By J. Bignell
Jonathan Bignell offers a wide-ranging research of the tv phenomenon of the early twenty-first century: fact television. He explores its cultural and political meanings, explains the genesis of the shape and its courting to modern tv construction, and considers the way it connects with, and breaks clear of, actual and fictional conventions in tv.
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Additional resources for Big Brother: Reality TV in the Twenty-First Century
The arguments about Reality TV as the end of documentary are part of a larger postmodernist argument that Western society is in a condition in which history ceases to move forward in a progressive way (Bignell 2000b) with the consequent impossibility of improvement of social conditions by the rational means which the documentary tradition has espoused. As in Fredric Jameson’s (1984) conception of postmodernity, the present is supposedly an epoch in which representations, forms and aesthetic codes from the past are perpetually reworked, with their distinctiveness and cultural contributions blunted.
The scheduling of Big Brother in the summer has been successful for Channel 4, since television programming in summer is usually made at lower cost per hour and involves numerous repeats, because people are expected to be outdoors and going out more than at other times of year. Big Brother was initially shown in the late evening, but was shifted to an earlier timeslot once the audience had sampled it and word of mouth began to increase the numbers of people interested in the programme. According to BARB figures published in an article by Maggie Brown (2003: 2), Channel 4’s top ten rated programmes in 2003 were headed by Reality TV series.
The second series had a much larger range of branded products including a song book, a game for the Playstation 2, an interactive recording studio and a perfume. Interactive services included voting by text message and downloads of songs from the programme. In Britain, retail sales generated by licensed products of all kinds was worth £3 billion in 2002, and across the world, the licensing business as a whole generated £110 billion (Bulkley 2003). In the case of Big Brother, nearly 30 per cent of the revenue to Endemol comes from the merchandising and licensing of branded products associated with the programme.