Wednesday, April 19, 2017

DST text commentary comments. Part one

I have started marking your text commentaries. It is a difficult exercise, and one which you still need training in, especially if you are planning on taking the exams to become a teacher.
Nevertheless, some students have done well. I don’t[1] think I will have time  to go over the two documents in class, but I will put a number of useful elements here on the blog, which I recommend you read carefully, especially the questions of method.
This is not my version of a text commentary, but some notes on what should have been present to get a high mark.
Firstly the document about television.[2] It comes from a longer document called “The ITV story”, obviously a history of Independent Television: this could be a book or some otherlonger text. We don’t know a lot about the author, but the title indicates that it is a popular history.[3] An academic history might be entitled “The History of Commercial Television in the United Kingdom”.° The popular nature of the history is confirmed by the fact that there is no attempt to be neutral: the author’s objective is to defend ITV in this period and to criticize the BBC.

Most of you understood that the author was on the side of ITV, but it is best to announce this clearly, early on in your commentary. The author is not pretending to be neutral, so there is no reason to criticize him for being “biassed”. Most documents we read are not neutral, and we would be very bored if they all were.

Once you have established the objective of the author, which you can ilustrate with short quotes from or references to the text. The author claims that ITV “breathed new life” into broadcasting, which was, he felt, without life under the BBC monopoly. He claims that the BBC’s programming was boring and unexciting (paragraph four), although he does not give examples of BBC programmes.
The document speaks of the Pilkington Report. This is one of three major reports to the government about broadcasting in the post-war period. You should show you know something about the Pilkington Report *something which is not mentioned in this text*.[4] For a high mark you should briefly mention all three reports and their importance. I was not expecting an almost perfect paragraph such as the following, which I give you just to illustrate.

The Pilkington Report, released in 1962, is one of three major reports on broadcasting in post-war Britain. The other two were the Beveridge report in 1951, and the Annan Report in 1977. They show the sharp interest that government paid to the development of broadcasting content. The seriousness of the project can be seen from the fact that the Pilkington report took two years to write. The changes between the three reports show a slow decline of the idea that brodacsting organizations are responsible for moulding public morals and values, and a slow rise of the idea that private entreprise and customer choice are sufficient to deal with the question of appropriate programming.

It is useful to place the date of publication of the report (1962) in its  historical context. Access of television sets was gradually becoming more common, but a large section of the population did not have television. The report was made to a Conservative government.
Some students tried to make a correlation between Conservative and Labour politics, and the division between those who felt “TV should educate and be of quality”  and those who thought “Private  broadcasting will be in favour of  the people and will give them what they want and not what the BBC elite is forcing them to have”. This is not easy, because there are complexities.
Many Labour people felt it important that public money in television should make culture (including Shakespeare, Opera, theatre , documentary) available almost free to the masses. They felt that richer people already had access to high culture, and so making television only light entertainment was elitist because it maintained the idea that only the rich could have high culture.
Many Conservative people felt private broadcasting would lead to more competition and more choice (and these two concepts are central values of conservatism). These commentators accused the BBC of being elitist by imposing high culture or “educaional” programmes on the masses. This is the point of the author of the present document,; but it is not the only view possible.
Naturally, each side in this debate accused the other side of being the real elitists.

At the end of the commentary, it is a very good idea to look at what happened *after* the period mentioned in the passage. Did this debate ("elitism versus populaism") continue to affect British television in later decades? How? Can you give some examples? 

Note: Danger of anachronism. It is an anachronism to describe BBC’s programmes as “old-fashioned” or traditional, or to describe ITV’s programmes as “modernizing”. The different ways of making television were in the process of being invented, and there was not as such an established tradition.

Notes on style
1) Do not use contractions in university work. 
2) In this kind of essay, one sentence is not enough to make a paragraph. A new paragraph for every sentence is a style used in informal journalism, but is not appropriate here.
3) Do not begin "the document we have to comment on" (cela signifie à peu près "le document qu'on nous oblige à commenter".

Here is the document you were asked to comment on :
In programming terms the arrival of ITV breathed new life into television in Britain. ITV liked to be known as 'the people's channel' claiming to do something that the BBC had thus far failed to do; give the people the type of programming they wanted. But it was quickly criticised in many quarters for its mainly populist fare. Regardless of the fact that by 1957 ITV dominated Britain's homes with an 80% share of the potential audience, variety specials such as Sunday Night at the London Palladium, quiz shows such as Double Your Money and Take Your Pick, innovative shows such as Armchair Theatre, action-adventure series' like The Adventures of Robin Hood and in particular American imports such as I Love Lucy were being held up as examples of everything that was wrong with commercial television.
So the question remains; was it really the quality of the programming that ITV's critics found so abhorrent? And if not, what was it? One of reasons could have been the vast profit they were making. ITV had done everything in its power to supply the balanced diet that the ITA had demanded. Current affairs were catered for by Granada Television who were surpassing anything in quality and in-depth reporting that the BBC had to offer. Children's television was offered in the form of exciting swashbuckling series' but also in the forms of gentler entertainment such as Rolf Harris' art show, while the demur Muriel Young read stories to youngsters-and these were presented in far less stuffy style than the BBC was offering at that time. ITV were the first broadcaster to air an hour of religious programming on a Sunday and even persevered to bring Christianity to a younger audience with its show The Sunday Break.
But it seems that ITV was expected to bring these shows to an audience without making a profit, or in the very least, without making a profit that it's critics obviously deemed as obscene. One of ITV's biggest critics was Lord Beaverbrook, owner of the Daily Express newspaper. In the 1950s the paper, following his sour grapes policy on commercial television, printed a rather unflattering picture of Lew Grade with a caption that read 'Is this the man you want to choose the programmes for your children?' Well, as far as the audience was concerned the answer was a resounding yes.
Audiences didn't want the type of stilted, uninspiring and sanitised programming the BBC was then showing even though ITV made several attempts to offer it to them. When ITV presented its viewers with Hamlet viewers turned off in droves with viewing figures dropping below 10 per cent. …
In 1960 a committee was set up under Sir Harry Pilkington to investigate the broadcasting industry, and allocate a third television channel. During its deliberations the Treasury introduced a flat levy of 11 per cent on all income from advertising. It would be two years before the committee delivered its findings. Pilkington's own team was a mixed bag indeed and included the actress Joyce Grenfell, footballer Billy Wright, Dr Elwyn Davies (who would be appointed Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Education in 1963), theatre director Peter Hall, Sir Jock Campbell and J Megaw (the last three all resigned between January and February 1961). What they came up with was a thoroughly scurrilous report that smacked of nothing less than arrogant stuffiness, bias and snobbery.
'Much that is seen on television is regarded as of very little value. There was, we were told, a preoccupation in many programmes with the superficial, the cheaply sensational. Many mass appeal programmes were vapid and puerile, their content often derivative, repetitious and lacking any real substance. There was a vast amount of unworthy material, and to transmit it was to misuse intricate machinery and equipment, skill, ingenuity and time.
'The BBC know good broadcasting; by and large, they are providing it.
We conclude that dissatisfaction with television can be largely ascribed to the independent television service.'
-The Pilkington Report.
If we accept that Independent Television was not providing quality programming all the time, and it would be difficult to put forward and argument that it was, even though it was nowhere near as bad as Pilkington claimed-could there be another reason for the committee's condemnation? Other than the previously suggested financial one?

Extract from The ITV story, part six: Pilkington.

[1] Note that on a blog, we generally write in fairly informal style : in an exam, in English, you would not be using contracted forms like “don’t”.
[2] If you come to this blog from some random place on the internet, the document students were asked to comment on is reproduced at the end of these notes
[3] It is important to make the most of the paratext in a text commentary.
[4] Remember the text commentary is a university exercise : the aim is to gain points by showing you have knowledge and you know how to structure that knowledge.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Breaking news


Monday, April 17, 2017

Master 1 LEA

Félicitations. Jusque là, une seule personne a copié son devoir sur un autre site web. Ne faites pas cela. Si le conseil de discipline se passe mal, vous pouvez vous retrouver interdit pendant cinq ans de tout établissement d'enseignement supérieur en France.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Master LEA 1 language:used to

I am somewhere in Auvergne marking your homeworks. Quite a number of students have difficulties with the following structures

Companies used to keep accounting in-house.
Managers are used to dealing with crises.
I need to get used to the new software.
Have you got used to being able to contact the managing director any time?

And some students are inventing incorrect structures such as *women use to eat less food than men.

This is the page you need to look at for a short explanation and a short exercise: don't miss it!


Monday, April 03, 2017

L3 popular culture class: the jitterbug

Have a look at this video, which I will mention in this week's lecture on how to study popular culture


Master 1 LEA the classroom test and the homework

I have started marking your work. It all has to be marked by the 15th of April for the jurys to decide if you have your year or not. I will fix a time you can look at your scripts after that. If you haven't sent me the homework, do it immediately.

From the language point of view, I will be giving on this blog some help on favourite mistakes which must be eliminated.

Saxon genitive: people are using this too much. There is a strictly limited set of circumstance when you can use it.

Personal possession "the manager's office"
Higher animals "My dog's favourite food"
Personification "London's position on the negotiations"
Shops or services "I need to go to the estate agent's"
A few particular expressions of time and distance "one hour's walk" "three weeks' holiday"

Otherwise you must not use it. So the following are absolutely impossible:
"the economy's crisis"
"the philosophy's main points"
"Policy's priorities"
etc etc 

Good luck with starting up your work placements.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Popular music in Britain: a little more

Here is another article of mine on  historians and popular music.

Here is a documentary about a genre of music I didn't have time to talk about (synth pop):

Synth Britannia

According to your personal interests, there are other documentaries here:

Heavy metal Britannia


 Blues Britannia


Punk Britannia

Folk Britannia

Plans for new seaside attraction

Stunning plan to attract tourists to the North of England