QUESTIONS concerning television production have always been important within criticism and research, although direct attention to production processes has sometimes been seen as a neglected or underdeveloped aspect of enquiry. With the possible exception of work on television news, there is not yet the richness of intellectual agenda here which can be traced in the history of work on institutional structures, programme forms, and audiences. Even enquiries into news production have frequently displayed too narrow an approach to popular knowledge.
One reason for the relative neglect and, to some extent, the intellectual underdevelopment of the area is the difficulty of gaining access to the production stages, of collecting enough data to be able to provide an analytic account and to generate and test ideas. Programmes, despite the difficulties of analytic method they present, are an exposed phase of television, their availability for analysis significantly increased with the arrival of videotape in the studio and then in the academy. Audiences pose more problems for the researcher, but not ones which are unique in social science fieldwork. To a point, structures of funding and organization (raising questions of institution, see Chapter 2) can be studied through the policy documentation which implements them or which they generate. Although production, too, is documented--it is after all a process firmly within the setting of institution--many of the questions which critics and researchers want to ask of it are not easily answered, if answered at all, by the schedules, memos, scripts, and correspondence files which trace its path, helpful though these are when made available. The extensive use of interviews to gain a level of secondary data and the methods of observational fieldwork (including where appropriate participant observation) to gain primary material are key procedures here, raising their own problems of implementation and of evidential validity.
Production is a phase within which different dynamics of television meet. It is a moment in a process but it is the moment of formation and this gives it a primacy no matter what transformations occur later (for instance, in the variety of viewer interpretations which a particular programme is given). It is a moment of multiple intentions, corporate and individual, however problematic these may be to recover. It is also a moment of creativity, in which various professional and artistic skills, framed by industrial requirements and constraints of resource and time, are brought to bear in order to get something on the screen. The interconnection with institution is obvious, so is that with technology and with textual form, including generic identity. The link with audience is more indirect, but is firmly there as a matter of