Volume 8 Number 2 Summer issue - Media Across Borders

Printable version Thursday 12 December 2013 Last updated at 13:28

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Editorial - TV Formats, History, Theory, Industry and Audiences by Andrea Esser

Global Television Formats: Genesis and Growth by Albert Moran

Beginning in 1999 with Big Brother, the international television industry has seen a succession of mega programme formats over the past fifteen years. Yet, while critical researchers scramble to make sense of this phenomenon, the fact is that the practice of media franchising is not new, even if its place in the spotlight is relatively recent. To support my overall claim about the longevity of programme replication, I will consider the trajectory of content remaking since the 1930s in terms of four periods. The article identifies the programme remaking that occurred in each stage. It also pinpoints a cluster of factors that helped precipitate each new phase, thereby contributing to the emerging field of global television format studies.

Keywords: television format studies, TV format history, international television industry, cultural adaptation, media franchising

On the Line: Format, Cooking and Competition as Television Values by Tasha Oren

Through an in-depth look at the history of US food television, this essay elucidates the extent to which contemporary television relies on the structural (and narrative) logic of the format. Focusing on contemporary food television's radical evolution with the introduction of competition programmes and formats, the essay accounts for the move away from female-centred, domestic ‘How-to’ cooking programmes in favour of restaurant-set competition shows that highlight professional, high-stakes performance, criticism, stress, and risk. This shift from the aspirational aesthetics of ‘Gastro Porn’ to the psychological endurance of what I (albeit playfully) term ‘Culinary S&M' illustrates how contemporary cooking competition programmes in the multi-platform media marketplace help re-align cultural meanings of food, pleasure, taste, identity, labour and consumption.

Keywords: cooking programmes, format, television convention, competition programmes, cultural meaning, foodTV

From Localisation to Translocalisation: Audience Readings of the Television Format Top Model by Miriam Stehling

The article approaches the issue of the localisation of television formats from an audience perspective, investigating how viewers interpret a global television format. Applying the concepts of transculturality and cultural proximity to empirical audience research, the article suggests that transculturality as mediatised practice exists in audience reception, revealed through similar patterns in the decoding process of a global television format by viewers from different cultural contexts. The article aims to show that localisation within the context of audience reception can also be regarded as translocalisation.

Keywords: global television formats, localisation, transculturality, cultural proximity, audience research, reality television

Reflection i: Transnational TV Formats: Making the Local Visible and the global Invisible by Jean K. Chalaby

This short reflection contends that formats make ‘the local visible and the global invisible’—just like football games and the FIFA rules and regulations that shape them globally. Second, it is argued that formats are successful internationally only if they resonate with an audience in each and every market in which they air. Finally, Lascia o Raddoppia? (Leave It or Double It, 1955-59) is used as an example to demonstrate that format adaptations can have genuine local impact, in this case, contributing to Italy's linguistic and cultural unification.

Keywords: television formats, localisation, adaptation, local-global nexus

Television Across Boundaries: Localisation of Big Brother Africa by Martin Nkosi Ndlela

This article explores the localisation of the Big Brother Africa format in the sub-Saharan Africa. It examines the production structures that exist, and the main actors involved in the localisation. It also examines the central factors taken into consideration during the localisation process. The article argues that as the format passes through different stages in the production process, from idea conception to broadcasting, several inputs are ploughed in to suit the cultural specificity of the target audience.

Keywords: television formats, localisation, adaptation, cultural production, Big Brother Africa

Reflection ii: The Format Trade and Transnational Knowledge Cultures by Elke Weissmann

Drawing on research of online discourses of drama formats, this short reflection highlights how an increasing number of television viewers use their ‘transnational knowledge’ of TV programmes to discuss and evaluate adaptations. Moreover, it is argued that such discourses also reveal the appeal of ‘the other local’, something that provides variety and difference. This second understanding of the local: one which is specific, different and, crucially, other to the home culture, should not be ignored.

Keywords: television formats, adaptation, transnational knowledge cultures, local, television viewers

Format Adaptation and Craftsmanship: Interview with Polish Television Writer Agnieszka Kruk by Sylwia Szostak

The interview with Polish television writer, Agnieszka Kruk, highlights the experience of format adaptation from the point of view of the writer. Kruk reveals how she gained from the knowledge offered by the foreign consultants and explains what aspects of the knowledge transfer she found particularly useful. Her account demonstrates the positive impact format adaptation can have on professionals in local television industries, in this case, benefitting their scriptwriting and production skills.

Keywords: television formats, localisation, scriptwriting, knowledge transfer, Poland

The Use of Format Adaptation in Danish Public Service Programming by Pia Majbritt Jensen

The article investigates Danish public service broadcasters' use of format adaptations over a twelve-year period in order to examine claims that formats constitute a potential threat to public service broadcasting and the national Danish television industry and culture. The article's findings, however, bear little evidence to support these claims. The practice of format adaptation constitutes a comparatively small proportion of the overall production of Danish public service content, and, more importantly, most of the formats adapted by the public broadcasters have a comparatively solid public service orientation. Instead the article argues, following German sociologist Ulrich Beck, that format adaptation can represent a form of ‘banal transnationalism’, pointing to the fact that the world is no longer exclusively defined by national boundaries.

Keywords: public service broadcasting, format adaptation, programme scheduling, Denmark, television genres, transnationalism

Reflection iii: Transnationalisation, Television Formats and the Universal by Simone Knox

This reflection argues that, despite various good reasons for approaching the notion of the ‘universal’ with caution, cultural theorists should give up their resistance to the universal. The prominence of formats in today's television suggests that the time is ripe to do. Intentionally or not, accounts of difference implicitly also often reveal sameness; the more we probe heterogeneity, the more likely we are to encounter something that remains consistent and similar. Thus, it is time to collaborate with scholars from the numerous disciplines for which the universal has long had validity and pertinence.

Keywords: television formats, transnationalisation, universal, cross-disciplinary collaboration

Book Reviews 

Sarah Cardwell, Elke Weissmann, Andrea Esser, Paul Rixon, Janet McCabe, Ian Mowatt, Anthony N. Smith, Emily Keightley, Niall Brennan and Manel Jiménez-Morales

Filmography and TV Listings

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