The thesis stems from a programme of research which was carried out at the Centre for Mass Communication Research, Leicester University, after which a number of key problems in the field of ‘understanding television' were framed at a colloquium in Copenhagen towards the end of 1976. This study takes up-many of the recommendations of that meeting in documenting the entire process of making a major television programme from the formation of an original ‘programme idea', through scriptwriting, casting, shooting and editing to transmission. As an exercise in Participant Observation it records in detail the operation of a range of structural constraints and their effects upon the film and its production personnel, as well as recording and comparing a producer's original intentions and their adaption or retention within a process of production. In focussing upon a drama-documentary the thesis also examines the concept of realism and its construction within a film. It posits realism, not as a means of copying reality, but as the result of a culturally constructed symbolic activity in which both the producer and his audience participate. The thesis therefore adopts an holistic approach, where 'productiont' is the sum of all the different moments of production and reception within a communicative process as a whole. It consequently includes a study of a sample audience and individual's reactions to the programme. The study is critical of semiotic analysis in so far as it divorces an examination of a message and its reception from its source, and it concludes that a continuous programme of investigative documentation at ground-level must be necessarily complementary to other studies of television as a medium
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