Laurie Taylor column

January 5, 2001


Media studies academics across the country are reeling from the news that one of their senior colleagues, Dr Piercemuller of Poppleton University, has been accused of reaching unreliable conclusions in a recent article in the British Journal of Advanced Media Studies .

Only a few months ago, doubt was cast on the reliability of several research articles in medical journals but this is the first time media studies has been similarly indicted.

What gives the accusation particular resonance is that it has been made by Dr K. R. Bundy of the department of media studies at the University of Uttoxeter, the only media studies department in the country with a lower RAE rating than that enjoyed by Dr Piercemuller's own department.

Dr Bundy, who made his allegations at yesterday's British Media Studies Conference in Llandudno, referred to an article by Dr Piercemuller on the motivational impact of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

In this article, Dr Piercemuller claimed to have interviewed 500 "non-viewers" and 500 "regular viewers" of the popular game show and found statistically significant differences between the groups on a specially developed Social Contentment Index. Regular viewers of WWTBAM were, he concluded, twice as likely to believe that luck played a more important role in self-advancement than hard work.

Dr Bundy told his audience that he was "deeply perturbed" by Dr Piercemuller's conclusion that it was the simplicity of the questions in WWTBAM that dramatically enhanced regular viewers' belief in the value of luck. This argument, insisted Dr Bundy, to cheers from the hall, completely ignored the central and repetitive philosophical theme of the programme that "the questions were only easy if you knew the answer".

Dr Piercemuller, who is on research attachment at the University of Grenoble, was not available yesterday for comment but a French colleague who answered the phone at his hotel dismissed the suggestion that this delay had been prompted by Dr Piercemuller's inability to find a friend to phone and insisted that he would shortly be issuing " un plein response à tous les accusations malicieuses ".


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