RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy
1. STRUCTURE AND ENVIRONMENT
The research activity submitted to this UoA has developed dramatically since 1996. A step change has taken place in the research culture since the last RAE. This resulted from the devolution of much research administration and funding from the University centre to the Media School, along with the full-time appointment of Professor John Ellis as Head of Research in 1998 and the appointment as Head of School of Roger Laughton, founding Chief Executive of Meridian TV. Significant developments have therefore taken place towards the end of the period under review with the emergence of three themes: broadcasting history, the management of the creative process and the performative nature of electronic media.
The research forms part of the activities of the Bournemouth Media School, which is organised around the media industries rather than any one disciplinary approach. It therefore contains a unique mix of staff with active careers in the creative industries in its Media Production department, together with several staff undertaking market research in the Department of Corporate and Marketing Communication. Another distinctive area is the third Department (Computer Animation), which has submitted its work to UoA64, where it was rated 4 in the last RAE. The School’s research activities now provide the main forum for the productive interaction between the distinctive intellectual approaches which characterise these areas.
The cited work also demonstrates close relations with the media industries. Two members of staff are submitted whose professional work has been particularly important in informing research work. Arthey’s award-winning production of religious documentaries has informed a debate about the ethics of broadcasting and public relations, influencing the outputs of Ellis and Moloney. Hanson’s experience in feature and documentary scriptwriting has informed the outputs of Daymon, Giddings, Kretschmer and Ellis. Other staff submit a mixture of professional and academic practice which are mutually reinforcing: Deutsch, Street and Wegg-Prosser. Though not citing any practice, Ellis has produced two documentary series about Hong Kong for Channel 4 during the period under review.
Three specialisms have focused the existing interests of staff as identified after RAE 1996. Broadcasting history has attracted significant funding and is developing an important archive, particularly in the area of radio. Two further specialisms have developed from the Media School’s close relationships with industry: the management of the creative process and the performative nature of electronic media. The Media School has now begun to prioritise the growth of its provision for post-graduate research as the next logical step in its development.
1.2.1. THEME ONE: BROADCASTING HISTORY
Demonstrated in the work of Ellis, Giddings, Holland, Street, and Wegg-Prosser, this theme aims towards a reconceptualisation of broadcasting history away from its current over-emphasis on institutional questions towards a more programming-based approach. Ellis’s proposal of three periods to the development of broadcasting (scarcity, availability, plenty) in his book ‘Seeing Things’ has been important here. Other uncited members of staff are also central to this work: Hugh Chignell, Gavin Matthews, Matt Holland, Julia McCain, Rob Turnock and Chris Wensley. This theme has been successful in gaining grants for two aspects of its work: the creation of an archive and related databases, and the writing of a revisionist history of ITV’s early years.
Funded archival work concentrates around current affairs. Holland and Wegg-Prosser brought their long-term private research project on the Thames TV series ‘This Week’ into the School in 1998 as Research Fellows. The University now houses their collection of programme and script material, and is negotiating with Pearson Television to house its paper collection on the series once it has been digitised. Also in 1998, the School acquired an important collection relating to the Radio 4 current affairs series ‘Analysis’. It consists of 913 audio recordings, (61 audio cassettes and 852 tape reels): every programme broadcast between its inception in on 10th April 1970 to 1990, together with transcripts of programmes broadcast between 1970 and 1990. This collection now forms the basis of one PhD project. Other collections of material include a regular donation from the Radio Authority of copies of every programme from local and national commercial radio that has been the subject of complaints from listeners: a unique cross-section of radio production.
This archival activity received a significant boost at the end of 2000 with Street’s winning of an AHRB resource enhancement award of £68,756 for the year 2001-2. This will enable the digitisation and cataloguing of an important but neglected collection of radio documentaries produced in the early years of commercial radio from 1985 to 1990 as part of a programme sharing arrangement. This collection, currently held by the National Sound Archive (NSA) but completely uncatalogued, will be systematised and made available to scholars through the NSA and the University. The equipment purchased through this grant can then be deployed to digitise the other collections of radio material that are being or have been acquired.
A colloquium for around 30 scholars was held at the University about the ‘Analysis’ project in July 1999, and Hugh Chignell, Matt Holland and Julia McCain presented a paper on the experience to the Digital Resources for the Humanities Conference at Sheffield University in September 2000. The work on ‘This Week’ co-ordinates its activities with the project on Granada Television’s similar ‘World in Action’ series being undertaken at Liverpool University led by Professor John Corner. Hugh Chignell co-ordinates the Archive Group of the Radio Studies Network, and organised a meeting involving the Radio Authority, BBC and National Sound Archive in April 2000 which has focussed these bodies on the lack of proper archiving of actual radio output anywhere in Britain.
Other archival work includes Street’s private archive of radio material which informs his cited works, both academic publications on commercial radio in Britain in the 1930’s and his radio output for Radio 4’s Archive Programme. Also, in the summer of 2000, the University agreed to curate the BUFVC’s collection of off-air VHS recordings of virtually the whole output of British broadcast television. The initial transfer involved the year April 1998 to April 1999, and further material will arrive annually. Having this material readily available on site will stimulate further research emphasising the real texture of programming rather than institutional concerns.
Further archival work includes the creation by Street along with colleagues Chris Wensley and Paul Inman of a series of video interviews with historically important figures in broadcasting including Frank Gillard and Desmond Hawkins. Other members of the School also contribute to the informal network of insider information and contacts that is vital for further research. They include Arthey and Hanson, as well as Roger Laughton, formerly the Head of Television at United News and Media. A bid for an AHRB Research Centre in Broadcasting and Press History was made in February 2001 led by John Ellis in conjunction with the Universities of Glamorgan and Westminster.
1.2.2. THEME TWO: THE PERFORMATIVE
The broadcasting history theme draws upon wider and principally theoretical work on the nature of media texts as performative works. In this area, cited works of Deutsch, Ellis, Giddings, Holland and Street are central, along with other uncited younger members of staff such as Frances Hawkshead (‘amateur’ composition of club music); Jan Johnson-Smith (science fiction and television); Bronwen Thomas (reported speech and the novelistic) and Rob Turnock (researcher for the AHRB project referred to earlier).
The research seeks to foreground the textual nature of media which has been taken for granted in many analyses which have preferred to concentrate on content and institutional questions. The real and imagined nature of speech is a particularly important emphasis in work on radio; and attention to speech as a performative act will also be essential in the study of the early years of ITV, where a more ‘relaxed’ and ‘populist’ style is perceived to have been developed. It involves the approach of Street (as both poet and critical writer) and of Giddings’ work on the novelistic. Holland emphasises the textual nature of the most journalistic medium of current affairs through a stubborn theoretical attention to its visual nature in the face of current academic attitudes in the area that often neglect the discursive.
Ellis seeks to discover the ‘implied viewer’ in film and television in examining the ways in which texts anticipate the conditions of their reception. His work on British cinema in the Thirties brings a fresh perspective to film studies by examining the ways in which films negotiated with the often unruly or distracted public in the auditorium so as to create a collective feeling of ‘being part of an audience’. His work on television is similarly concerned with the conjunctural factors determining particular broadcast texts. His emphasis on the modality of witness as defining the specific nature of the audio-visual and television’s consequent development of a process of working thought have already had a wide influence. Both concepts are historically specified within his work.
Deutsch has explored the assumptions around musical performance in his innovative String Quintet, whose fifth movement involves the sudden irruption of a stand-up comedian into the concert hall format. Deutsch is leading a large-scale project on the influence of non-diegetic music on the perception of mood and emotion in viewing film texts, which unfortunately will report after the census date. This involves a sample of around 2000 people being shown purpose-made ‘anodyne’ film sequences with different musical and sound accompaniments, and reporting their responses through detailed questionnaires. This work has involved the collaboration of Paul Robertson, a visiting professor at the Media School with a particular interest in the psychology of music. Deutsch has also submitted a project to NESTA in collaboration with Kretschmer which explores the intellectual property implications of musical creation simultaneously from an artistic and a legal point of view. At the time of writing, the proposal is at the second stage of review.
1.2.3. THEME 3: THE ORGANISATION OF THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES
As a complement to the emphasis on performative realities, another research current emphasises the realities of the creative industries as organisations, and particularly the organisational context in which the creative process takes place. In this theme the outputs of Daymon, Kretschmer, Moloney and Wegg-Prosser are central, along with those of Ellis and Holland, as well as the uncited staff Robin Foster and Roger Laughton.
Kretschmer joined the University staff in June 1999 as a senior lecturer funded by the Leverhulme Trust. His work on the socio-economics of intellectual property concentrates on the music industry. He is particularly concerned with the ways in which the industry uses the concept of intellectual property as a locus of creative organisation, and the processes by which power relationships are reconfigured as the result of the introduction of new technologies. From 1996-9 he was principal researcher on two ESRC funded projects at City University Business School, on ‘Intellectual Property and Knowledge Transfer’ (grant no L325253009) and ‘Globalisation, Technologies and Creativity: Current Trends in the Music Industry’ (grant no L126251003). His focus is at once on the legal system and on the sociological realities of its implementation by media organisations.
Daymon researched the establishment of an ITV franchise company between 1993 and 1995 for her PhD, and has published material from this work which, to date, has not been able to name the company concerned for reasons of confidentiality. Her approach from a management perspective rather than media studies is a fresh one, and her cited work is published in this area. She concentrates on the relationship between creativity, culture and communications in the creative industries, especially broadcasting and public relations. Her cited outputs span management, communications and organisation studies journals. Her work is complemented by Wegg-Prosser’s accounts of the BBC, where she worked in a senior management position for some years. Her cited work in this area is published across management and media studies. Wegg-Prosser is still an active producer and consultant to the BBC as is reflected in her outputs.
Moloney brings an attention to the process of public relations: itself a process of representation and creativity, it has an increasing importance within the marketing of media artefacts in general. Some of his outputs explore the work of public relations within the wider context of the media industries; others concentrate on the nature of public relations itself. Holland’s ‘Television Handbook’ is a rare piece of contemporary research, providing an accurate industry overview animated by interviews. Ellis’s work on scheduling has been cited as the first major academic writing on an increasingly vital aspect of modern broadcasting. Giddings has also made valuable discoveries about the nature of radio drama scheduling in the Thirties.
Research in this area is enhanced by the presence of several media professionals in the School. Besides the cited works of Arthey and Hanson, Ellis also maintains a presence in the television industry. Within the reporting period he produced two series of ‘Riding the Tiger’ for Channel 4 (4 x 50 mins, transmitted June 1997; 4 x 25 mins, transmitted August 1998). The series was a pioneering example of the docu-soap genre, used for serious purposes, and innovating at the technical level (DV shoot and online Avid editing). He continues as a member of the Training Committee of the trade body PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television).
Further growth in this area will result from the appointment in September 2000 of Robin Foster as Senior Research Fellow. Formerly a director of the Broadcast Audience Research Board (BARB) he became Director of Strategy at the Independent Television commission from January 2001 after a long career at the BBC. Robin Foster’s continuing commitment to the Media School will yield significant outputs in future exercises. His particular interest in producing workable and intellectually coherent models for public service broadcasting will be of particular significance during the coming period.
1.3. INFRASTRUCTURE AND MECHANISMS FOR PROMOTING RESEARCH
As the result of a fundamental reappraisal after RAE 1996, research activity has begun to grow rapidly towards the end of the reporting period. Devolution of administrative responsibilities and funding from the centre have significantly aided this process. Most research activity is now coordinated at the level of the Media School, and continues to be in line with stated University policy. The University continues to provide quality assurance and a research training programme that includes training in teaching methods for post-graduate students. This activity will soon be co-ordinated through a Graduate School. The University has made available a total of £50,000 for the University Research Centre in Performance and Audience in Media Arts, which has acted as an umbrella for the reported activity. This funding has paid for the ongoing employment of Holland and Wegg-Prosser; the initial acquisition of archival material; the payment of research expenses; the provision of short periods of research leave and the provision of two sabbatical terms for staff completing major work. Many of the results of this funding will necessarily appear in the next reporting period. In addition, the School has made further funds available for a research bursary currently held by Gavin Matthews and has provided administrative staff posts to support research degree and funding application activities.
The first priority identified was to encourage as many members of staff as possible to participate in research activity. This involved targeting resources on those staff members already engaged on published research, and by widening the base of staff with further degree qualifications. A significant number have registered for M.Phil or PhD qualifications. They are charged no fees, and receive study leave for this activity. As a result, several mature scholars study for PhD while undertaking activities more typical of post-doctoral students. For instance, Hugh Chignell plays a significant role as national co-ordinator of the Radio Studies Network’s Archive Group whilst researching his PhD on the ‘Analysis’ series.
The second priority was to develop funded research project activity for already qualified staff. The half-time appointment of Julia McCain as Research Administrator in 1999 has significantly aided this process, proving a dedicated member of staff responsible for elaborating research proposals, liaising at administrative level with funding bodies, and for efficient research project management.
A weekly research seminar brings together all the active researchers in the School (including those entered under UoA 64) where work in progress is discussed with the occasional visiting speaker, for example Professor Colin Mercer and Dr Aeron Davies. This is in addition to the Media School’s regular programme of visiting speakers which has included industry figures such as Kate Adie and Desmond Wilcox, John Woodward, the Chief Executive of the Film Council, Jonathan Drori, the Head of Commissioning for BBC Interactive, and Lord Chadlington, chair of Huntsworth plc. During 2000, specialist study groups emerged, involving staff and research students. Weekly meetings now include a media theory reading group within the school and a university-wide sociology study seminar organised in part by Daymon and Kretschmer.
Significant library resources have been invested in the creation and maintenance of the growing archive collections. This has included the provision of secure storage for donated or acquired archives, the initial cataloguing of holdings and the creation of a special collections area for rare texts including complete runs of ‘Radio Times’ and ‘The Listener’. Matt Holland, the media subject area librarian has been central to this activity and has been an active co-ordinator of the AHRB funded cataloguing projects already mentioned.
1.4. RESEARCH STRATEGY
Research strategy for the next period will make the following priorities:
a) the University’s ten year strategy from 2001 will create a Graduate School as the hub of a research student infrastructure consisting of physical provision, tailored research training and high quality supervision. The rate of PhD completions will increase dramatically
b) the provision of enhanced research opportunities for staff including competitive schemes for sabbatical terms for the execution of large projects
c) the application of research skills to a range of projects, funded both by industry and public sources, examining the future development of the media and creative industries and contributing to policy development
d) the continued development of the Media School’s archival work and its re-examination of broadcasting history
e) appointments at a senior level to develop research in the areas of corporate communication and new media consonant with the themes outlined above
f) the provision of an infrastructure to support this growing activity including the development of properly administered research groups with significant income generating activities.
1.5. SELF ASSESSMENT
The development of an academic research culture poses particular problems for an institution employing a high proportion of staff who come to academia having had substantial careers in the media industries. They have often been engaged in what they rightly see as research, ranging from substantial market research to in-depth research for television programmes. It is a difficult task to adapt these skills towards the more free-ranging intellectual enquiry that is possible within a university setting. This remains the most intractable problem of research management. The requirement to distinguish between ‘scholarship’ and ‘research’ is counterproductive here, as many of the research insights and opportunities that have already arisen here emerged from the continuity between the two. Research will continue to form an integral part of the School’s portfolio of activities, and will depend on the activities of other staff in both consultancy and audio-visual creation. The professional work and publications of non-research active staff bear this out.
The growth in activities took off relatively late in the period under review and was inevitably the result of happenstance as well as planning. Work has developed from a genuine meeting of minds within a diverse school. A proper theoretical underpinning has yet to emerge for the Media School’s distinctive mixture of approaches gathered from media studies, management sociology and corporate communications. Currently, methodological differences are being explored, driven above all by the large-scale changes taking place in the empirical domain of the Media School’s activities. These demand both fresh explanations and policy interventions. The University’s ‘flat’ structure, foregoing faculties in favour of large schools that address industrial sectors, is particularly helpful in sharpening this address. But the lack of a countervailing attention to the foundations of intellectual disciplines will emerge as a problem in the future. Cheerful eclecticism has paid significant dividends so far, but soon methodological and basic theoretical differences will have to be examined. The spontaneous emergence in the autumn of 2000 of study groups in media theory and social theory is the first sign of this process.
Current provision of research training relies on the generic provision of the University as a whole, and this will be upgraded with the creation of a Graduate School. Current provision is not sufficiently tailored to the needs of research on the media. The Media School’s taught post-graduate courses concentrate on MA qualifications designed for those seeking employment in the creative industries. They do not examine methodological problems to the same extent or in the same ways as courses leading to academic research. The development of a larger cohort of doctoral students will focus and carry forward work in this area.
Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL
Last updated 17 October 2003