Television And Everyday Life
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If we look at what respondents had to say about the organisation of time and daily routine, we can see that the evening schedule is the most significant space in relation to television and leisure time. Certainly breakfast time is important in terms of the family coming together and then dispersing at different times to work or school, but it is the weekday early evening schedule, when the family regularly settles down to watch the news and Neighbours, before or with their evening meal, that proves to be the most reliable marker point in their discussion of daily routine.
The later programmes are also often the pivot around which other family interactions and activities turn. After the working day, this time is when families engage in discussion, and some conflict, about family viewing, and when household members have often finished the majority of chores and are able to relax in front of the television. If the television schedules are unable to offer satisfaction, then pre-recorded programmes are often chosen see chapter six for further discussion of everyday video habits.
Whilst the television is clearly an important part of the household, we have also seen in this chapter that the daily life of a household often has an implicit time-schedule, and that TV usually only gets attention during the more relaxed parts of the day or when viewing can be combined with another activity — although some items, like the news and soaps, are part of the fixed routine anyway, and take precedence over other tasks. The television is often the centre of collective attention in the living room of a household, although individuals might be conducting their own activities, focused elsewhere, at the same time.
Families and households are therefore drawn together, and sometimes divided in argument, by this shared experience. But finally it is worth remembering that most people have a range of interests separate from television, social relationships more satisfying than television, and other things to do. Some people use these points to sit down and focus on the television; others would engage in unrelated activities, and watch less closely. Individual and family schedules would also vary according to the day, week, and season. Nevertheless, almost all of the diarists had an idea of what would be on TV on a given night.
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And pets, too, appeared in the study as important elements of the household. For example, an year-old female clerical assistant wrote: Enjoyed The Equalizer too. Other unwilling followers of the fascinatingly sadistic Edward Woodward vehicle will recognise this feeling. Chapter 3 News consumption and everyday life This chapter provides a case study of how news programmes function as a structuring device in family and household routines. Whilst the content of news programmes is obviously important to viewers, we will emphasise the often overlooked context of watching television news, which is important to our understanding of television consumption patterns.
People watch the news for a variety of different reasons, for example to keep in touch with world events, or local news items, but the fact that the news is scheduled to coincide with busy periods in the household ensures that watching the news is also part of the dynamic of everyday life. Thus, news bulletins or current affairs programmes are often watched whilst people are simultaneously engaged in other household activities.
The majority of media studies research in television news has focused on such issues as news bias, or what people felt about coverage of specific events, such the death of Diana, Princess of Wales the subject of a forthcoming BFI study. However, such factors must be seen in relation to patterns of everyday life, and so this chapter looks at what people value about television news, and the way in which the news punctuates the day, in many ways becoming part of daily routine in the household.
This type of research is important in our understanding of news programmes, especially in terms of the construction of the news, and in relation to audience views of local and global events. The most dominant type of research on news consumption is audience ratings conducted by broadcasters. However, as Ang has noted, this type of research is not particularly helpful in constructing a picture of what audiences actually do whilst watching television news. However, in terms of local news, respondents relied equally on newspapers and local TV news to gain information about their local area 40 per cent for newspapers, 37 per cent for television.
If we compare this data with MORI opinion polls, we can see that the general public are increasingly dissatisfied with newspapers as a main source of world news. An NOP poll for Ayer Advertising also found that as few as 13 per cent of respondents believed the British press were free of bias ibid. This points towards a trend in the British population suggesting that television coverage of world news is increasingly popular with the British public, compared with other sources.
Research on television coverage of news events has shown that news coverage can have an international impact, and different ways of presenting news events can have different effects on viewers. The Glasgow University Media Group, for example, showed how news bulletins contained a hierarchy of information, with certain types of news items, such as royal stories, being given more importance than others, such as foreign news , The way in which the news is fragmented into different types of stories has given rise to concern that the news has become packaged as entertainment, and that non-serious news items are becoming increasingly dominant Postman As mentioned in chapter one, Brunsdon and Morley focused on the way in which Nationwide, an early evening current affairs magazine programme, addressed its viewers.
Similar research has also been conducted by Dahlgren and Corner et al. Corner et al. Within the tradition of ethnographic practice, there has been little research that tells us much about how news consumption practices fit into everyday life. This gives us an indication of the way in which television news bulletins can feature as part of everyday life, providing a scheduled framework for the whole family. Hobson —10 also found that women tended to view factual programmes and news bulletins as a masculine domain, and some women actively sought to avoid such programmes because they found them boring and depressing.
In Diary 4, June , a special question was asked about news and current affairs, with a particular focus on news bulletins, asking diarists to write about which news bulletins they watched, at what time, and whether there were any main reasons for watching these particular bulletins. In Diary 13, July , respondents were asked to write about their news consumption practices, and to discuss whether their pattern of reading, listening to and viewing news had changed over the previous three years of the study.
Thus, the responses in this chapter on news and everyday life are taken from a range of different questions throughout the diary period in order to present a detailed analysis of the role news and current affairs has in the household. In the BFI Audience Tracking Study, our respondents — in common with the general population — were more likely to watch the news on television than to read about it in newspapers or hear it on the radio.
Forty-four per cent of respondents said that they watched BBC TV news more than twice a day, and just over 30 per cent of respondents said that they watched ITV news more than once a day. Thus, we can see that BBC TV news is the most popular news bulletin, with ITV coming second, and radio and newspapers providing an alternative news source.
In the following section, we discuss why respondents favour television news bulletins above other sources. John Corner noted in Television Form and Public Address that the public trust images of television news, and the impact and memorability of these images is important to viewers, giving them a seemingly direct connection with current events, and a kind of trusting identification with their news-gathering representatives 59— This point was discussed by our respondents.
Often diarists wrote about how keeping in touch with world events was an important feature of what TV meant to them on a daily basis.
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To see the faces of politicians as they discuss topical issues, to watch favourite newsreaders reporting events, and witness events such as the war in Bosnia by watching the daily reports on television: these are all important aspects of why people choose to watch news bulletins and current affairs programmes. For example, these two respondents wrote: The regular timing of news and programmes is of interest to me, providing a framework for the day.
Keeping in touch with world news as well as British and Irish News. These are both interesting and informative.
Respondents also valued the way in which news bulletins were part of the daily TV schedule, providing up-to-the-minute information. For example, this respondent discussed how she and her husband value the quality of Channel Four News, and yet if it clashes with another programme, they do not record it to watch later.
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In a perfect world we would like to watch the Channel Four News — one of the best news offerings Jon Snow has proved more than adequate substitute for Peter Sissons. Incidentally, we find it quite unrewarding to record news or current affairs programmes for viewing even only a few hours later. Their observation that they do not enjoy watching a recorded version of the news highlights something that is noticeable in the majority of diaries — people do not write about time- shifting in relation to news bulletins. This is an issue that will be discussed later, but here it serves to show that what respondents value about the news is its ability to keep them in touch with current events, events which are watched by other people in Britain and to a certain extent around the world at approximately the same time on the same day.
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News consumption and everyday life 57 The following male diarist used the metaphor of drug addiction to discuss how he would feel if he could no longer watch TV news every day: I would have withdrawal symptoms for a start. I would feel cut off from the world. In fact, I had a break from writing this in order to listen to the news I feel part of humanity by sharing a television experience with people all over the world. I remember watching the first moon landing and reflecting on the fact that people all over the world were sharing that moment with me. I feel a tingle of excitement that I was at one with humanity at a momentous event in human history.
Similar events since then include Live Aid and the Royal Wedding! If I could not share these pivotal events with the rest of humanity, I feel that my humanity would be diminished. The ultimate mega-television event will probably be the dawn of the new millennium. This is one of the ways in which the social activity of watching TV can be linked to news coverage: watching world news events is both exciting and a means to share experiences with the rest of the world.
Television news bulletins can therefore be a means of bridging the gap between the public and the private spheres. As Dayan and Katz note, events such as the Olympic Games, the World Cup, royal weddings, or the death of a public figure, are live events that unite audience members with a national or global experience. Typically, in Hollywood movies which reflect anxiety about the new millennium such as Armageddon Michael Bay, , the public are able to take part in the ultimate news event, the end of the world, by gathering around the TV set to witness this global experience.
Audience members in this study praised TV for its ability to bring together public and private experience. Certainly, here, we can see that for certain respondents, the need to feel involved with national or global events ensures that they regularly tune in to the TV set to watch the news.
Diarists discussed the construction of news bulletins and current affairs programmes. This young adult developed a keen interest in the news and how different channels construct news bulletins: Television news is something that has always fascinated me. The use of music, the importance given to news items, the differences in the different news companies e. BBC News contains a lot of politics whereas GMTV news or The Big Breakfast news contains much more showbiz news , the different tones of voice the newsreaders use for sensitive, serious and light hearted issues, coping with breaking news stories and technical faults and the ways in which newsreaders read without appearing to read.
I find it all amazing. Although not many diarists actually watched Newsnight 7 per cent or Channel Four News 9 per cent every day, those that did were full of praise for these news programmes. I am not accusing either of political bias. For some people, specific news events remained ingrained in their minds.
The bombing of Sarajevo market was another memorable and tragic incident. The blood of the civilian once again staining the pavement.
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The image of war in Bosnia, as seen on the news, is symbolic of another war, and it is news footage of the atrocities of the holocaust which allow this respondent to make the connection. It was a really moving piece of film.
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The fact that this woman is aware that by not watching the news she is protecting herself from the full impact of the events in Bosnia only serves to reflect the dramatic nature of certain TV news bulletins. News presenters add to the appeal of TV news bulletins. I would miss Jon Snow. They seem like good-class, dignified, honourable friends.
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Personalities are pleasing. I like Fiona Foster who combines good looks with competence. This diarist, for example, liked watching the news because she felt she could tell whether people were trustworthy or not by the expression on their faces: [Without television] I should miss the shiftiness of so many public faces e.
At the beginning of this chapter, we looked at MORI and NOP polls which suggested that the public trusted newsreaders to tell the truth far more than they trusted other sources of news, such as newspapers or radio bulletins. This was certainly the case in this study, where the relationship between news presenters and the viewing public is seen to be an important one by respondents and illustrates the power of television news over other media.
Following the lead of American news Postman , British television news programmes can also be accused of a decline in standards. In the mids, ITN, for example, chose to spend less time on foreign and political stories and more time on human interest stories in order to maintain its ratings and challenge potential competition Bromley 28—9.