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The social organisation of news production: a case study of BBC radio and television news

Schlesinger, Philip (1975) The social organisation of news production: a case study of BBC radio and television news. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This is a case study in the microsociology of knowledge conducted in the London-based News Division of the British Broadcasting Corporation during 1972-3. The data was gathered by fieldwork in Broadcasting House and Television Centre. The study falls into two parts. The first, after a review of relevant literature, presents a detailed account of those dimensions of the organisational milieu necessary for an understanding of broadcast news production. These are: the hierarchical control structure which determines policy for news coverage; the everyday production routines which structure “news” as an organisational product; the system of advanced planning through which news stories are identified. This section also locates the legitimising role played by the BBC’s editorial philosophy and power structure, and considers implications of the broadcaster’s conventional distinction between “news” and “current affairs”. The second part of the study develops the idea of news producers as constituting and epistemic community whose work skills, organisational location, and occupational knowledge give them a distinctive cognitive orientation. Newsmen’s characterisation of their thought and practice as “professional” is analysed as a mode of conferring authority upon the production process, and the product “news”. It is then argued that newsmen’s primary framework of reference is the organisation within which they assert their complete autonomy from the audience, while at the same time asserting their unique capacity to determine its needs for news. Next, “impartiality” is analysed as a distinctive corporate conceptions drawn from a model of the political consensus represented by the major Parliamentary political parties, and is presented as illus-trating the BBC’s accommodation to the realities of State power. Newsmen’s claim to be accurate is next considered. It is shown how they support their claim by pointing to empiricist methods of authentication. The specific character of these is demonstrated by showing how news production is heavily condition-ed by the temporal imperatives of the daily news cycle. The study then concludes after considering newsmen’s time-conscious-ness; their professionalism in this context is analysed as being in control of the pace of often unpredictable work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 1975 Philip Schlesinger
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Collections > LSE History of Thought theses

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