The Irish conflict as portrayed in British drama documentaries : an analysis of the television text and audience interpretations
The research was developed and conducted to analyse the way in which the conflict is represented in two British drama-documentaries, Who Bombed Birmingham? and Shoot to Kill, and to examine audience understandings of the events presented in the programmes. In doing it has raised issues concerning the social production of knowledge, the availability of discourses around the conflict and the processes by which viewers make sense of television presentations. This research has aimed to locate the representations and the audience interpretations in the wider social context. With the focus on discourse and language it has been possible to show how the debates about the conflict take place around a restricted set of repertoires, in particular debates concerning violence. This is partly due to censorship, but also because of the way in which some accounts are seen as being obvious or 'natural'. This was empirically addressed by the Q-methodological study which identified two accounts through which participants made sense of the conflict. This set the wider social and cultural context within which the broader based audience discussions and understandings could be located. The audience group discussions clearly showed viewers to be both 'social' and 'active' although constrained by the text which could be seen as having 'set the agenda', but, some viewers could be seen as giving 'critical' readings. By examining drama-documentaries some key questions were addressed concerning the role they played in constructing social knowledge and creating histories of the events of the conflict. The notion of drama-documentary as a 'problematic' form was addressed with particular attention being paid to the way in which 'fact' and 'fiction' are constructed as separate entities. This further opened up the debate as to whether they could or should be seen as a 'progressive' teievisual form. Whilst they can be seen as providing some space for alternative representations they do so in the wider context within which there are a limited number of representations in circulation from which to draw from.