TV21c Conf
Television and the Nation in an Era of Globalization

This presentation will draw on the outcomes of a long-running internationally comparative research project which looked at post-broadcast television and the construction of community. Initially, the objective of the project was focused around what at the time was a quite commonly held assumption: that the combination of new media technologies, the increasing commercialization of the media, and the forces of globalization had dramatically reduced the importance of the nation-state to considerations of the function of the media generally and of television in particular. A team of researchers from varying disciplinary perspectives and with a range of language skills examined television in a large number of locations – in Asia, in Latin America, and among the Anglophone Western nations (UK, US, and Australia). Among the outcomes of this project isTurner and Tay’s co-edited collection, Television Studies after TV (Turner and Tay, 2009) and most recently, Pertierra and Turner’s Locating Television: Zones of Consumption (2013).

As these and other of the project’s publications argue, once we move outside the standard locations for Anglophone television studies, the nation-state proves to be far from irrelevant; as a result, our work suggests there is a clear need for a television studies which develops a more contingent and conjunctural account of both television and the nation than was customarily the case over the 1990s and most of the 2000s. As we put it in Television Studies After TV, the answer to the question of ‘what is television?’ is that ‘it depends on where you are’.

We are not the only ones saying this, of course, and the range of national or regional locations to feature within television studies in English has expanded significantly over the last decade – work on the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America in particular. These are not merely contributions to a project of ‘internationalizing’ television studies in order to make it more inclusive by revealing interesting exceptions to the US model of the evolution of television that has preoccupied television studies for so much of the last two decades. Rather, these are important studies in their own right because they contribute to a broader, more instantiated understanding of the social functions of the media that rejects a single developmental trajectory in order to emphasize television’s operation as a social practice within specific historical conditions, rather than merely as a technology driving a predictable set of social and cultural outcomes.

So, while Michael Curtin is certainly correct to remind us that the nation is no longer of itself a sufficient site for media analysis, I want to argue in this presentation that the study of television today needs to recover its interest in better understanding the diversity and contingency of the relation between television and the nation, and the importance of the specific conditions under which that relation has developed in each case.


Graeme Turner
University of Queensland

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