British television news in the 1990s : newsworthiness in a multi-organisational and multi-programme environment
This study is concerned with the constituent features of television news in Britain in the 1990s. It examines both the content of television news and production strategies employed by television journalists in the context of the changing structural and cultural relations of British television during the 1980s and 1990s. An underlying theme of this thesis is the important role that television news has to play in relation to citizenship rights and as an important institution of the public sphere in Britain. A process of fragmentation of the television news genre has in recent years, resulted in the evolution of a variety of different news programmes which exhibit different concepts of newsworthiness and public interest journalism. Such fragmentation is challenging long established notions of quality and public interest progranmiing and replacing them with a more populist approach emphasing entertainment. In addition the ability of televison news to play an important role in enabling the public to play an active part in a democracy is being further restricted and undermined in the mid- 1990s through the increasing commercialization of broadcasting institutions. To date analyses of news content and news production have tended to ignore the complexity of the news genre itself and have assumed that television journalism can be analysed as a unitary practice, neglecting the competitive diversity and dynamic technological change occurring in British broadcasting. However it is a theme of this thesis that the critical analysis and interpretation of television news remains incomplete without an in-depth study of the multiplicity of news programmes and news orgamsations which exist in Britain in the 1990s. This thesis shows, using content analysis and observational analysis, that television news in the 1990s has reached a critical juncture. Key vectors of change, politico-economic (including the new wave of commercialization of television news in the 1990s), technological and transnational influences have strongly affected the broadcasting environment in Britain over the last decade and increased the pressure on news providers. News values are becoming more tied to particular contractual specifications made upon news programmes. Newsworthiness itself is constructed within journalistic professional culture, by the journalist's zone and mode of operation, and is adapted to the designated style of an organisation or programme. The variety and diversity of "mid-ranking stories" and the differences in treatment of "big news stories" by different news programmes - processes which are revealed in the empirical studies in this thesis - illustrate clearly how newsworthiness can be adapted and changed to fit particular programme epistemologies.