USC researchers win prize for TV show probe

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USC researchers win prize for TV show probe

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Published on 24 July 2012

24 July 2012

What was behind the extraordinary ratings success of the Australian version of US television program ‘The Voice’ and what implications might this have for local TV production in the future?

Research by two University of the Sunshine Coast Arts lecturers indicates the answer lies in the “Australian-ness” of the show, which first aired in April.

Communications Lecturer Anna Potter and English Lecturer Dr Clare Archer-Lean revealed their preliminary findings at this month’s USC Research Week and won a $1,000 prize for best presentation in the Faculty of Arts and Business.

Their paper, “The return of the watercooler TV: how the pan-platform distribution of transnational format ‘The Voice’ resonated with Australian audiences”, is almost completed.

Ms Potter said ‘The Voice’ attracted three million viewers for Channel Nine in its first weeks in a market already flooded with reality and talent quest television.

“It pioneered a new type of talent quest and versions of it are being made in 48 countries, so we were curious about how it became so successful in Australia – particularly the way it uses celebrities to appeal to audiences,” she said.

“One answer appeared to be its cultural specificity, portraying Australian-ness through its choice of 50 per cent Australian judges and quintessentially Australian contestants, while still conforming to the transnational format.”

Another factor was audience participation that embraced the shared experience of ordinary people in the media, also known as the “demotic turn” – a term coined by influential author and academic Graeme Turner in his 2006 book.

The USC research also found that while the judges had star status, “the reciprocity, blindness and proximity between ordinary participants and established talent appeared to strike a chord with Australian audiences”.

Ms Potter, who worked in the commercial TV industry in London in the 1990s, said the use of transnational program formats had jumped in the past decade, “displacing other forms of local content and affecting the Australian independent television production sector”.

— Julie Schomberg

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