Television: industry and aesthetics
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleLET-ACWB703
Credits (ECTS)5
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Arts; Cultural Studies;
dr. C.C.J. van Eecke
Other course modules lecturer
dr. C.C.J. van Eecke
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. C.C.J. van Eecke
Other course modules lecturer
dr. C.C.J. van Eecke
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2020
PER 3  (25/01/2021 to 04/04/2021)
Starting block
Course mode
RemarksKeuzepakket Creative Industries
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesNo
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
At the end of this course you will:
  • Have a clear sense of the history of television as an industry, a technology, and an art form, and how these three dynamics shape each other
  • Be conversant with a number of key concepts and theories from television studies that will help you critically engage with the medium and its products
  • Be able to apply this knowledge in a critical assessment of television programmes or new developments
Television is so ubiquitous in our culture that it is easy to forget that this medium is a complex intersection of industrial forces, technological developments, and artistic endeavours, with each of these forces also shaping the others.
Television is an industry, involving enormous amounts of money, much of it sourced from either government (in public broadcasting) or private enterprise (in commercial broadcasting), but often also in an uncomfortable mix of both. This means that television is also political: what is shown, and how, is often coloured by the sources of the money. This is the case in the so-called “public broadcasting ethos” that governs most public broadcasting corporations, but perhaps even more so in the “giving the audience what it wants” philosophy of commercial broadcasting.
Television is also a technology, and the limits of what is technologically possible have often determined the formal limits of television programming. Similarly, technological innovations have always spurred new developments in both programming and aesthetics. The early electronic studio, the increasing use of film stock (instead of video) in television drama, the introduction of colour television, and the digital revolution of recent times have all changed the way television is made and watched.
Finally, television is also an art form with its own aesthetics and its own ontology (where television was, and in many ways still is, understood in terms of “liveness”) that are different from radio, film, and theatre, which are its sister arts. Television aesthetics have developed hand in hand with technological innovation, and much “experimental” television was made in the 1950s and 1960s. So-called “quality drama” is often regarded as the highpoint of television as an art form.
In this course, we will investigate some key moments in the history of television as an industry, a technology, and an art form and show how these three strands are intricately entwined. The course will span the entire history of television, beginning with its prehistory (much of it shared with film and radio) over the “golden age” of the 1950s and 1960s to recent developments after the digital revolution. Special attention will be given to developments in drama and documentary, but we will also investigate the way phenomena such as MTV or satellite television have helped shape the medium. Examples will be drawn from both American and European television, with a special focus on developments in the United Kingdom, where the history of, and tensions between, the public broadcaster BBC and its commercial rival ITV provide a helpful model for understanding developments at large.

Presumed foreknowledge

Test information


Required materials
Title:Reading material will be made available on BlackBoard
Title:An Introduction to Television Studies
Author:Jonathan Bignell
Publisher:London/New York: Routledge, 2013, paperback
Title:Television Style
Author:Jeremy G. Butler

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Attendance MandatoryYes

Test weight100
Test typeProject
OpportunitiesBlock PER 3, Block PER 4

Minimum grade