British documentary television production : tradition, change and 'crisis' within a practitioner community.
This thesis will examine the professional identity, beliefs and practices of
documentary programme-makers working in British television in the late 1990s. The
principal purpose of this enquiry is to understand the ways in which traditions of genre
and profession are influential within current documentary programme-making and how
these traditions interact with structural and ideological changes within the British
Original research findings presented here describe and analyse: changes in the
types of documentary programmes broadcast during the 1990s; transformations in the
production process; public debates about documentary television that took place in
1998/1 999; practitioners' production experiences and their perceptions of profession and
genre. It is argued that documentary directors/producers comprise a symbolic community
that is conceptually constructed through common practices, shared guidelines and
traditions. Although documentarists' claims for documentary-making are sometimes
contradicted by the practical realities of their work, the community and its associated
traditions are particularly important to practitioners when industry change prompts fears
of a "crisis" in their profession. The general theoretical aim is to describe and analyse
relational and discursive aspects of both professional identity and cultural production
within the context of a changing industry.
Contained within the thesis is an exploration of the academic fields within which
this study is sited, a discussion of the theoretical and methodological approach adopted
and presentation of the findings arising from the programme survey (including a
comparative study of documentary television in the United States) and the ethnographic-type
research conducted with documentary television practitioners.