Revisit TV's old times

January 21, 2005

It was essential reading in millions of homes across Britain for decades and spawned dozens of imitators.

But now the TV Times magazine is to become essential reading for cultural historians, social scientists and media academics keen to chart how television shaped - and was shaped by - British society from 1955 to 1985.

An electronic database is being compiled at Bournemouth University of the television schedules from 1,560 editions of the magazine. Researchers will be able to use the database to search for programmes, examine programme credits and identify scheduling trends.

At their peak, the TV Times and Radio Times were read by 12 million people each week.

Work on the database is expected to be completed in March, and it will be available through the British Universities Film and Video Council website.

John Ellis of Royal Holloway, University of London, was the principal applicant for funding for the project from the Arts and Humanities Research Board.

"This will revolutionise the way we can study television and help us answer some of the big questions," Professor Ellis said. "Leafing through individual copies of the magazine didn't give you an overview of what was important.

"With the database, you can see where programmes appeared in the schedules and find people's career profiles, where writers became directors, and search for topics and genres.

"People have studied individual programmes, but no one before has been able to give an overview of what ITV was like."

Matt Holland, subject librarian for Bournemouth's media school, where work to compile the database has been carried out, said it would allow academics to carry out quantitative research in television for the first time.

"The thing that has surprised me is the chaos of the early schedules - they were inventing scheduling as they were going along."

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