Family Television: Cultural Power and Domestic Leisure

By David Morley | Go to book overview

Introduction

In spite of its modest claims, this is in fact a seminal piece of research into the question of the social uses of television. It delivers new insights and genuinely provides what many other studies misleadingly label as “findings”. More significantly, it makes us look again at what we thought was obvious, thereby opening up new questions. Like all good research, it does not appear out of the blue but is part of an unfolding project of work on which David Morley has been engaged for over a decade. Those not already familiar with its earlier stages will want to set this latest instalment in the context of the study of Nationwide, with Charlotte Brunsdon (BFI Monograph, 1978: Brunsdon and Morley), Morley's own follow-up, The Nationwide Audience (also a BFI Monograph, 1980) and the article in Culture, Media, Language (1980) entitled “Texts, Readers, Subjects”, which critically reflected on the evolving theoretical line of argument.

This body of work helped to bring about the long-overdue demise of old-style audience surveys, with their monolithic conception of “the viewer” and simple-minded notion of message, meaning and influence, which for so long dominated media studies. It helped to inaugurate a new set of interests in a more active conception of the audience and of the codes and competences involved in establishing variant readings. This approach was differentiated from other work on “texts” (from which it nevertheless learned a good deal) by its persistent attention to the social dimensions of viewing and interpretation, alongside the textual aspects.

Despite this suggestive line of inquiry, Morley has had to hustle around to persuade anyone that the project was worth funding, and the whole line of inquiry has thus been subject to unnecessary and damaging fits and starts-an episode which does little credit to those organisations which currently dispose of research funding in the field. The fact that the pilot research for this monograph was completed at all is due to the support of Bob Towler, director of research at the IBA, to whom credit is due; and, of course, to Comedia, which Morley helped to found and which, far from being simply the publisher of the report, is itself part of the whole project in a larger sense.

Morley has now considerably extended the range of research traditions on which he is drawing. This current piece of research

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Family Television: Cultural Power and Domestic Leisure
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Acknowledgements 3
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 7
  • Foreword 11
  • 1 - Understanding the Uses of Television 13
  • 2 - Television in the Family 18
  • 3 - Research Development: from 'Decoding' to Viewing Context 40
  • 4 - Objectives, Methodology and Sample Design 50
  • 5 - Family Interviews 56
  • 6 - Television and Gender 146
  • Afterword 174
  • Notes 176
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