Culture & Society, and neoliberalism and media in Society (2012) and Cinema Journal (2013).

    Silvio Waisbord is Professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. He earned a PhD in sociology from the University of California, San Diego. Dr Waisbord’s books include Reinventing Professionalism: Journalism and News in Global Perspective (Polity, 2013), Media Sociology: A Reappraisal (editor, Polity, 2014) and Vox Populista: Medios, periodismo, democracia (Gedisa, 2013). He was editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Press/Politics between 2008 and 2014, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Communication.

    Mike Wayne is a Professor in Screen Media at Brunel University. He has written widely on Marxist theories of the media and cultural theory. He is the author of Marxism and Media Studies: Key Concepts and Contemporary Trends (Pluto, 2003) and Marx’s Das Kapital For Beginners (Steerforth Press, 2012). He is the co-director (with Deirdre O’Neill) of a 2012 ­feature-length documentary film called The Condition of the Working Class (see His latest book is Red Kant: Aesthetics, Marxism and the Third Critique (Bloomsbury, 2014).

    Brenda R. Weber is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Gender Studies at Indiana University, with adjunct appointments in American Studies, Cultural Studies, Communication and Culture, English, and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Her books include Makeover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship, and Celebrity (Duke, 2009), Women and Literary Celebrity in the Nineteenth Century: The Transatlantic Production of Fame and Gender (Ashgate, 2012) and Reality Gendervision: Sexuality and Gender on Transatlantic Reality TV (Duke, 2014). She is presently working on a monograph entitled Mormons on Our Minds: Gender, Modernity, and Mediated Mormonism.

    Helen Wood is Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester, UK. She is author of two audience research books, Talking with Television (2009) and, with Beverley Skeggs, Reacting to Reality Television (2012) and with Beverley Skeggs edited the collection Reality Television and Class (2011). She has published widely on television and audiences and is associate editor of the journals Ethnography and the European Journal of Cultural Studies. With Helen Wheatley and Rachel Moseley she has been working on the project ‘A history of television for women’.


    [T]elevision … is both an industry and a set of state institutions … whose purpose is to present itself, to expose itself continuously and conspicuously as no other set of institutions does, and yet which constantly effaces its own practices and methods. (Manuel Alvarado, 1983)

    This Handbook engages perennial questions that have been posed by and of television studies: Who runs TV? Who makes TV? What is on TV? And who is the audience to TV? The specific headings that divide the volume cover ownership and regulation, makers and making, cultural forms, audiences, reception and consumption. Our goal has been to acknowledge the equal importance and achievements of work done in political economy, textual analysis and reception, the principal fields that address such matters.

    Each section of the volume:

    • presents the main topics for debate and offers original and challenging contributions that pose new questions and open new horizons
    • contextualizes theories, methods and traditions of intellectual reflection and empirical research, giving recognition both to mainstream and marginal, established and emergent voices and norms; and
    • explains the historical, social, economic and political conditions that have contributed to the inception, support and decline of approaches, where appropriate

    In accordance with the publisher’s Handbook norms, we wanted authors to follow some basic guidelines, but to do so in ways that gave them freedom to decide where to head next, both for themselves and the field more generally.

    Inevitably, there are gaps in terms of places, politics, people, epistemologies and empirics. Some of this is due to our limitations as editors, and some to the exigencies that accompany any project of this scope. We are especially aware of certain absences in our coverage of gender issues that derive from these difficulties. In addition, we lack a truly global set of contributors. That said, we are glad to say that their addresses and origins include not only the usual suspects (the US and UK) but also Argentina, South Africa, Greece, Ireland, India, Australia, Italy and Mexico, and there is a reasonable gender balance.

    This, The SAGE Handbook of Television Studies has been a long time in the making, due to the contingencies of living, teaching, other writing projects, and, sadly, loss. Over the course of the long germination and fruition of the project, we gained and lost momentum, felt frustration when we failed to fill a hole in the project, and were exuberant when a new author came aboard or existing authors confirmed their commitment.

    Through it all, we continued to collaborate, support each other, and reaffirm our collective commitment to the project and those who signed on to work with us to realize it. So in every sense – from the conception to the solicitation of chapters, from editorial tasks to the final stages of production – the Handbook is the product of our collective and collaborative work. Toby Miller wrote the introduction and served as our primary representative with SAGE, speaking and acting on our behalf. And while we lost the central voice of our dear friend and colleague Manuel Alvarado much too soon in the project, his influence, voice and contribution to our collaboration is irreplaceable and unmistakable.

    Clearly, drawing an enterprise such as this one to a close is a source of relief as well as pleasure for all concerned. In the case of the Handbook, however, there is an even stronger emotion: grief. For our co-editor Manuel died in 2010 (Buscombe, 2010) when the volume was already well underway; as noted above, he was a formative influence on its ultimate shape. I want to acknowledge Manuel’s intellectual legacy to TV studies. I hope that a brief exegesis of his ideas will illustrate their ongoing value and encourage readers to allow Manuel’s work to reverberate as they make their way through this Handbook.

    Following that tribute, I offer an account of how television has been theorized, then conclude by engaging with assertions, which we have heard and read for almost twenty years, that TV is on the way out. It may seem odd to mount a defence of the relevance of a Handbook in terms of its object of study, but in this case, it feels warranted, so widespread and inaccurate are the claims made about television’s demise. To make the point, this Introduction ends with an attempt to apply some of Manuel’s favoured methods to a globally significant television programme that has encouraged public debate over both torture and the environment.

    Manuel Alvarado†

    Manuel had a passionately held and powerfully expressed intellectual agenda. It was thematically internationalist, politically socialist, methodologically promiscuous, and dedicated to teaching school pupils as much as university students. Manuel’s blend of market and non-market principles derived from the French Revolutionary cry liberté, égalité, fraternité [liberty, equality, solidarity] and the Argentine left’s contemporary version: ser ciudadano, tener trabajo, y ser alfabetizado [citizenship, employment, and literacy]. The first category concerned political rights; the second, material interests; and the third, cultural representation. This agenda was equally influenced by Marx, Gramsci, Althusser, Foucault and the Global South. Manuel had no time for infantile anti-statism, Panglossian market populism, romantic investments in the ‘other’ – or their opposites, such as a blind faith in public broadcasting or the narcissistic reproduction of cultural sameness.

    And Manuel was far from a banal careerist. His legacy is not the outcome of climbing a ladder towards formal recognition in scholarly journals, granting bodies, professional associations, or university departments – a trajectory that generally produces ‘normal science’.2 His cohort mostly regarded universities as ‘repositories of reactionary thought’ (Alvarado and Buscombe, 2008: 137).

    Manuel was fond of the German Socialist rallying cry, ‘The Long March of the Institutions’, which invoked a devolved but carefully calculated takeover of cultural bodies. For, despite their love of anarchic spectacle, smart soixante-huitards like him rejected the civil-society mythology of volunteerism that is so improbably shared by gullible progressives who imagine utopia around the corner from immiseration, anti-Marxist intellectuals who valorize private enterprise, and coin-operated US client states and organizations.

    Manuel was part of a formation that sought and gained an often contingent, sometimes shaky, but always lively control of cultural apparatuses as extra-parliamentary political projects: schooling, via the Society for Education in Film and Television (SEFT), the British Film Institute (BFI), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and scholarly and general-interest publishing, through those organizations and other private, not-for-profit, or semi-public ventures, such as John Libbey, Intellect and the University of Luton Press.

    Believing that people made their way through education and read books and periodicals in order to learn things they didn’t already know, Manuel doubted whether pupils’ and students’ existing inner processes and preferences were any better suited to understanding social relations or television genres than they would be to building bridges or piloting planes. The formation of taste and knowledge about television had to be theorized, engaged and changed by comprehending and explicating the ‘interrelationship of production, distribution, broadcasting, [and] advertising’ that generated pleasures and beliefs. It was vital to appreciate the constraints and opportunities presented by young people’s ‘class/cultural background … the containing society … [and] their mode of insertion into the school system’ (Alvarado, 1977). As Foucault put it: ‘There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks, and perceive differently than one sees, is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all’ (1985: 8).

    Thinking differently might transcend the graceless antinomies of TV policy identified by Bourdieu: either a ‘paternalistic-pedagogic’ address or ‘populist spontaneism and demagogic capitulation to popular tastes’ (1998). Manuel liked to complicate this binarism: he enjoyed the most basic situation comedies as well as the avant-garde and abjured what he called ‘patrician, class-ridden, historical, costume drama’ (2000: 315).

    For Manuel and other activist intellectuals, ‘theory was never justified for its own sake’ but because it could produce new ‘knowledge, since knowledge, unlike taste, was verifiable and transferable’ (Alvarado et al., 1993). His use of ‘Critical Media Theory’ opposed a ‘yea-saying attitude … [c]elebratory’ orientation towards new forms of communication. The revelation that ‘popular culture [is] wonderful! It’s so complicated’ (Alvarado and Thompson, 1990a, 1990b) didn’t impress him; nor did the vaguely formulated assumption of a post-state, post-market return to Eden.

    Rather than centralized state control necessarily constraining choice by people, Manuel made the point that choice is generally constrained by centralized commercial control. The marginal propensity to consume is very marginal indeed for the vast majority! In some astute comments on what used to be known in scholarly circles as cultural imperialism (and is still called that outside Anglo academia) he insisted that ‘the international exchange of TV programmes is not based on the conventional principles of commodity valuation (i.e. assessing the marginal cost of production).’ Instead, it must be understood ‘in terms of the political and economic position of the buying country’ (Alvarado, 1996).

    This resonates with an earlier essay he wrote about television’s duality: its Janus-faced capacity to witness and embody capitalism’s paradoxical, simultaneous, sinuous and coeval desires for publicity and secrecy, marketing and privacy. Manuel recognized that TV owners and programme makers want to appear open to viewers in terms of texts, genres and channels – but insist on being closed to them as a set of political-economic interests, methods and commitments (Alvarado, 1983). Since he first created that striking homology, television has opened up to the point where it now appears to welcome academic researchers, for example, provided that they buy into its faux responsiveness to commodified audience reactions (Alvarado, 2009b).

    The scepticism that Manuel expressed about accepting viewer interpretations, industry shibboleths or high-blown theory and science have informed our final, faltering steps towards the conclusion of this Handbook. It is dedicated to his memory, with thanks for enriching our world.

    Television Studies

    What is television? I thought we’d look at some newspapers to see what they said. The Guardian (of London, New York, Sydney, and counting) thinks writing about television involves promoting and reviewing programmes. That means telling readers what shows are about and whether they are good, either via the eager ears of star-struck interviewers or the acerbic eyes of lounge-lizard critics ( The approach is largely nationalistic—if you’re not in English and on ‘our’ screens, you don’t matter. Spain’s El País, which also publishes a global edition across the Americas and Europe, is much more catholic, if you’ll pardon the phrase, in that news can actually be made in different languages and states; but El País, too, thinks TV is largely about programming ( Le Monde subsumes TV under ‘culture’, quite rightly, though its themes are akin to the rest ( The New York Times is sufficiently anachronistic to include ‘local listings’. How quaint. But again, its stock in trade is promotion and critique ( Mexico’s La Jornada, by contrast, generally addresses television as an object of news ( It stands out in this group.

    My far-from-random sample suggests that television critics write profiles of celebrities we’ll never meet and watch programmes before we do. TV may also appear in newspapers’ business and policy columns, but under different headings, more akin to Jornada.3 That sort of division is acknowledged but disobeyed in the collection you have before you.

    Television has given rise to three related topics of scholarly inquiry that stretch across such concerns:

    • technology, ownership, and control – its political economy
    • textuality – its content; and
    • audiences – its public

    Within these categories lie three further divisions:

    • approaches to technology, ownership, and control vary between neoliberal endorsements of limited regulation by the state in the interests of protecting property and guaranteeing market entry for new competitors, Marxist critiques of the bourgeois media for controlling the socio-political agenda, and environmental investigations of the impact of TV gadgetry on energy use and electronic waste
    • approaches to textuality vary between hermeneutics, which unearths the meaning of individual programmes and links them to broader social formations and problems, such as the way that social identities are represented, and content analysis, which establishes patterns across significant numbers of similar texts, rather than close readings of individual ones; and
    • approaches to audiences vary between social-psychological attempts to validate correlations between television and social conduct, political-economic critiques of imported texts threatening national culture, and celebrations of spectators’ interpretations

    These tasks in turn articulate to particular academic disciplines, which are tied to particular interests of state and capital:

    • engineering, computing, public policy, journalism, and ‘film’ schools create and run TV production and reception via business, the military, the community and the public service
    • communication studies focuses on such social projects as propaganda, marketing and citizenship
    • economics theorizes and polices doctrines of scarcity, as well as managing over-production through overseas expansion
    • Marxism points to the impact of ownership and control and cultural imperialism on television and consciousness; and
    • cultural criticism evaluates representation, justifies protectionism, and calls for content provision

    Table I.1. Objects, methods and disciplines

    Today, major engagements with TV come from the psy-function (psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis), other social sciences (sociology, economics, communication studies, ­anthropology, political science, and law) and the humanities (literature, cinema studies, media studies, languages, and cultural studies). There are seven principal forms of inquiry, which:

    • borrow ethnography from sociology and anthropology to investigate the experiences of audiences
    • use experimentation and testing methods from psychology to establish cause-and-effect relations between television viewing and subsequent conduct
    • adapt content analysis from sociology and communication studies to evaluate programming in terms of generic patterns
    • adopt textual analysis from literary theory and linguistics to identify the ideological tenor of content
    • apply textual and audience interpretation from psychoanalysis to speculate on psychic processes
    • deploy political economy to examine ownership, control, regulation and international exchange; and
    • utilize archival, curatorial, and historiographic methods to give TV a record of its past

    Relevant professional associations are shown in Table I.2.

    So where did television studies, in the broadest sense, come from? It emerged from a complex blend of the social sciences and the humanities, from qualitative and quantitative sociology and communications, from language and literature departments, and various formations that arose across these and other domains.

    Table I.2. Relevant professional associations
    • International Association for Media & Communication Research • Union for Democratic Communications
    • Broadcast Education Association • Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
    • National Communication Association • International Communication Association
    • Society for Cinema and Media Studies • American Association for Public Opinion Research
    • American Journalism Historians Association • Asociación Latinoamericana de Investigadores de la Comunicacion
    • Association for Chinese Communication Studies • Association of Internet Researchers International Association for Media and History
    • Chinese Communication Association • European Consortium for Communications Research
    • European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research • Global Communication Research Association
    • International Association for Media History • Southern African Communication Association
    • Media, Communications & Cultural Studies Association • Canadian Communication Association

    A key source has been speech communication, which was founded in the US a century ago to assist with the assimilation of white, non-English-speaking migrants into the workforce. It became the first home of media education, because the engineering professors who founded radio stations in colleges during the 1920s needed programme content, and drew volunteers from that area. These stations became laboratories, with research undertaken into technology, content and reception (Kittross, 1999). This was also a period of massively complex urbanization and the spread of adult literacy, democratic rights, labour organization and socialist ideas, which gave rose to a social-science equivalent to the study of speech: mass communication. First radio then TV were simultaneously prized and damned for their demagogic qualities, which it was hoped and feared could turn people into consumers or communists alike.

    With the standardization of social-science method and its uptake and export by US military, commercial, scholarly and governmental interests across the 20th century, television audiences came to be conceived as empirical entities that could be known via research instruments derived from communication, sociology, demography, the psy-function and marketing. Such concerns were coupled with a secondary concentration on content. Texts, too, were conceived as empirical entities that could be known, via research instruments derived from sociology, communication and literary criticism. Universities across the US introduced schools that would prepare students for media work. In Britain, Granada TV endowed a research position into television at Leeds University in 1959. Then SEFT and the BFI began sometimes separate, sometimes overlapping forms of stimulus in the 1960s and 70s, from seeding teaching posts to publishing critical dossiers. This ultimately fed into major formations of UK media studies influenced by continental Marxism and feminism, then by similar social movements as the US4 (Bignell et al., 2000: 81; Bolas, 2009).

    Some of the bodies listed in Table I.2 see themselves as feeder groups and even advocates for the industry; some identify as purely scholarly entities; and others call for progressive change. Let’s consider key instances, mostly from the Anglo world.

    The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) describes itself as ‘a multicultural network of practitioners’. Founded in 1912, AEJMC seeks to ‘advance education in journalism, cultivate better professional practice and promote the free flow of information, without boundaries’ (, while the National Communication Association, formerly the Speech Communication Association (SCA, which began in 1914) says it is ‘[d]edicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication’ (

    The Broadcast Education Association (BEA) commenced in 1948 as an educational arm of the US radio then TV industry through the National Association of Broadcasters, which has provided it with resources to fund events and publications (Kittross, 1999). The BEA bears the lineaments of a heritage ‘preparing college students to enter the radio & TV business’ ( The Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) says it is ‘devoted to the study of the moving image’. Founded in 1959, the Society aims to ‘promote all areas of media studies’ and ‘advance multi-cultural awareness and interaction’ ( Attempts to bring television studies into the former Society for Cinema Studies were roundly rejected in the 1990s by cinéphiles. It may be that the eventual expansion of their rubric to incorporate ‘media studies’ derived not from an appreciation of the importance of TV, but because of ‘the propinquity of television studies to the higher-prestige if loosely defined field of new media studies’ (Boddy, 2005: 81): US universities ‘tend to value anything called new media’ thanks to its applications to militarism, and its ability to draw hefty research money through governmental and commercial fetishes for new technology. The upshot is that ‘studying anything that comes over the Internet … has somehow become more legitimate than studying television itself’ (Spigel, 2005: 84).

    The International Communication Association, which started in 1950 as a breakaway from SCA focused on mass communication, avows that it exists:

    • to provide an international forum to enable the development, conduct, and critical evaluation of communication research;
    • to sustain a programme of high quality scholarly publication and knowledge exchange;
    • to facilitate inclusiveness and debate among scholars from diverse national and cultural backgrounds and from multi-disciplinary perspectives on communication-related issues; and
    • to promote a wider public interest in, and visibility of, the theories, methods, findings and applications generated by research in communication and allied fields. (

    Britain’s Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) is the newest of these bodies (it was established in 2007). MeCCSA presents itself as a service to students, rather alarmingly suggesting that ‘[m]any of the jobs you will go into once you have finished your degree have not yet been invented’. The Association suggests that obtaining employment in television may flow from ‘the ability to produce high[-]quality research, to analyze sociological trends, to work effectively with people, to organize events, to think creatively and to write well’ (

    The International Association for Media Communication and Research (started by UNESCO in 1957 and the only body discussed here that is not Anglo-dominated) says that it ‘aims to support and develop media and communication research throughout the world. It particularly encourages the participation of emerging scholars, women and those from economically disadvantaged regions’ (

    By contrast with the jobs, legitimacy and inclusivity emphases of the other Associations and the aesthetico-historical goals of SCMS, the Union for Democratic Communications (UDC, founded in 1981) sees itself as an organization of communication researchers, journalists, media producers, policy analysts, academics and activists dedicated to:

    • critical study of the communications establishment;
    • production and distribution of democratically controlled and produced media;
    • fostering alternative, oppositional, independent and experimental production;
    • development of democratic communications systems locally, regionally and internationally. (

    This is a transformative rather than a parthenogenetic project: UDC works towards a different world, as opposed to generating new cohorts of producers, scientists, rhetoricians, journalists and aesthetes.

    Clearly, there is no single professional association to go to in order to see how academia makes sense of TV – I could just as easily have listed relevant segments of professional bodies within political science (, anthropology (, sociology (, education (, law (, pediatrics ( or psychology ( There would be some overlap and many epistemological, methodological, focal and political differences.

    The same applies to journals. Table I.3 lists a huge, diverse, yet only partial, list! But consulting these and other titles will keep readers abreast of debates in television studies, as it is undertaken across and within disciplines.

    Some of these journals are the organs of professional associations: authors may be obliged to join in order to publish there and will be expected to cite the work of powerful fellow-members. Others are journals of tendency, which seek new and transformative work rather than the reiteration of normal science.5

    Table I.3. List of Journals
    International Journal of Cultural Policy, Entertainment Law Review, Transnational Television Studies, Global Media Journal, Television & New Media, Global Media and Communication, Poetics, Journal of Media Economics, Media International Australia, European Journal of Communication, Media Culture & Society, International Communication Gazette, Media Law and Practice, Feminist Media Studies, Comunicaço & Politica, International Journal of Communication, International Journal of Communications Law and Policy, Asian Journal of Communication, Games & Culture, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Revista Electrónica Internacional de Economía Política de las Tecnologías de la Información y de la Comunicación, Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, Asian Media, Comunicaçao e Sociedade, Convergence, Loyola Entertainment Law Journal, Columbia VLA Journal of Law and the Arts, Loyola Entertainment Law Journal, Cultural Studies Review, Mediascape, Communication Review, Cultural Politics, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Cinema Journal, Journal of Media Sociology, Democratic Communiqué, Television Quarterly, Cultural Sociology, Journal of Arab and Muslim Media Research, Journal of Creative Communications, Media Development, Canadian Journal of Communication, Visual Anthropology, Visual Anthropology Review, NORDICOM Review of Nordic Research on Media and Communication, Journal of International Communication, Asian Journal of Communication, New Media & Society, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Journal of Communication Inquiry, Historical Journal of Radio, Film & Television, Journal of Communication, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Journalism History, Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism, Media History, Women’s Studies in Communication, Public Opinion Quarterly, Political Communication, Gamasutra, Federal Communications Law Journal, Fordham Intellectual Property, International Journal of Press/Politics, Popular Communication, Media & Entertainment Law Journal, Topia, Cultural Studies, Communications, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Journal of British Cinema & Television, Social Semiotics, Journal of E-Media Studies, Critical Studies in Television, Chinese Journal of Communication, Jump Cut, Screen Education, Screen, Velvet Light Trap, Flow, Journal of Film & Video, New Review of Film and Television Studies, Journal of Popular Film & Television, Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, Political Communication, Media Psychology, Popular Communication

    It should be clear from this schematic account of scholarly bodies and publications that the study of television is fractured by objects of study, politics, nations, disciplines, theories and methods. Why? A dispersed field of knowledge, it derives from the spread of new media technologies over the past two centuries into the lives of urbanizing populations, and the policing questions that has posed to both state and capital: what would be the effects of these developments, and how would they vary between those with a stake in maintaining society versus transforming it?

    By the early 20th century, academic experts had decreed media audiences to be passive consumers, thanks to the missions of literary criticism (distinguishing the aesthetically cultivated from others) and psychology (distinguishing the socially competent from others). Decades of social science have emphasized audience reactions to audiovisual entertainment: where they came from, how many there were, and what they did as a consequence of being present.

    More than half a century ago, Dallas Smythe explained that audience attention – presumed or measured – was the commodity that TV stations sold to advertisers (2004: 319–20). Programmes are therefore not so much consumer items as ‘symbols for time’ (Hartley, 1987: 133). Television audiences participate in the most global (but local) communal (yet individual) and time-­consuming practice of making meaning in the history of the world. The concept and the occasion of being an audience are links between society and person, at the same time as viewing and listening involve solitary interpretation as well as collective behaviour.

    Production executives invoke the audience to measure success and claim knowledge of what people want, regulators to organize administration, psychologists to produce proofs, and lobby groups to change content. Hence the link to panics about education, violence and apathy supposedly engendered by television and routinely investigated by the state, psychology, Marxism, feminism, conservatism, religion and others. The audience as consumer, student, felon, voter, sexist, heathen, progressive and fool engages such groups. Effects and ratings research traverses the industry, the state and criticism. Academic, commercial, and regulatory approaches focus most expansively on audiences to television as citizens and consumers, far more than the medium’s technology, law or even content.

    For example, female viewers were central to corporate calculations about US television from the very first, because they were expected to spend more time in the home than other potential spectators. In the early days of tuning sets, it was thought that women would be unable to cope with the technical challenges of reception. Then there was the question of their unpaid domestic labour – how could this crucial economic and social service be safeguarded while they fulfilled their other useful role as captives of commercials? The US strategy, which became orthodox elsewhere, was to drop plans for reconstructing cinema in the home via this new, exciting apparatus. Earlier assumptions about seeking to repeat the immersive experience of movies—lights off, full attention, and immobile – were rejected in favour of a distracted experience. Like radio, TV would be just one aspect of home life, alongside demanding children, husbands and tasks. Its visuals would reinforce a message that could be understood in another room or while doing chores – the volume would go up when the commercials came on (Morley, 2007: 277).

    This focus on the TV public and how to corral and control it is in keeping with a long history that predates television’s advent. The pattern has been that when new media technologies emerge, young people in particular are identified as both pioneers and victims, simultaneously endowed by manufacturers and critics alike with power and vulnerability – the first to know yet the last to understand cheap novels during the 1900s, silent then sound film during the teens and 1920s, radio in the 1930s, comic books of the 1940s and 50s, pop music and television from the 1950s and 60s, satanic rock as per the 1970s and 80s, video cassette recorders in the 1980s, and rap music, video games and the internet since the 1990s.

    Here are some concerned Australian pundits pondering what the new arrival, television, might do to 1950s’ adolescents:

    In September 1956 many Sydney residents had their first opportunity to experience first-hand contact with the new mechanical ‘monster’ – TV – that had for the last seven or eight years been dominating the lounges of English and American homes. Speculation on its effects had run high. On the one hand it was claimed: it would eventually destroy the human race since young couples would prefer viewing to good honest courting; children would arrive at school and either go to sleep or disgorge half-baked concepts about the Wild West and the ‘gals’ who inspired or confused the upholders of law; it would breed a generation of youngsters with curved spines, defective eyesight, American vocabulary but no initiative; it would result in a fragmentation of life whereby contact among, and even within, families would be reduced to the barest minimum. (Campbell assisted by Keogh, 1962: 9)

    Television and the Australian Adolescent, the source of this quotation, finds its authors worried about the ‘habits of passivity’ that TV might induce, and the power of particular genres to ‘instil certain emotions, attitudes and values’. The upshot of all this, they feared, might be ‘a generation of people who are content to be fed by others’ (Campbell assisted by Keogh, 1962: 23).

    Each new media innovation since the advent of print has brought an expanded horizon of texts to audiences. In keeping with this history, television programmes and viewers come to be defined in both market terms and through a regulatory morality of conscience and taste, because ‘a new practice of piety’ accompanies each ‘new communications technology’ (Hunter, 1988: 220). As a consequence, moral panics are common amongst the denizens of communication studies, paediatrics, psychology, and education, who largely abjure cultural and political matters to do with television in favour of experimenting on its viewers. This is the psy-function at work.

    Television studies also covers political economy, which focuses on ownership and control rather than audience responses. Because the demand for television is dispersed but its supply is centralized, political economy argues that TV is one more industrial process subordinated to dominant economic forces within society that seek standardization of production. Far from reflecting already-established and -revealed preferences of consumers in reaction to tastes and desires, television manipulates audiences from the economic apex of production, with coercion mistaken for free will. The only element that might stand against this levelling sameness is said to be individual consciousness. But that consciousness has itself been customized to the requirements of the economy and television programmes: maximization of sameness through repetition and minimization of innovation and newness in order to diminish risk and cost (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1977).

    There are significant ties between critical theory, which calls for a resistive consciousness through artisanal rather than industrial created texts, and political economy, which calls for diverse ownership and control of the industry. The first trend is philosophical and aesthetic in its desire to develop modernism and the avant-garde, the second policy-oriented and political in its focus on institutional power. But they began as one with lamentations for the loss of a self-critical philosophical address and the triumph of industrialized cultural production. The two approaches continue to be linked via a shared distaste for what is still often regarded as mass culture (Garnham, 1987). TV is said to force people to turn away from precious artistic and social traces of authentic intersubjectivity as it takes control of individual consciousness. Like the psy-function, this part of television studies is frequently functionalist, neglecting struggle, dissonance, and conflict in favour of a totalizing narrative in which television dominates everyday life and is all-powerful.

    Something happened in the mid-1960s to counter these two forms of knowledge via a more conflictual version of television studies. The medievalist, semiotician, columnist, and novelist Umberto Eco developed notions of encoding-decoding, open texts, and aberrant readings by audiences (Eco, 1972). He looked at differences between the way meanings were put into Italian TV programmes by producers and how they were deciphered by viewers. His insights were picked up by the political sociologist Frank Parkin (1971) and the cultural studies theorist Stuart Hall (1980).

    There have been two principal methodological iterations of the encoding-decoding approach: uses and gratifications (U&G) and ethnography/cultural studies. Uses and gratifications operates from a psychological model of needs and pleasures; cultural studies from a political one of needs and pleasures. U&G focuses on what are regarded as fundamental psychological drives that define how people use the media to gratify themselves. Conversely, cultural studies’ ethnographic work has shown some of the limitations to claims that viewers are stitched into certain perspectives by the interplay of narrative, dialogue and image. Together, they have brought into question the notion that audiences are blank slates ready to be written on by media messages.

    Drawing upon these insights, some denizens of television studies argue that TV represents the apex of modernity, the first moment in history when central political and commercial organs and agendas became receptive to the popular classes. This perspective differs from the idea that the apparatus is all-powerful. It maintains instead that the all-powerful agent is the audience: the public is so clever and able that it makes its own meanings, outwitting institutions of the state, academia and capitalism that seek to measure and control it. In the case of children and the media, anxieties about turning Edenic innocents into rabid monsters or capitalist dupes are dismissed.6

    Television supposedly obliterates geography, sovereignty and hierarchy in an alchemy of truth and beauty. Today’s deregulated, individuated TV world allegedly makes consumers into producers, frees the disabled from confinement, encourages new subjectivities, rewards intellect and competitiveness, links people across cultures, and allows billions of flowers to bloom in a post-political cornucopia. It’s a kind of Marxist/Godardian wet dream, where people fish, film, fornicate, frolic and finance from morning to midnight.

    Sometimes, faith in the active audience reaches cosmic proportions, such that TV is not responsible for – well, anything. Consumption is the key – with production discounted, work neglected, consumers sovereign and research undertaken by observing one’s own practices of viewing and one’s friends and children. This is narcissography at work, with the critic’s persona a guarantor of assumed audience revelry and Dionysian joy (Morris, 1990). Welcome to ‘Readers Liberation Movement’ media studies (Eagleton, 1982): everyone is creative and no one is a spectator. Internally divided – but happily so – each person is ‘a consumer on the one hand, but … also a producer’ (Foucault, 2008: 226).

    In one sense, then, TV studies buys into corporate fantasies of control – the political economist’s arid nightmare of music, movies, television and everything else converging under the sign of empowered firms. In another, it incarnates individualist fantasies of reader, audience, consumer, or player autonomy – the libertarian intellectual’s wet dream of music, movies, television, and everything else converging under the sign of empowered fans. Those antinomies shadow the fetish of innovation that informs much talk of media technology and consumerism while ignoring the environmental destruction and centralized power that underpin them (Maxwell and Miller, 2012).

    In its uneasy blend of these perspectives, television studies has been partially colonized by a progressive agenda that is sceptical without being cynical, rigorous without losing optimism, and committed to popular democracy. The result has seen analyses devoted to some key issues that go beyond the psy-function, political economy and active audiences, while drawing on their insights. A brief list might include: feminist concerns over the representation of women, both on- and off-screen; critics’ desires to reach beyond bourgeois-individualistic accounts of creativity in favour of generic analysis; studies of post-imperial social control in the Global South via domestic and global media dominance; Marxist aesthetics reading story against ideology; and voices from below, heard through the participant observation of workers and audiences. Such staples as cultural imperialism critique and national television history have been supplemented by work on national, regional, global, diasporic, First Peoples, women’s, and activist television. Ideology critique has been enriched by Gramscianism, racialization analysis, queer theory and policy studies. This is in keeping with intellectual developments and political trends, such as social movements, the globalization and privatization of television in the wake of the Cold War, and the rise of neoliberalism. Foundational debates since 1990 have put leftist, queer, disabled, feminist, multicultural and post-colonial formations in play.

    As higher education has grown and opened up to these critical tendencies within the human sciences, social movements, and more instrumental, conservatory-style training, TV studies has often been deemed simultaneously too progressive and too applied by many traditionalists. Unlike, for instance, neoclassical economics or the psy-function, media studies has attracted some intense opprobrium.

    Within the bourgeois media, the Village Voice dubs TV studies ‘the ultimate capitulation to the MTV mind … couchpotatodom writ large … just as Milton doesn’t belong in the rave scene, sitcoms don’t belong in the canon or the classroom’ (Vincent, 2000). For the Times Literary Supplement, media and cultural studies form the ‘politico-intellectual junkyard of the Western world’ (Minogue, 1994: 27). The Wall Street Journal describes our work as ‘deeply threatening to traditional leftist views of commerce,’ because its notions of active consumption are close to those of the right: ‘cultural-studies mavens are betraying the leftist cause, lending support to the corporate enemy and even training graduate students who wind up doing market research’ (Postrel, 1999). The Observer scornfully mocks via a parental parody: ‘what better way to have our little work-shy scholars rushing off to read an improving book than to enthuse loudly in their presence about how the omnibus edition of EastEnders [1985–] is the new double physics?’ (Hogan, 2004). The Telegraph thunders that media studies is ‘quasi-academic’ and delights whenever enrolment diminishes (Lightfoot, 2005; Cairns, 2013), while the Daily Express deems it ‘worthless’ (Douglas, 2011).

    Alan Sugar, UK inquisitor for The Apprentice (2005–) worries that TV studies ‘may be putting future scientific and medical innovation under threat’ and ‘undermining the economy’ (Paton, 2007). Britain’s former Inspector of Schools denounces it as ‘a subject with little intellectual coherence and meager relevance to the world of work’ (Woodhead, 2009). Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong and a former Chair of the BBC Trust, called us ‘Disneyland for the weaker minded’ (quoted in Morley, 2007: 17) and the late Guardian newspaper columnist Simon Hoggart could be seen on British television in 2000 chiding local universities for wasting time on this nonsense when they should be in step with Harvard and MIT.7 Similar criticisms come from Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker, who expresses alarm that so much ‘energy on the American left is in cultural studies, not health care’ (1994: 96). National Public Radio places us among the ‘softer majors’ whose alumni are fated to ‘pretty low salaries, and that’s where the trouble really is’ for 2014’s ‘nearly two million [US] college graduates’ (Editor, 2014).

    In 2014, the British government’s Office of Qualifications and Examinations deemed media studies to be one of the country’s high school subjects that must be made more ‘demanding’ and subject to ‘reform’ or be discontinued within four years, despite the fact that over 55,000 pupils took it (high numbers in comparison with most other areas, but heading downwards as attacks on it gained traction) (Ofqal, 2014). The squeals of delight from the bourgeois press were immediate: the Daily Mail singled out media studies in welcoming a ‘crackdown on easy subjects’ via a ‘bonfire’ (Harris, 2014), the Guardian highlighted the drive to make our field ‘new, tougher’ (Adams, 2014), and the Telegraph headlined the notion of being ‘dramatically toughened up’ (Paton, 2014). The Independent also used this hyper-masculinist language, describing the reforms as directed at ‘soft’ subjects (Dugan, 2014).

    Within academia, MeCCSA argues that media studies gets ‘negative publicity’ because it ‘involves studying things which are generally seen as entertaining but trivial’ or ‘by using complicated theoretical language’ ( Robert W. McChesney laments that we are ‘regarded by the pooh-bahs in history, political science, and sociology as having roughly the same intellectual merit as, say, driver’s education’ (2007: 16). Similar attitudes abound within the humanities (Hilmes, 2005: 113). The Simpsons and Philosophy (Irwin et al., 2001), probably the biggest-selling academic work ever on TV, sold a quarter of a million copies within six years without any relationship to work done in television studies (Asma, 2007).

    The news is not all bad! It is worth recalling that new subject areas tend to cause controversy when they enter universities, as per the British experience with the introduction of the natural sciences in the 19th century, and politics, philosophy, English and sociology in the 20th. These innovations were practical responses to major socio-economic transformations – industrialization, state schooling, class mobility and public welfare (Fox, 2003; Whittam Smith, 2008). They were far from welcome at the time of their advent, yet have become key elements of a liberal education since. As the Scotsman acknowledged in its defence of studying the media, ‘Mickey Mouse is no cow’rin, tim’rous beastie’ (Instrell, 2014).

    Moreover, within the industry, Greg Dyke, a leading British media and sports executive, says we are good for both citizenship and professional awareness (Burrell, 2008) and Britain’s communications regulator Ofcom has a Media Literacy E-Bulletin, amongst other initiatives, while UK employment data show very positive signs for media studies graduates, albeit at low rates of pay (Anderson, 2013; Office for National Statistics 2013: 19). Mexican telenovelas, now seen in more than a hundred countries, are researched and revised by TV Azteca via a blend of genre study and análisis semántico basado en imagines (semantic analysis based on images) which uses viewer interviews to uncover cultural responses to stories as they unfold. Data and analysis from television studies help to determine plot lines (Clifford, 2005; Slade and Beckenham, 2005: 341 n. 1).

    Away from debates about the value of studying the media, it is abundantly clear that TV causes anxiety, whether about its own audiences or audiences to classes about it. Why? Because television is powerful. As Smythe said sixty years ago, it channels an immense ‘flow of representations of the human condition’ (1954: 143). John Hartley suggests that ‘the energy with which audiences are pursued in academic and industry research’ is ‘larger and more powerful than the quest for mere data’, because it seeks ‘knowledge of the species’ (1992: 84; also see Ang, 1991).

    TV has probably received the greatest attention (and frequently demonization) of any cultural medium. The opulence of television as a technology is supposedly matched by a barrenness of civilization. Critics find it responsible for deficits in knowledge, concentration and responsibility among populations. Aesthetically, it is said to appeal to base instincts and lowest-common denominators. Politically, it is seen as instilling either quietude or hysteria. Criticisms come from both left and right that a surfeit of signage and a deficit of understanding cheapen public culture, as Kitsch overruns quality (Martín-Barbero and Rey, 1999: 15–16, 22, 24).

    Most television programming has been dedicated to entertainment, and that focus, along with the ease of use and the double pull of vision and sound, have long produced embarrassment and even shame on the part of some viewers. Consider this Ivy League product recalling his New Haven follies of 1953:

    In those days a Yale faculty member who owned a television set lived dangerously. In the midst of an academic community, he lived in sin. Nevertheless, in an act of defiance, we put our television set in the living room instead of the basement or the garage where most of the faculty kept theirs, and we weathered the disapprobation of colleagues who did not own or would not admit to owning this fascinating but forbidden instrument. (Silber, 1968: 113)

    Communitarian US sociologists contrast an allegedly active public with a putatively passive audience:

    we are not happy when we are watching television, even though most of us spend many hours a week doing so, because we feel we are ‘on hold’ rather than really living during that time. We are happiest when we are successfully meeting challenges at work, in our private lives, and in our communities. (Bellah et al., 1992: 49)

    US producer David Susskind confided to 1950s readers of Life magazine that he was ‘mad at TV because I really love it and it’s lousy. It’s a very beautiful woman who looks abominable’ (quoted in Schramm et al., 1961: 3).

    This sexist metaphor exemplifies the seemingly ineradicable fear of televisual degradation. Such nightmares about TV have never receded. Fifty years later, then-Fox Entertainment president and former NBC executive Kevin Reilly said ‘NBC is like the crazy ex-wife I can’t get away from’ (quoted in Friedman, 2009).8

    The End of Television? Or a New Beginning?

    But perhaps he can get away from television. For, despite the level of policy and scholarly activity swirling around the medium, many people today say that TV is finished, that it no longer matters. The rhetoric of the newer audiovisual media, notably mobile telephones and the internet in general, is inflected with the phenomenological awe of a precocious child set to heal the wounds of modern life, magically reconciling public and private, labour and leisure, commerce and culture, citizenship and consumption. The alleged upshot? La televisión ha muerto [Television is dead] (De Silva, 2000). A synoptic survey in the Annual Review of Sociology proposes that ‘changes in the medium threaten to make past research on TV appear quaint and anachronistic’ (Grindstaff and Turow, 2006: 103). The grand organizer of daily life over half a century has lost its proud place in the layout of homes and the daily order of drama and data. Dual monopolies have been broken – the physical object no longer dominates, and nor does its model of unidirectional production. TV has lost its identity. We must all say ‘Bienvenidos al mundo de la postelevisión’ [Welcome to the post-television world] (Verón, 2008).

    Jinna Tay and Graeme Turner have coined the terms ‘broadcast pessimism’ and ‘digital optimism’ (2010: 32) to encapsulate two differing positions on the future of television. Proponents of broadcast pessimism argue that we are witnessing the inexorable obsolescence of traditional TV – the television of sharedness, of family togetherness – under the disrupting, disuniting impact of media digitization. Digital optimists, by contrast, welcome a post-broadcast era because it offers an unprecedented range of content and allows audiences unrestrained time, space and modes of access to an array of platforms, screens and outputs, which is deemed to satisfy individual needs for choice and control.

    Time magazine exemplified this fetish when it chose ‘You’ as 2006’s ‘Person of the Year,’ because ‘You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world’ (Grossman, 2006). The Guardian is prey to the same touching magic: someone called ‘You’ headed its 2013 list of the hundred most important folks in the media (

    This discourse buys into fantasies of reader, audience, consumer, player and activist autonomy. True believers invest with unparalleled gusto in Schumpeterian entrepreneurs, evolutionary economics, creative industries and internet politics. They’ve never seen an ‘app’ they didn’t like, or a socialist party they did. Faith in devolved media-making amounts to a secular religion, offering transcendence in the here and now via a ‘literature of the eighth day, the day after Genesis’ (Carey, 2005).

    The new era seems to have defanged media and political gatekeepers and restored popular culture to its original, organic quality as the property of ordinary people. Customs override consumption, capitalism is no longer corporate, and citizens govern suzerains. Netflix proclaims that ‘[i]nternet TV is replacing linear TV. Apps are replacing channels, remote controls are disappearing, and screens are proliferating’ (2013). IBM disparages ‘Massive Passives … in the living room … a “lean back” mode in which consumers do little more than flip on the remote and scan programming’. By contrast, it valorizes and desires ‘Gadgetiers and Kool Kids’ who ‘force radical change’ because they demand ‘anywhere, anytime content’ (2006: 1, 10).

    Yet the evidence for television’s demise is sparse and thin. Historically, most new media have supplanted earlier ones as central organs of authority or pleasure: books versus speeches, films versus plays, singles versus sheet music. But TV blended all of them. A warehouse of contemporary culture, it merged what had come before, and now it is merging with personal computers (which were modelled on it) to do the same (Newcomb, 2005: 110; Standage, 2006). The New York Times presciently announced this tendency over thirty years ago with the headline ‘Television Marries Computer’ (Gardner, 1983).

    New technologies are changing contemporary culture and communication. For example, the corporate music industry is shrinking due to the internet, with massive decreases in compact disc sales, and the internet is displacing physical newspapers in the Global North as a key source of political and commercial information. But corporate and public TV continues to grow by every indicator imaginable (Friedman, 2008; Pew Research Center, 2008; Spangler, 2009). La Tempestad magazine’s 2008 dossier on the subject asked, for instance, ‘Está en la televisión el futuro del cine?’ [does the future of cinema lie in TV?].

    It remains the case that establishing, maintaining, and upgrading a national television service is a fundamental part of successful government. Television still occupies vast amounts of people’s time and money, because it delivers information and entertainment with astonishing speed and ease. There are tens of thousands of broadcast, cable and satellite TV stations: over 7,000 in Russia; 3,000 in China; 2,700 in the European Union; and 2,200 in the US. Worldwide subscriptions to television via satellite and cable surged by 8% to 800 million in 2012, when global TV revenue grew by 4.1%, to £252 billion, thanks to these increases and advertising. The Global Internet TV portal lists over 8,000 TV stations available on the web in 2014 (Central Intelligence Agency, 2007; Euroconsult, 2008; Bilbao-Osorio et al., 2013; Friedman, 2013; Ofcom, 2013;

    The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the top body of advanced capitalist democracies from the European Union to Australasia, says its members have witnessed an explosion of television stations across the first years of the 21st century, mostly via satellite and cable: from 816 in 2004 to 1,165 in 2006 – 43% growth (OECD, 2007: 175).

    The number of Indian TV households grew by 11 million in 2012 (FICCI-KPMG, 2013). Residents are likelier to own television sets than have access to indoor plumbing, and politicians devote advertising money to TV ahead of all other options, drawing on its confessional qualities via close-ups and generic religiosity to appeal to voters in a non-secular, highly personalized, way (Rajagopal, forthcoming). In Mexico, as digital media proliferate, so does TV – always, and if anything increasingly, the dominant medium (Gomez et al., 2011).

    Consider the United States, which is often a harbinger of media futures (for better or worse); as the editors of A European Television History put it, ‘American television becomes a horizon towards which all television seems to progress’ (Bignell and Fickers 2008: 4). In 2006, more than 98% of US homes had at least one television set, while 64% had cable, up twenty points in twenty years. Consumers spent US$20 billion buying new TVs that year. By 2007, 51% of people had three or more sets, a figure that has remained constant since (Motion Picture Association of America, 2007: 35, 37; Borland and Hansen, 2007; Ellis, 2007: 40; De Roo et al., 2013). In 2008, the number of US households owning televisions increased by 1.5%, with particularly significant growth among migrants and their recent descendants. Nielsen suggests 115.6 million US homes had sets in 2013–14, an increase on 2012–13’s 114.2 million (‘Nielsen Estimates’, 2013). In the last twenty years, the number of black households with TVs grew nearly 40%, while the figure for Latin@ homes doubled (Nielsen, 2014).

    The US population watched more TV in 2005 than a decade earlier – an hour more than in that basically pre-web era. Children between the ages of six and 14 were tuned to television at rates unprecedented for twenty years; 69% of them had sets in their bedrooms, versus 18% with internet access and 49% owning or subscribing to videogames (Pew Research Center, 2005). Children between the ages of two and 11 watched 17.34 hours of TV a week in 2006, an increase on the previous year; in Britain, the number was in excess of 15 hours. The keenest viewers in the US are young girls. They quite like new technology, and adopt it at a frenetic pace—but ‘TV is king’, in the words of the old song by The Tubes. Teens have always watched less television than other age groups, but the amount they view has barely changed from 1953 to 2013. Meanwhile, 93% of adults watch at least an hour of TV a day, but just 4% watch an hour of video on line each day (Downey, 2007; ‘Majority of Americans’, 2007; Ofcom, 2009: 109; Thompson, 2013).

    AOL Television and the Associated Press polled US residents on their viewing habits in 2007. Over a quarter of the population said they watched more than three hours a day, while 13% watched more than 30 hours a week, up five points on 2005. And in 2008, the most statistically significant change in how people passed their leisure time was the increase in time watching TV. Three-quarters of people had viewed television at one time or another on line – but they spent seventy times more hours a month doing so via a conventional set (‘Precious Little’, 2008; ‘What Impact’, 2008). Ratings disclose that the average household watched eight and a quarter hours of television and individuals four and a half hours daily in 2006 – record numbers. Even the venerable if unvenerated Academy Awards saw a ratings increase of 13% in 2009 (Grindstaff and Turow, 2006: 119; ‘Nielsen Media’, 2006; Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, 2007; Rash, 2009).

    In 2004, people in OECD countries spent a third of their time using the media watching television and a fifth on line. Although other OECD members exhibit only half the loyalty to television of US viewers, it remains the most popular medium, and viewing time has remained consistent over the decade since (OECD, 2007: 177, 2013: 184). In Britain:

    [i]n 2013, the average … viewer watched three hours and 52 minutes of linear television a day on a TV set, and just three minutes and 30 seconds on other devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops. Viewing on devices other than TVs of video on demand services like ITV Player, Sky Go and the BBC iPlayer accounted for just 1.5% of overall TV consumption. That was up from 1.2% in 2012, but it is still a minority pursuit. (Cellan-Jones, 2014)

    People with digital video recorders barely use them. Audiences turned more and more to television as the global recession deepened, with distinct increases in ratings across 2008 (Ellis, 2007: 23; Graf, 2008; Fitzsimmons, 2009; Gray, 2009; Cellan-Jones, 2014). In Australia, even a study that seems intent on demanding that multiple screens are the reality (almost bringing them into being through the will of desire) lies down in a post-orgasmic froth of exhaustion and ruefully admits that ‘all age groups continue to spend the majority of their screen time with the in-home TV set’ (‘Nielsen: Ten’, 2013).

    Of the top hundred brands recognized by US residents in 2009, 16 were TV or film-related, with CNN and MTV in the top 10 (Reynolds, 2009). Half the internet sites that US children aged between six and 11 visit first attracted their attention through advertising on TV or in print. Right across the age spectrum, television is the most influential advertising medium, more than during the pre-web period. Hundreds of case studies undertaken over the past two decades confirm that it is the principal means of raising brand awareness through advertising (Gonsalves, 2008; ‘Nielsen Reports TV’, 2008; ‘Nielsen Reports Growth’, 2008; ‘Kids Motivated,’ 2009; Neff, 2009; Shields, 2009; Thomasch, 2009).

    Thanksgiving 2013 saw US residents in the hundreds of millions watching an average of 15 hours of television per person. That year’s Macy’s Day Parade, which commenced at 9 am eastern, has seen audiences increasing ever since 2001. Nineteen million hung in there in 2013 to watch the dog show that followed NBC’s official coverage (Lynch, 2013).

    Just weeks after the national holiday, the Consumer Electronics Show ushered in 2014. For all its cult of newness, the Las Vegas convention acknowledged, yet again, that as far as advertisers are concerned, television remains the holy grail. It moves people, which means it moves products. Even digital specialists amongst marketers faced the truth – people keep watching television, on a set, at home, with other people, based on the schedule constructed and constricted by networks and cable companies. Advertising agencies recognize that college students are promiscuous viewers, but there’s nothing new in that. As always, as thirty years ago, once they graduate and get jobs, they subscribe to satellite or cable. They don’t cut cords; they order them (Poggi, 2014). This isn’t just about finding TV ‘OK’. People even like it more than they used to (‘Deloitte’, 2009).

    Ninety-four per cent of the population watch TV news, which for years has remained their principal resource for understanding both global events and council politics. Political operatives pay heed to the reality (Saad, 2013). During the 2004 US Presidential election, 78% of the population followed the campaign on television, up from 70% in 2000 (Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 2005; Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2005). Between the 2002 and 2006 mid-term elections, and across that 2004 campaign, TV expenditure on political advertising grew from US$995.5 million to US$1.7 billion – at a time of minimal inflation. That amounted to 80% of the growth in broadcasters’ revenue in 2003–4 (vanden Heuvel, 2008: 34). The 2002 election saw US$947 million spent on TV election advertising; 2004, US$1.55 ­billion; and 2006, US$1.72 billion. The correlative numbers for the internet were US$5 million in 2002; US$29 million in 2004; and US$40 million in 2006 (Gueorguieva, 2007). The vast majority of electronic electoral campaigning takes place on local TV – 95% in 2007 (Bachman, 2007; TNS Media Intelligence, 2008).

    Consider the famous Barack Obama campaign of 2008 and its much-vaunted use of the internet. Obama’s organization spent the vast majority of its energy and money on television. The internet was there to raise funds and communicate with supporters. The US Presidency cycles with the summer Olympics, broadcast by NBC, but few candidates commit funds to commercials in prime time during this epic of capitalist excess, where the classic homologues of competition vie for screen time – athletic contests versus corporate hype. Obama, however, took a multi-million-dollar package across the stations then owned by General Electric: NBC (Anglo broadcast), CNBC (business-leech cable), MSNBC (news cable), USA (entertainment cable), Oxygen (women’s cable), and Telemundo (Spanish broadcast). TV was on the march, not in retreat: on election night 2008, CNN gained 109% more viewers than the equivalent evening four years earlier (Gough, 2008; Teinowitz, 2008).

    The 2012 US Presidential election was again a televisual one. How many US residents who watched the debates between Mitt Romney and Obama preferred the internet to TV as their source? Answer: 3%. How many watched on both TV and the internet? Answer: 11%. How many people shared their reactions online? Answer: 8% (Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 2012).

    In Europe as well as the US, TV rules the roost by a long way when viewers seek news (Eggerton, 2014; Newman and Levy, 2013). Worldwide, owners of tablets such as iPads are the keenest consumers of television news worldwide. These tablets are adjuncts, gadget partners, to the main source. If anything, they stimulate people to watch more television (‘BBC World’, 2013).

    This is not to deny that change is afoot, as Lynn Spigel explained a decade ago:

    [I]ncreasing commercialization of public-service/state-run systems, the rise of multichannel cable and global satellite delivery, multinational conglomerates, Internet convergence, changes in regulatory policies and ownership rules, the advent of high-definition TV, technological changes in screen design, digital video recorders, and new forms of media competition – as well as new forms of programming … and scheduling practices … have all transformed the practice we call watching TV. This does not mean all of television is suddenly unrecognizable – indeed, familiarity and habit continue to be central to the TV experience—but it does mean that television’s past is recognizably distinct from its present. (2005: 83)

    As intimated earlier, the signs are that the internet will merge with television, and the two technologies will transform one another. In the words of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s former chief executive, ‘we will see TVs become more sophisticated and more connected. The boundary between the PC and the TV will dissolve’ (quoted in Moses, 2009).

    Without denying the substantial change brought about by the spread of digital technologies and deregulation, I challenge the universalizing claim that broadcast, cable, and satellite television are over, given multiple signs that TV is alive and well in most countries around the world, and holds a central, even dominant cultural position.

    Television ‘seems designed, no matter what its platform of delivery, to generate new ways of being-together-while-apart’ (Pertierra and Turner 2013: 66). In Horace Newcomb’s view, ‘the future of television will be essentially the same as its past’ via ‘strategies of adjustment’ to change (2014). TV remains the dominant source of our truth and object of our consumption, in dual senses – the sets cost more, and we spend more time with them than other devices. All in all, there simply isn’t evidence that newer technologies have displaced or are displacing the traditional cultural bodega of the last half-century.


    I’ll close this introduction with further inspiration from our late co-editor. Manuel Alvarado was animated by a scholarly and political impulse to unearth ‘the actual and potential cracks, fissures, dislocations, and absences that exist within television and television programmes’ and ask ‘how things could be done differently’ in ‘oppositional space’ (Alvarado, 1983). And he called for an increasingly comprehensive interdisciplinarity to cross boundaries in just the way that people, programmes, potentates and proprietors did (Alvarado, 2009a).

    TV studies can follow his example by teasing out the manifold complexities of media production, meaning and reception in order to indicate their socio-cultural significance. To do so requires a sometimes bewildering array of skills, which I endeavour to draw on here by borrowing from numerous analysts in order to offer a tentative example. My case study is 24, one of the longest-running and most internationally successful US spy shows (2001–10, revived in 2014 as 24: Live Another Day).

    24 began in the fateful northern-hemisphere fall of 2001, right after airplane missiles had struck the northeast of the US. By 2009, a hundred million people were watching it across the world on 236 channels. The programme binds together two senses of realism in a classic dual verisimilitude that draws both on faithfulness to a genre (espionage) and on narrative cues, images, sounds and editing that are frequently associated with documentaries or news programmes. This is in keeping with its central conceit of a season’s action taking place over the 24 hours it takes to watch each season of episodes.

    24 has been welcomed as a return of high-quality drama that runs counter to the hegemony of reality television, and even celebrated as a grand piece of existential philosophy – a solitary figure standing against an array of untrustworthy institutions. Yet it clearly borrows devices and storylines from more critically derided genres, such as soap opera, reality and vigilante action adventure, thanks to its cliff-hanger episodic stories and macho violence – in addition to pirating the avant-garde, courtesy of fractured storylines and points of view. Of course, this is all underwritten by corporate messages; the first episode of 2003 began and ended with a six-­minute film promoting a Ford car. And 24’s uniqueness became a formula when CBS announced Harper’s Island (2008–9), an overtly self-destructing series in which viewers were guaranteed that a central character would die each week (Attallah, 2006; Lotz, 2008: 173; McMahon, 2008; McPherson, 2008; Miklos, 2008; Aitkenhead, 2009; Steinberg, 2009; Shimpach, 2010).

    Then there is the question of 24’s politics. Produced by Republicans (the show’s creator, Joel Surnow, boasts of being a ‘rightwing nut job’ [quoted in Aitkenhead, 2009]), it has featured cameos by their ideological confrères in Congress (John McCain) and the news media (Laura Ingraham and Larry Elder) and was endorsed by such intellectual lackeys of the George W. Bush regime as the ur-disgraced-academic John Woo, who wrote legal justifications for inhumane brutality. The Heritage Foundation, a reactionary, coin-operated think tank, held a press conference in 2006 in celebration of the series that featured Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, who announced that then-Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were fans of the programme (Lithwick, 2008).

    24 clearly endorses torture as a means of extracting information from terrorists. For some critics, it represents ‘la suma de los miedos americanos’ [the sum of American fears] (Miklos, 2008: 79). John Downing has termed the programme ‘the most extended televisual reflection to date on the implications of 9/11’ and an egregious argument in favour of the ‘need’ for immediate and illegal action in the ‘public interest’ (2007: 62). It’s fine for the hero, Jack Bauer, ‘a man never at a loss for something to do with an electrode’, to deny medical assistance to a terrorist whom he has wounded, shoot another’s wife in the leg, then threaten a second shot to the knee unless her husband confides in him; and fine for the US President to subject a Cabinet member to electric shocks to interrogate him (Downing, 2007: 72, 77; Lithwick, 2008) as Bauer endlessly intones ‘Whatever it takes.’

    A delegation from the major US officer-training site, West Point, visited 24’s producers in 2007 to express anxiety that many military recruits had adopted illegal, immoral attitudes to torture based on their interpellation by the series, while interrogators reported a direct mimesis between the show and actual practices in Iraqi prisons by US forces inspired by it. Human Rights Watch also weighed in. And when the programme returned in 2014, Amnesty International noted its popularity in African nations that have not outlawed torture and claimed that its glamorization of the activity desensitized viewers internationally. But executive producer Kiefer Sutherland, the highest-paid TV actor in the world, who is liberal in his politics, disavows the notion that the programme works ideologically at all – ‘it’s good drama. And I love this drama!’ Further, 24 became the first carbon-neutral US TV fiction show in 2009, with offsets calculated against the impact of car chases, air travel, and use of coal-generated electricity, in addition to favouring wind and solar power (Miller, 2007; Kaufman, 2009; Sutherland quoted in Aitkenhead, 2009; Glez, 2014; Toomer, 2014; ‘Torture Spreading’, 2014). Finally, it is worth noting that in the US, 24’s staple audience was highly educated and affluent (Sconce, 2004: 99) – not people usually associated with the violence and anti-intellectualism of the programme’s far-right producers and public supporters.

    24 is an immensely rich, vulgar, polysemic, contradictory, educational, misguided, misguiding text. It is laden with imperialistic, messianic, vigilante messages – and underwritten by progressive ecology and a liberal star. Thank heavens for Stella Artois’ Godardian spoof ( Manuel would have appreciated the skit – and the need to blend political-economic, textual and audience knowledge to understand what gave rise to 24 in the first place and animated its successes.

    Television’s patron saint, Clare of Assisi, a teen runaway from the 13th century, was the first Franciscan nun. She was canonized in 1957 for her prescient bed-ridden vision of images from a midnight mass cast upon a wall, which Pius XII decreed to have been the first TV broadcast (; Pius XII, 1958). Perhaps Clare would smile benignly at today’s television studies, given her commitment to truth and love. We hope this book does justice to Manuel’s vision as well as hers – and to television itself.


    1 While I am the author of this piece, it has been read by Herman and Milly, who have both improved and approved it.

    2 His published work was nonetheless extensive (Miller, 2010).

    3 A more scientific probe suggests that the fetishization of art from industry is an incomplete project in the US bourgeois media’s coverage of TV (Bielby, 2014). I hope this remains the case.

    4 As we have seen, Manuel Alvarado was centrally involved. In the US, the challenge from the left was more muted, with disciplines dedicated to the industry and normal science.

    5 The latter characterized publishing projects that Manuel worked on, notably Screen Education.

    6 Perhaps there should be more of a focus on the material dangers posed to children by TVs: well over 385,000 young people have been admitted to US emergency rooms in the last two decades due to physical injuries caused by sets (De Roo et al., 2013).

    7 As Harvard long hosted a journal of media studies (the ungainly-titled Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, now thankfully free of its oxymoronic Yanqui moniker) and a New Approaches to International Law colloquium that engaged with cultural studies, and MIT has held major conferences called ‘Media In Transition’ to trope its acronym, Hoggart’s dismissiveness was ill-informed – but quite representative.

    8 Calm down, Kevin. Women continue to be excluded from key positions in TV newsrooms around the globe in favour of people like you (Byerly, 2013). In any event, since you lost your job in 2014 as Fox ratings descended into the mire, perhaps you’ll find more time to appreciate NBC (James, 2014).

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