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American Consultants and the Marketization of Television News in the United Kingdom

by Madeleine Liseblad (Author)
Monographs XXII, 280 Pages
Series: Mediating American History, Volume 18

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Research Scope and Approach
  • 1 The American Format: Inviting the Viewer into the Action
  • 2 European and British Broadcasting: Informational Public Service, Fearful of Americanization
  • 3 Crossing the Atlantic: American Consultants Tackling Research, Training; Similarities and Differences Between the BBC and ITV
  • 4 The News: All-Encompassing Changes
  • 5 Visibility and Likability: Changing Talent Roles
  • 6 Unstoppable Movement: Strong Societal Forces at Play
  • 7 Good Storytelling: Contextualizing the British Transformation, Surprises and Implications
  • Appendix
  • Interview Subjects
  • Frank N. Magid Associates, Partial Client List
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

cover

About the book

American Consultants and the Marketization of Television News in the United Kingdom provides unprecedented insight into American news consultants’ role in reshaping British television news during the 1990s. In 1986, American research and news consulting company Frank N. Magid Associates began infiltrating the British market. Five years later, the company was consulting for an extensive list of British client stations in preparation for the 1991 Independent Television (ITV) franchise auction. Their efforts were controversial, prompting public outcry against the “Americanization” of British television news. Despite the hostile climate, Magid’s efforts were successful. Nine of their eleven client bidders emerged victorious from the franchise auction. This was only the beginning. Throughout the 1990s, Magid employees crisscrossed the country with research studies, business and marketing plans, and writing and storytelling seminars. At the time, this was the company’s largest venture into international television.

American consultants’ work abroad is important. They spread the U.S. model—the origin of today’s on-air style—and changed television news globally by working with indigenous media. Yet, despite their vast influence, limited research has been conducted on their international efforts, largely because of proprietary material. This book is based on unprecedented and unrestricted access to Magid’s archives. In addition, interviews with Magid staff and U.K. journalists allow for a comprehensive examination of the marketization of British television news, attending especially to how news became better tailored to the medium and audience; the key concepts that Magid advocated to be integrated into U.K. news; and the societal forces at play in this transformation.

American Consultants and the Marketization of Television News in the United Kingdom is a recommended read for anyone interested in journalism and television history, Americanization, media economics and sociology.

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Preface

Some spend spring break on a sunny beach. I spent spring break 2016 in a dungeon in Marion, Iowa. But it is not as bad as it sounds. For a television news history geek, it was the ultimate spring break party.

This research literally and figuratively arose from the depths of “The Dungeon,” the nickname for the Frank N. Magid Associates archive. Magid—one of America’s leading research and consultancy companies—had previously not allowed external scholars to examine its television material. The information has been considered a trade secret and, therefore, kept private. However, I was given unconditional and unrestricted admittance; the company did not place any restrictions on what materials I collected, nor any restrictions on what I could write. As a result, this book provides a unique and rare insight into news consultants’ methods and recommendations.

The archival material provided the impetus for this book. In addition, in-depth interviews with Magid staff and U.K. journalists—all active in the 1990s—advanced the project, allowing for a comprehensive analysis. This book is distinct in many regards; the material and focus are truly unique. It explains how American consultants worked abroad, how Magid staff members and British journalists experienced changes in television news, and what they saw and felt. The heart of this book is the evolution of television news storytelling.

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The 1990s was a decade of tremendous change for European broadcasting. Public service television now had to compete with commercial television. Changes occurred at a rapid pace, making it exciting, scary, and sad, all at the same time. The decade was filled with highs and lows, depending on who you were and where you worked. It is in my opinion the most exciting decade in European media history.

I was born and raised in Sweden. My parents escaped the communist regime in what was then Czechoslovakia for a better life in Sweden. Growing up, I only had access to two channels of public service television—Swedish Television’s (SVT) Channel 1 and Channel 2. I remember waiting patiently for broadcasts to come on, watching the television countdown clock. My parents watched the evening news every night; it was almost like a religious routine. Most nights they would watch both Aktuellt and Rapport—SVT’s main newscasts. As a child, I read the local newspaper every morning and watched television news with my family. My parents believed in the value of journalism and the value in being informed about the world around you.

I am intimately aware of the changes that swept through most of Europe in the late 1980s and 1990s. The collapse of communism impacted me personally because of my family. I lived through much of the privatization movement that spread throughout Europe. The rapid changes that occurred in the 1990s were exciting, but also alarming at times. Nations changed and split apart; my parents’ native country divided into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic in the 1993 Velvet Divorce. In Europe, an open marketplace with large-scale privatization emerged. There was an explosion of new media outlets. I could now choose to watch either public service or commercial television.

My background as a journalist, and in particular my time in local television news, provides me with an understanding of how the news industry works. Merge my background as a journalist with my interest in the changes in Europe in the 1990s, and it is easy to understand my fascination with media changes during that decade. My love for historical research focusing on television news began during studies for my master’s degree. My thesis centered on the Czech Republic’s TV Nova and its adoption of U.S.-style television. The station used American consultants from McHugh & Hoffman to shape its newscast. TV Nova was an overnight success with its American programs and American-style newscast.

Overall, news consultants are not well liked. They have been called news doctors, accused of inoculating people with a dumbed down newscast. Furthermore, their recommendations usually result in visible changes and sometimes even firings. They are not welcomed with open arms by broadcast journalists. ←xiv | xv→Consultants are also not popular with most academic researchers. The American influence on worldwide media—often called Americanization or imperialism—is a contested topic with the international scholarly community, as well as a concern for foreign governments. Thus, some of the findings in this book may come as a surprise. As one of the main sources of material—the Magid archive—was previously unavailable, my findings point to some new, interesting conclusions. Every effort was made to let the newly available evidence—the archival material coupled with in-depth interviews—provide a robust accounting for this time of transition in the United Kingdom. However, as the bulk of the primary sourcework came from Magid, this is a book mainly told from the Magid perspective.

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Acknowledgments

This research would not have been possible without the admittance to the Frank N. Magid archive. I would like to thank the Magid employees in Marion, Iowa, for their hospitality during my visit. I also want to thank Steve Ridge, Magid’s former chief operating officer, for approving my unrestricted access to the archive. In addition, I owe a thank you to Joe George, a former Magid executive vice president and director of marketing, for facilitating my request for access. Furthermore, I want to acknowledge Dr. Craig Allen at Arizona State University for providing the Magid connection.

I am also grateful for my 23 interview subjects—Emily Bell, Roger Bolton, Lindsay Charlton, Penny Chrimes, Alan Douglas, Alan Fisher, Joe George, Barbara Gibbon, Mike Hais, Carla Hargis, Mackie Morris, Charles Munro, Richard Myers, Terry Page, Stuart Prebble, Jeff Puffer, Stewart Purvis, Reagan Ramsey, Richard Sambrook, Tom Sattizahn, Angus Simpson, Laurie Upshon, and Ned Warwick. Their help, generosity, and willingness to share their insights and experiences were invaluable to this research. Most of them spent well over an hour, and in some cases almost two hours, answering my questions and telling me about their experiences. Without the archival material and the interviews, this book would not have been possible.

←xvii | xviii→

A portion of this book, focusing on the societal forces, was presented at the 2018 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference where it won a top paper award from the history division. A revised version of that paper was also published in American Journalism. Another part of the book, centering on the news presenter role, was discussed at the 2019 AEJMC conference. Furthermore, a paper focusing on the British news reporter role and the use of standups and live shots was presented at the Broadcast Education Association’s (BEA) 2019 on-location conference. I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their feedback, inspiring me to continue to explore this as a book. Their comments showed my research was interesting and worthwhile in furthering the knowledge about television history.

I would also like to thank Dr. Greg Pitts, the director of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at Middle Tennessee State University, and Dr. Mike Conway, associate professor at The Media School at Indiana University, Bloomington. They took the time to read drafts of my manuscript and provided valuable feedback. Along the same lines, at Peter Lang, Series Editor David Copeland was encouraging from start to finish, as was Associate Editor Erika Hendrix.

While I ended up working in television news sort of by accident—I always thought I would become a print reporter—those I met along the way taught me the ins and outs of this great visual medium. Thanks to my former colleagues at California-stations KGTV in San Diego, KSBY-TV in San Luis Obispo, and KCRA-TV in Sacramento for sharing their insights and for their friendships. In my career prior to academia—working in television and radio, with newspapers, magazines, online media, and in public relations—I learned the importance of storytelling. Every medium—and every media outlet—is different, but journalists strive to be good storytellers. Every journalist wants to make a difference, to inform and relay information in an impactful manner to their audience. Journalism plays an important function in society. I have never encountered a journalist who did not take their craft—and the responsibility of that craft—seriously.

Summary

American Consultants and the Marketization of Television News in the United Kingdom provides unprecedented insight into American news consultants’ role in reshaping British television news during the 1990s. In 1986, American research and news consulting company Frank N. Magid Associates began infiltrating the British market. Five years later, the company was consulting for an extensive list of British client stations in preparation for the 1991 Independent Television (ITV) franchise auction. Their efforts were controversial, prompting public outcry against the "Americanization" of British television news. Despite the hostile climate, Magid’s efforts were successful. Nine of their eleven client bidders emerged victorious from the franchise auction. This was only the beginning. Throughout the 1990s, Magid employees crisscrossed the country with research studies, business and marketing plans, and writing and storytelling seminars. At the time, this was the company’s largest venture into international television.
American consultants’ work abroad is important. They spread the U.S. model—the origin of today’s on-air style—and changed television news globally by working with indigenous media. Yet, despite their vast influence, limited research has been conducted on their international efforts, largely because of proprietary material. This book is based on unprecedented and unrestricted access to Magid’s archives. In addition, interviews with Magid staff and U.K. journalists allow for a comprehensive examination of the marketization of British television news, attending especially to how news became better tailored to the medium and audience; the key concepts that Magid advocated to be integrated into U.K. news; and the societal forces at play in this transformation.
American Consultants and the Marketization of Television News in the United Kingdom is a recommended read for anyone interested in journalism and television history, Americanization, media economics and sociology.

Details

Pages
XXII, 280
ISBN (PDF)
9781433165238
ISBN (ePUB)
9781433165245
ISBN (MOBI)
9781433165252
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433165269
Language
English
Publication date
2020 (December)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XXII, 280 pp., 8 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Madeleine Liseblad (Author)

Madeleine Liseblad is an assistant professor at Middle Tennessee State’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media and she received her Ph.D. from Arizona State’s Cronkite School. Liseblad has extensive professional experience in journalism and conducts mainly historical research centering on television news.

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Title: American Consultants and the Marketization of Television News in the United Kingdom