A gap in the records: television audiences and the history of "us"
National television archives routinely collect all manner of material about the medium, including information about producers, performers and writers, as well as copies of the programs in which they were involved. While this is already a highly selective archive (see McKee, this volume), in media studies terms the industry and text side of the television equation has been relatively well attended to. Less well observed is how television was actually watched or what it meant to those who were doing the watching in specific historical, geographical and cultural locations, both then or now. In industry terms, the audience is rarely visible except as an anonymous ratings statistic, which is best regarded as the currency employed in the TV trade to leverage funds. However, these statistics don't tell us very much about how television was woven into the lives of its audience in any real way. With this gap in the records in mind, it is salutary to note how often claims are made about the experience of television or the impact it has had on its viewers without anything but the slightest of clues.
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