'Negotiated outcomes' : an ethnography of the production and consumption of a BBC World Service radio soap opera for Afghanistan.
This study examines the production and consumption of a BBC World
Service soap opera called New Home, New Life that is produced for the radio
listening public of Afghanistan. Ethnographic fieldwork was undertaken at the
BBC's radio production unit in northern Pakistan and in Pashtun communities
within rural and urban areas in south-east and central Afghanistan. Critically
informed by a material culture perspective, this thesis promotes a relational
approach to the study of mass media production and consumption, this being
perceived to represent an advance on studies that ignore spheres of
production in favour of audience consumption. The choices and resources
that listeners invest in radio services is addressed from the standpoint of the
structuring of relations of trust, which in turn is related to issues of popularity,
conflict and domestic radio use. The structures and prosaic daily patterns of
radio soap opera production are addressed, with analysis being deepened to
examine the production definition and audience appropriation of the soap
opera's fictive context and characters. Here, issues of episodic and
melodramatic structure also come to the fore. The representation of politics
and religion represents a critical aspect of production, consumption and BBC
impartiality, yet beneath policy it is shown that a far more social and
negotiated form of production occurs. Following this analysis, the issues of
localisation, romance and producer-consumer articulations are considered.
Finally, the sociality of the soap opera is traced through audience gossip and
the impact that emotive storylines have upon male and female listeners.
Here, the issues of gender and space emerge in analytical focus.