Local Value in the Television Archive: The Media Archive for Central England

Spaulding, Hannah (2025) Local Value in the Television Archive: The Media Archive for Central England. In: The Archivability of Television and Related Media. University of Georgia Press. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

Local Value in the Television Archive: The Media Archive for Central England
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British television has in many ways been defined by competing visions of locality. Unlike American television, where local TV has often described small television stations, spatially bound to a city, suburb, or rural community, the ‘local’ in British television has largely been subsumed within the category of ‘the regional.’ When British television emerged in the 1930s, it was expressly national: centralized in London and operated by the BBC. In the 1950s, as transmitters were installed throughout the UK, concern grew over this centralization. With the arrival of commercial television in 1955, efforts were made to increase regional representation—to give voice to places, stories, and perspectives outside Britain’s cultural and economic center. However, UK’s broadcast regions did not emerge organically. They were instead determined by technology—their boundaries fixed by the geographical reach of transmitters—and by politics—so Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland could become regions just like the North or the Midlands. As such, the communities represented by these regions were vast, varied, and artificial. They included large cities, industrial towns, and rural farmlands. The programmes produced in these spaces were similarly diverse. Dramas, comedies, news, and magazine shows, set in distinct locations, representing unique communities, and broadcast to varying audiences all emerged under the somewhat clunky rubric of the ‘region.’ Different iterations of the local thus haunt these programmes, forming a fraught and almost accidental undercurrent of regional television.

In this chapter, I seek to uncover the local within British regional television by turning to the archive, in particular the regional media archive—an institutional body explicitly concerned with collecting, preserving, and making accessible moving image material tied to specific territorial boundaries. Taking the Media Archive of Central England (MACE), whose remit concerns the moving image material of the Midlands, as my central case study, I explore the ways through which the regional media archive deconstructs the category of the broadcast region and articulates an alternative appraisal of televisual value, one in which locality is central. While regional television has included some of the UK’s most notable series, it has also embodied programming that falls outside the realm of national memory and popular consumption. It is these more niche programmes—the magazine series, quiz shows, and local news broadcasts rooted in the counties, cities, and towns that created them—that find their home in the regional media archive. By analyzing MACE’s collection, archival logic, and access initiatives, I examine how place and locality became central in the archive’s presentation of these often overlooked television programmes. They emerge as key components of their collecting practices and public engagements, breaking down the often artificial boundaries of regional television to return a more granular sense of place to the television housed within their walls. By removing television from its original broadcast context and repositioning it within the archive, I argue that MACE, and the regional media archive more generally, can serve as a space for the recovery of the ‘local’ in British television history.

Additional Information:Book is currently undergoing peer review
Keywords:Television, Archives, Local Media, Regional television, television history
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P301 Television studies
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P132 Archive studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film, Media & Journalism > Lincoln School of Film, Media & Journalism (Media)
ID Code:54399
Deposited On:25 Jul 2023 08:40

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