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Digital Television

Getting It: The Aggressive Defence of New Media & Television Studies

“I think there is a great divide in [TV], there are those that absolutely know it and get it … and those who are still fairly in the dark with it” (Interview 15)

“They [broadcasters] just don’t really get it yet” (Interview 104)

Television’s transition to digital media is now largely complete in many Western nations, making a new media form out of a technology that has often been positioned as the old media technology par excellence. This paper asks how the transition has affected both the production and study of television.

In the first section of my paper I examine how television’s digitalisation has brought the production cultures and processes of “old,” broadcast, television into contact with the “new” cultures of digital media. Drawing on a two-year research project on the production cultures of UK television and digital media companies involved in producing “multiplatform” content for broadcasters, I discuss how a discourse of “getting it” emerged in the way television and digital producers and companies interact with each other. For some digital producers, many of their television workers and broadcasters simply didn’t “get” digital media. Such a discourse was part of a wider set of boundary-marking rituals between television and digital media, which meant the production cultures didn’t “speak each others’ language at all” (Interview 39).

In part two, I turn to this question of different languages and cultures in relation to our own academic study of television. In Television as Digital Media, I argued that studying television as digital media required an urgent consideration of “a new anthology in television studies history, one that draws explicitly on new media studies in order to constitute television as digital media as its object of study” (2011: p. 8). Thus in thinking about “what is the digital television of television studies,” I examine a range of recent academic work on digital television. In so doing, I ask not only whether we “get” the digital of our new object of study, but also whether it gets us.

James Bennett
University of London

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