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Watching the cops: a case study of production processes on television police drama "The Bill"

Colbran, Marianne (2011) Watching the cops: a case study of production processes on television police drama "The Bill". PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis examines the process of storytelling on television police drama, The Bill. It explores how factors such as commercial imperatives, working processes and artistic constraints affected representation of the police. The study argues that, in the early days of the show, stories originated with the freelance writers and were based on research and observation of police work. Representation of the police was favourable, partly due to the ideological views of the makers and partly due to the format: stories had to be resolved within a half-hour timeslot, which militated against writers being able to tell stories about issues such as racism, sexism and corruption. However, due to changing market forces in the television industry, the show reinvented itself as a serial in 2001. The exigencies of the new schedule meant less time for research. There was also pressure on the makers to attract a younger audience demographic. Stories were now originated by an in-house team and based on other media sources, setting up “media loops” (Manning 2003) and a recycling of ideas current in media culture about policing and law and order politics. Story-lines became inaccurate and controversial. Findings from focus groups with officers from the Metropolitan Police Service and the Greater Manchester Police also showed that, on occasion, story-lines concerning the handling of witnesses on the show and interview procedures had hampered officers when carrying out investigations. The study concludes that, to echo Silverstone (1985), there is an arbitrariness at the heart of making any television show – that whether the police are depicted favourably or unfavourably is determined as much by the need to attract a certain audience demographic and restrictions in the format as by any ideological intent on the part of the programme-makers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Marianne Colbran
Library of Congress subject classification: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Rock, Paul and Foster, Janet and Reiner, Robert

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