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


Madeleine Liseblad

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.

“This landmark book by international broadcasting scholar, Madeleine Liseblad, offers invaluable insight into the previously untold story of how America’s leading TV News consultants expanded their methods and client base into the UK. Using company records, it shows how consultants provided direction for the BBC and ITV. Viewed skeptically for encouraging a model of an anchor on daily newscasts, we learn how the British adopted a market-driven system. This is a must read for media scholars.” —Michael D. Murray, University of Missouri Board of Curators Distinguished Professor Emeritus; Author of The Political Performers; Editor-in-chief, The Encyclopedia of Television News

“After spending 20 years in television newsrooms working with Magid consultants, it was fascinating to read the behind-the-scenes workings of this global leader in news consulting. Dr. Liseblad’s unprecedented access to Magid archives and interviews with top executives peel back the curtain on how this American company exported its audience research-based strategies to transform television news in the UK from staid reporting to audience-driven storytelling. The pushback from UK journalists she interviewed will ring familiar to many U.S. broadcast journalists.” —Mary T. Rogus, Associate Professor, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University

“This analysis of the role of American TV news consultants in the UK in the 1990s is an excellent overview of the impact of consultants on the BBC and ITV. Professor Liseblad’s analysis is a unique and valuable contribution to our understanding of the impact of the American style of TV journalism in Europe. The combination of analysis of consultant archives and interviews with both consultants and journalists adds insight to our understanding of the Americanization of TV news around the world.” —Sam Swan, School of Journalism and Electronic Media, University of Tennessee