Media Studies Seminar 2023

Recordings Vol.4 –
Access and Collaboration: New Approaches

Media Studies Seminar 2023

The Media Studies Seminar 2023 was hosted by the  FIAT/IFTA Media Studies Commission (MSC) and the BFI at the BFI Southbank in London, UK.

The 5th edition of the Media Studies Seminar had Rethinking Broadcast Archives: Dig, Deconstruct, Display as its theme.

Over the coming weeks, the recordings from the Media Studies Seminar will be published on the FIAT/IFTA website and YouTube page, with the final closing round table recording being shared on Thursday, February 22nd 2024.

This week’s sessions are from the panel Access and Collaboration: New Approaches:

  • ATLas Chronicles. Designing an Italian Archive of Past Local TV Channels by Luca Barra (University of Bologn), Diego Cavallotti (University of Cagliari) & Emiliano Rossi (University of Bologna).
  • “Songs for the Falling Angel” – A Case Study Examining One Example of ‘Digging’ in a Closed Archive to Uncover an Interdisciplinary Research Topic by Alistair Scott (Edinburgh Napier University).
  • Whose Voice? Whose Story? BBC Radio News and the Language of Race in Post-WWII Britain by Dr Eleni Liarou & Sylvie Carlos (Birkbeck, University of London).
  • Researching the Journalism of Alistair Cooke: The BBC Broadcast Archive and Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre by Dr Glenda Cooper & Howard Tumber (City, University of London).

You can access all recordings on the Media Studies Seminar 2023 page.

ATLas Chronicles. Designing an Italian Archive of Past Local TV Channels

by Luca Barra, Diego Cavallotti & Emiliano Rossi

University of Bologna & University of Cagliari

ATLas Chronicles. Designing an Italian Archive of Past Local TV Channels

Establishing a first pilot inventory of privately-owned local TV channels operating in Italy between 1976 and 1990 is the core aim of the ATLas – Atlas of Local Televisions project, nationally-funded research currently encompassing four Italian universities, with the intent of driving attention on an often neglected area of both academic investigation and archival practice. The research focuses on a sample of five networks which operated in contrast to the national public service monopoly, with vibrant creative innovations and a distinct connection with territories and local economies. After an overview of the inquiry’s scientific layout, this contribution will delve into the methodological challenges implied in the design of an open-access repository called to host a selection of audiovisual fragments drawn from the channels’ native archives, now difficult or impossible to access, or archived following random or commercial criteria. The video platform is also conceived as the entry point of a dedicated digital exhibition with additional materials (photographs, documents and unpublished interviews). With an account of the analysis currently being conducted on three case studies (Antenna 3, Sardegna 1 and TeleSanterno), this contribution seeks to tackle the following questions: i., how should the renegotiation of collective memories and nostalgic self-perceptions of the past be dealt with, and problematized? ii. which archival infrastructure(s) best suit the need of addressing both industry-oriented issues and oral, social and local histories? iii. by what means is this process complying with standards of cultural heritage valorisation, and how could this pave the path for a prospective permanent atlas of Italian local broadcasting? The aim is to share and discuss some lessons learnt, as well as the main struggles encountered through the study, in a fruitful exchange with similar and more advanced experiences.

Luca Barra, Diego Cavallotti & Emiliano Rossi

Luca Barra is an associate professor at the Department of the Arts, University of Bologna, where he teaches Television and Digital Media. His main research interests include the television production and distribution cultures, the international circulation of media content (and its national mediations), the history of Italian, European and U.S. television, seriality, comedy and humour genres, and the evolutions of contemporary media scenarios. His latest book is La programmazione televisiva. Palinsesto e on demand (Laterza, Roma-Bari 2022). He co-edited the volume A European Television Fiction Renaissance (Routledge, London 2021). He is the principal investigator of the ATLas research project.

Diego Cavallotti is an associate professor at the University of Cagliari, where he teaches Media Education, Postcinema and Digital Storytelling, and Theory and Technique of Film Language. His research interests revolve around film historiography, amateur film and video, media and social movements, film and audiovisual archive theory, Italian cinema history, Italian television history, and media archaeology. He is the author of several papers published in national and international journals and of three books – Cultura video. Le riviste specializzate in ItaliaLabili tracce. Per una teoria della pratica videoamatoriale and Transarchivi. Media radicali, archeologie, ecologie. He is one of the unit leaders of the ATLas project.

Emiliano Rossi, PhD in Cinema, Photography and Television at the Department of the Arts, University of Bologna, is a post-doc researcher in ATLas – Atlas of Local Televisions project. His main area of interest is television, framed on a historical, social and productive level. He is responsible of the Television and Web TV laboratory at the University of Bologna, and he also works as an adjunct professor at Padova and Bari University. He collaborates with the research project and took part in several national and international conferences; his writings have been published in volumes and journals, including Cinéma & Cie, Cinergie. Il cinema e le altre arti, Imago. Studi di cinema e mediaLa Valle dell’Eden. 

Songs for the Falling Angel – A Case Study Examining One Example of ‘Digging’ in a Closed Archive to Uncover an Interdisciplinary Research Topic

by Alistair Scott

Edinburgh Napier University

Songs for the Falling Angel – A Case Study Examining One Example of 'Digging' in a Closed Archive to Uncover an Interdisciplinary Research Topic

This paper will examine a case study of how one programme produced over thirty years ago, forgotten in the archive of a local television company, has the potential to contribute research that critically reflects on artistic commemorations of the victims of terrorism. The paper will argue that it is vital that broadcast archives actively explore links with the academic community to open their catalogues to re-discover programmes that can contribute to contemporary research on a range of cultural themes.

Songs for the Falling Angel – Requiem for Lockerbie (1991) is a 60 mins documentary produced for ITV. The programme documents the collaboration of visual artist Keith McIntyre RSA, composer Karen Wimhurst, and poet Douglas Lipton. With a commission from the Edinburgh International Festival, they developed a multi-disciplinary artistic performance responding to the horrifying events of the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie that had taken place three years earlier on 21 December 1988, causing the deaths of 270 people. This commission was inspired by McIntyre’s vivid drawings and paintings of the motif of an Angel’s winged head; this led to a sequence of poems from Lipton drawing on a 7th-century myth of a fiery cross falling through the sky; working in McIntyre’s studio, Wimhurst sketched out a new polyphonic choral composition, involving two female soloists and a sixteen-voice choir accompanied by saxophone and harp. The first performance took place in Edinburgh in August 1991 and was described by The Washington Post as a “complex, symbolic work…created by an artist, a writer, and a composer as a response to the unspeakable terror of Scotland’s worst peacetime disaster”. The performance was recorded by an STV crew directed by Alistair Scott. He went on to create a one-hour programme intercutting the performance with news footage from Lockerbie and documentary sequences with the collaborators. The completed programme sought to combine music, a poetic libretto and visual imagery to bring a sense of catharsis and healing was shown on ITV on Sunday, 22 December 1991.

Tracking down the programme from Scottish Television’s private archive – the presenter’s research has brought together the original collaborators to (re)view the programme and reflect on the importance of finding creative expression to respond to the horror of the Pan Am 103 bombing. They consider the legacy of the project and, in the context of other artistic responses to acts of terrorism, investigate questions about ways artists can collaborate to respond to acts of atrocity. It’s just one example of how there is a need to facilitate greater engagement with broadcast archives for research purposes.

Alistair Scott

Alistair Scott is an Associate Professor of Film and Television at Edinburgh Napier University. After working in community video, he was a postgraduate student at the UK National Film and Television School in the 1980s and then worked as a Producer/Director for the BBC, Channel 4 and Scottish Television. He has made broadcast documentaries for over thirty years, from Two Painters Amazed (BBC Arena 1987) to Raploch Stories: Where are they now? (BBC 2017). In 2005, he began teaching in higher education. His research includes Representing Scottish Communities on-screen (2017), STV at 60 (2017) and the paper Activism in the Archive at the 2022 FIAT/IFTA World Conference.

Whose Voice? Whose Story? BBC Radio News and the Language of Race in Post-WWII Britain

by Dr Eleni Liarou & Sylvie Carlos

Birkbeck, University of London

Whose Voice? Whose Story? BBC Radio News and the Language of Race in Post-WWII Britain

This paper sketches out the initial research findings of a British Academy-funded project that explores the evolution of language used to report on postwar Black and Black-British migration and experience in news produced for the BBC Home Service and its successor, Radio Four.

The project also invites different generations of the public from African and Caribbean backgrounds to speak back to the BBC’s reporting and to reflect on the BBC’s impact on ideas of identity and belonging.

Research for this project has been facilitated by access to the recently digitised collection of 165,000 radio news scripts for the BBC Home Service/Radio Four. The talk will discuss methodological questions relating to the use of such a vast digital archive and its potential for public engagement and access.

Dr Eleni Liarou & Sylvie Carlos

Dr. Eleni Liarou is a film and media historian specialising in questions of race, gender and equality on and off the screen in the UK. She’s a lecturer and the programme director of the BA Film and Media at Birkbeck, University of London. Eleni is the PI of the BBC radio news project.

Sylvie Carlos is a multi-award-winning audio producer, media consultant, and PhD researcher. Diversity, inclusion, and decolonisation are at the heart of Sylvie’s values, which naturally ties into her consultancy work. Across the podcasting and radio sector, Sylvie has unapologetically focused on amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities, with a particular focus on Black-British stories.

Researching the Journalism of Alistair Cooke: The BBC Broadcast Archive and Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre

by Dr Glenda Cooper & Howard Tumber

City, University of London

Researching the Journalism of Alistair Cooke: The BBC Broadcast Archive and Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre

This paper examines the way in which two archives in two different countries, the BBC’s broadcast archive at Caversham and the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre, instituted in 1963 and named for its founder and housing many of Boston University Libraries’ distinctive collections, were exploited for the purposes of exploring the work of a well-known journalist, Alistair Cooke who presented the world’s longest-running speech radio programme. This paper looks at how we interrogated these two archives to establish a definitive list of Cooke’s body of radio broadcast work and also how the correspondence and documents kept there relate to how Cooke’s journalism was produced.

The paper explores the relationship between the two archives, in both of which the authors have spent significant time. For example, the BBC partnered with Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center to create a unique linked archive – so it is possible to see how Cooke crafted his scripts while at the same time listening to the programmes (Watson 2014).

Through interviews with the BBC, a Cooke family member, and Cooke’s literary agent, we also investigate the history of the relationship between the journalist and the archives and how both the BBC and Boston University secured Cooke’s professional and personal documents. In the case of Cooke’s relationship with Boston University, this followed a long period of courtship by Howard Gotlieb, who had met Cooke at Yale many years before (Clarke 1999:513). Meanwhile, the BBC houses a significant number of original broadcasts and scripts and correspondence between Cooke and BBC executives.

Dr Glenda Cooper & Howard Tumber

Dr Glenda Cooper is a Reader in Journalism at City, University of London, the author of Reporting Humanitarian Disasters in a Social Media Age (Routledge, 2018) and co-editor of Humanitarianism, Communications and Change (Peter Lang, 2015). In 2020, she and Professor Howard Tumber were awarded a British Academy Small Research Grant to research the work of Alistair Cooke, having gained the first permission to access both the Cooke family archives and the BBC archives into his work.

Prior to City, she worked as a journalist and was the Guardian Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford.

Howard Tumber is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Journalism at City, University of London, where he was previously Dean of the School of Arts & Social Sciences. He has published widely in the field of the sociology of news and journalism and is the author, co-author/editor of 11 books, including the recently co-edited Media Disinformation & Populism (2021). He is a founder and co-editor of the journal Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism.

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