History Documentary on UK Terrestrial Television, 1982-2002

  • Dafydd Sills-Jones

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is an examination of the connection between the changes in the political economy of television, and changes in history documentary form, between 1982 and 2002 on UK terrestrial television. It reviews the literature on the political economy of the media, including public service broadcasting (PSB), and on documentary form, including history documentary form. The thesis then poses three research questions which aim to explore changes in the political economy of television, the effect these changes had on the production of history documentary, and the effect these changes in production had on the form of history documentary. The thesis used official documentation, television listings, practitioner interviews and textual analysis to answer these research questions. The thesis then lays out a historical narrative of the developments in the production of history documentary on UK terrestrial television between 1982 and 2002, and analyses the causes and results of these developments. It argues that a direct link exists between changes in the political economy of television and changes in the form of history documentary between 1982 and 2002. The thesis demonstrates that the shift from traditional PSB values towards a market-driven broadcasting ecology affected the production, and form, of history documentaries. These changes in turn challenged traditional notions of quality and history documentary‘s function as a form of PSB. The thesis also demonstrates that the effect of political economic change on history documentary form was not as simple as had hitherto been implied in the academic literature. In particular, there was a parallel between the tension between public service and commercial aims, in both the structures of television production, and the form of history documentary.
Date of Award04 Sept 2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJamie Medhurst (Supervisor) & Thomas O'Malley (Supervisor)

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