Negotiating dependence: Independent television producers in England
Authors: Rawstrone, K.
Editors: Spicer, A., Wilson, S. and Genders, A.
Conference: University of the West of England. Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries.
The thesis analyses the independent television production sector focusing on the role of the producer. At its centre are four in-depth case studies which investigate the practices and contexts of the independent television producer in four different production cultures. The sample consists of a small self-owned company, a medium-sized family-owned company, a broadcaster-owned company and an independent-corporate partnership. The thesis contextualises these case studies through a history of four critical conjunctures in which the concept of ‘independence’ was debated and shifted in meaning, allowing the term to be operationalised to different ends. It gives particular attention to the birth of Channel 4 in 1982 and the subsequent rapid growth of an independent ‘sector’. Throughout, the thesis explores the tensions between the political, economic and social aims of independent television production and how these impact on the role of the producer.
The thesis employs an empirical methodology to investigate the independent television producer’s role. It uses qualitative data, principally original interviews with both employers and employees in the four companies, to provide a nuanced and detailed analysis of the complexities of the producer’s role. Rather than independence, the thesis uses network analysis to argue that a television producer’s role is characterised by sets of negotiated dependencies, through which professional agency is exercised and professional identity constructed and performed. It offers a networked brokerage model of producing to identify the producer’s resources as cultural, social and economic capital and the producer’s function as their translation, transformation, accumulation and dissemination across professional networks. It employs the concept of diasporic networks to encapsulate the different contexts and outcomes of networking, arguing that the strong ties of co-working remain dormant or residual rather than being broken at the end of a working partnership and are able to be re-formed.