The global versus the national, shared versus cosmopolitan memory : the case of co-produced television documentaries
This thesis is an inquiry into the impact of recent trends towards globalization and commercialization on the ways in which national identity and 'shared memory' find expression in the media. Concentrating on the economics of television documentary production, I ask how commercialization and globalization give rise to 'new' representations of shared memory, and examine the extent to which they impinge on the types of narratives that had previously been associated with 'Old TV'. These questions are explored in the context of one particular mode of television production, international co-productions. Here I find the global and the national interacting with one another in a significant and complex manner. International co-productions provide a kind of focusing lens for the study of the impact of globalization and commercialization on the representation of national identity and shared memory. The analysis proceeds through a detailed case study of a specific television documentary, The Fifty Years War: Israel and the Arabs (1998) co-produced by three television networks, BBC2, PBS (WGBH Boston) and MBC (Abu-Dhabi/London). Making this programme was only possible after funding from separate sources had been secured, with the quid pro quo of each funding source being given the right to use the produced footage to construct its own version of the final product. The completed series thus exists in three distinct national/cultural versions, where each version offers a different reading of the historical events depicted. The present study considers the processes that led to this co-production, examines the actual course of production, and analyses the similarities and differences among the three resulting national/cultural products. Findings reveal basic and inherent tensions, between economic constraints and cultural forces, between the national and the global, and between 'shared' and 'cosmopolitan' memory. The study thus offers lessons extending beyond any single case, onto the broader vista of the three-sided interplay of mass media, shared memory and national identity in an age of globalization.