The conversationalization of television talk in the mediated public sphere
: an analysis of the British audience participation talk show and the docu-soap

  • Carolyn Houston Hair

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis investigates the daytime audience participation talk show and the docu-soap, in terms of public participation in a televisual public sphere. It is argued that these genres show the conversationalization of television talk where the dichotomies of public/private, citizen/consumer and information/entertainment are played out. On the talk show and the docu-soap laypersons make private revelations in public and in the increasingly commercialised broadcasting environment the citizen-viewer of public service television is addressed as a consumer resulting in the infotainment genre. It is argued that these genres exemplify cultural and social shifts in language usage, commodification and public sphere (Dahlgren, 1995, Scannell, 1989) and this thesis examines 'reality' TV to assess television's potential to improve a democratic televised show as there has been little critical entertainment with non-American shows: Esther, Kilroy and Vanessa. The docu-soap is used as a comparison as it illustrates the conversationalization of the documentary form. Critical discourse analysis (CDA) has been employed as a critical tool in order to analyse the discursive practice of these texts and to ascertain if there is evidence of negotiations in terms of power relations in these forms of 'trash' television. The results indicate that the structures of the genres confine the participants and that the confessional and therapeutic discourses forestall public participation on television. Within hegemonic televisual structures it is posited that, in terms of micro-power relations, there are some forms of negotiation in the talk show site. The genres are compared in terms of performance and the results forma a synthesis of these television texts and theories of the public sphere, drawing on Habermas and critical revisions of his work. These programmes reveal the problematic nature of public participation through television in the climate of increasing commercialisation. The points when the lay participants resist control are drawn upon in order to illustrate the ways in which television could ameliorate public participation.
    Date of Award2003
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Nottingham Trent University

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