Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Details

Turnbull, S. E. (2012). A gap in the records: television audiences and the history of "us". In K. Darian-Smith & S. E. Turnbull (Eds.), Remembering Television: Histories, Technologies, Memories (pp. 17-29). United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.


National television archives routinely collect all manner of materialabout the medium, including information about producers, performers andwriters, 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 equationhas been relatively well attended to. Less well observed is how televisionwas actually watched or what it meant to those who were doing thewatching in specific historical, geographical and cultural locations, boththen or now. In industry terms, the audience is rarely visible except as ananonymous ratings statistic, which is best regarded as the currencyemployed in the TV trade to leverage funds. However, these statisticsdon't tell us very much about how television was woven into the lives ofits audience in any real way. With this gap in the records in mind, it issalutary to note how often claims are made about the experience oftelevision or the impact it has had on its viewers without anything but theslightest of clues.