Industry, Technology and Politics
Edited By Alec Charles
David McQueen Between a Rock and a Hard Place - the Uncertain Future of Current Affairs
David McQueen Between a Rock and a Hard Place – the Uncertain Future of Current Af fairs Current af fairs television is in a strange and precarious place after sixty years at the heart of British broadcasting. First launched in 1953 the BBC’s Panorama was a trail-blazer for the current af fairs form and following a rather shaky birth (see Lindley 2003) it set the standard for current af fairs programmes which followed in its path. Many of those that were in compe- tition with Panorama over the following six decades, including hard-hitting ITV series such as World in Action, This Week and First Tuesday, have long disappeared from British television screens, although their inf luence lives on. Ofcom’s 2012 survey of the television schedules found an abundance of programmes with current af fairs content across all the main channels and that audiences for these programmes are rising significantly as those for news falls. However, those self-styled f lagships of current af fairs, Panorama and Channel 4’s Dispatches, were reduced to half-hour formats from 2006 and 2011 respectively and adopted more tabloid formats and themes to retain audiences. More generally, current af fairs coverage has seen a reduced presence in peak time, waning inf luence in the media and falling budgets (Hughes 2013). Squeezed by 24-hour news coverage, creative factual television and a vibrant, independent documentary sector, current af fairs coverage is suf fering a ‘crisis of confidence’ (Hughes 2013) and a mislaid sense of pur- pose. This fragile confidence took...
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