PhD for MACE Regular

Earlier this year Fran Eames was awarded a PhD after conducting research into ITV Central’s regional news collection, which is held at MACE.

Her thesis is entitled Normative Narratives: Everyday identity in regional television news (1960-1980)”, which she describes here:

“It is often forgotten that ATV was one of the largest and most successful of the ITV companies, broadcasting to the Midlands between 1956 and 1981. ATV provided, at one time, approximately one third of all networked programming on ITV and it boasts the oldest of the regional news broadcasts, predating not only other ITV companies but also the BBC regional news. ATV’s legacy is a relatively under-researched, yet significant part of Britain’s broadcasting history. It has achieved bit-part appearances in standard historical surveys of commercial television (Briggs 282-3, Sendall 73-8), but in comparison to heavy-weight histories of the BBC, ATV remains comparatively neglected (Bignell 57-70). 

I focused my research on MACE’s ATV news collection. With a flamboyant founding father who hailed from a musical hall background, ATV offers a specific news product, and provides a colourful contribution to the ‘vast array of different news forms in the larger ecology of news’ (Matthews 2003:133). The breadth of material available from the archive covers hard news, such as race relations in the Midlands, stories of fires and car crashes and sports events, together with soft news human interest items, which, during the 1970s, developed a unique style and tone of comedy and slapstick humour. 

My project focuses on the dominant and distinctive discourse of ‘the everyday’ on ATV’s regional news. Three case studies explore the processes by which different social groups are included or excluded from ATV’s construction of the region’s ‘everyday’ discourses. Each chapter looks at ATV’s version of ‘normality’ and ‘common sense’ and explores how it is constructed, how it changes and how it is distinct from the normative narrative of BBC regional news and of ITV’s national news from ITN. The trajectory of the thesis moves outwards, from the private sphere of the home, gradually, to the public sphere of national and political debate.

Chapters One and Two explore the ‘normal’ world of leisure and hobbies. They argue that normality is a contested sphere and, through an exploration of people and their hobbies on the news, I investigate how the news item frames a particular hobby. Chapters Three and Four draw attention to the processes of ‘home making’ and questions the news’ construction of a ‘normal’ home. This case study looks at groups who pass through the region and investigates how news items work to communicate that travellers – ‘hippies’, ‘gypsies’, and ‘tinkers’ – are an undesirable addition to the normative narrative of the region.

Chapters Five and Six continue to explore the idea of identity and highlights examples of normality ‘under threat’. These chapters extend previous work on ‘outsiders’ in Chapters Three and Four and looks at the representation of race on the local news. In particular, I look at the Ugandan Asian Crisis of 1972 and examine the relationship between the regional and national news on ITV. The Ugandan migration was both a national and local issue and this final chapter demonstrates how the regional news operates differently in such cases, and determines why this is so. Over two decades, the regional news assimilates non-white groups into the normative narrative of the region, but it remains a contested space at the end of the period of the thesis.

The process of working with MACE has been invaluable. Archives are an underused and undervalued resource in the current field of journalism studies. The ability to look back and place the news text within its environment is crucial in gaining a wide understanding of its surrounding political and social trends. The process of working with the team at MACE has also provided me practical skills in film handling and gave me an insight into the importance of the preservation of regional film heritage. I also got to use a Steenbeck! I hope that future institutions continue to work collaboratively with MACE and realise its genuinely interdisciplinary potential.”


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