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The University of Southampton

FILM3027 Debates in Television Studies

Module Overview

This module offers an introduction to the scholarly study of television as an audio-visual medium and cultural practice. By the end of the module you will be familiar with a number of key themes, critical approaches and theoretical debates within television studies, as well as having developed skills in the critical textual analysis of both fictional and factual television programming. The module is primarily concentrated on theories of television as a medium and its specific audio-visual forms, but we will also touch on questions of ideology, circulation and reception. While drawing on some examples from other national contexts, the primary focus of the module is the British and US television landscapes. Similarly, while the module provides some basic knowledge of certain specific histories of the television medium, and may include screenings of some older programmes, the main focus is contemporary television.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the key issues and debates in television studies
  • the central critical terms and concepts used in the scholarly study of television
  • a considerable number of audio-visual forms, styles and conventions specific to television
  • selected television programmes and their historical, cultural and institutional contexts
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • engage critically with a range of themes and critical approaches in television studies
  • participate in and contribute to theoretical debates within television studies
  • apply and critique a range of television theories, terms and concepts in order to perform your own analysis of the medium
  • independently research and conduct in-depth analysis a range of television texts, from a variety of formats and genres
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Select, organise and deploy ideas and information in order to formulate cogent arguments and express them effectively
  • Research appropriate resources independently
  • Conduct critical analysis
  • Organise time effectively


This module widens the scope of the Film Studies programme by focusing on television: a major audio-visual medium that is intimately interlinked with cinema in terms of its histories, forms and industries, while simultaneously being distinctly unique. The module functions as an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of television studies and asks you to think about the specificity of the television medium and how we approach the study of it. A significant part of the module is focused on theories of television as a medium, typically asking you to engage with concepts such as television flow, liveness, intimacy, and address. Another prominent element is the specific audio-visual forms of the television medium, which typically encompasses aspects of ‘televisual aesthetics’, television sound, serial narration and television genres and formats. In addition, the module will also touch upon questions of ideology (representation and politics), circulation (national and global distribution and transmedia texts) and reception (television audiences and viewing practices), albeit more briefly. The module is focused on contemporary British and US television programming, but within these parameters we will discuss a range of programmes from both fictional and factual formats and genres (which could typically include drama series, sitcoms, soap operas, reality shows, documentary programmes, live television events, news programming, sports broadcasts, and adverts).

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching methods of this module include • Lectures • Screenings • Seminars • Tutorials The lectures will introduce key themes, debates and concepts, and link these to the specific programmes shown during the screenings. The screenings will always include episodes of at least two different programmes, in order to better capture the multiplicity of the medium and allow for comparison. In turn, the seminars will examine the readings and screenings in greater detail, which will offer you the opportunity to develop your critical understanding of the issues and debates, as well as your skills in critical analysis of television. Finally, a tutorial will be offered to provide feedback after the first assignment and support you in the process of writing the second assignment. Learning activities include: • Independent study, research and viewing • Critical thinking, reading and writing • Engagement in seminar discussions as both speaker and listener • Preparation of written assignments.

Independent Study110
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Karen Lury (2005). Interpreting Television. 

Robert C. Allen and Annette Hill (eds.) (2004). The Television Studies Reader. 

Janet McCabe and Kim Akass (eds.) (2007). Quality TV: Contemporary American Television and Beyond. 

John Ellis (2000). Seeing Things: Television in the Age of Uncertainty. 

Ethan Thompson and Jason Mittell (eds.) (2013). How to Watch Television. 

Jonathan Bignell (2006). Big Brother: Reality TV in the Twenty-First Century. 

Raymond Williams (1974). Television, Technology and Cultural Form. 


Assessment Strategy

Differentiation between 5th and 6th level work: The assessment of skills will be the same as for 5th level students. For 6th level students taking this module expectations will be higher than those for 5th level students, and the assessment criteria will be accordingly stricter: - Essays should demonstrate a broader knowledge and understanding of contexts and concepts. - Essays should demonstrate a higher degree of independent thinking and critical awareness. - Analysis of television materials and engagement with critical theory should be more in-depth, detailed and confident. - Optimal standards of presentation are required, in terms of spelling, punctuation and grammar, provision of footnotes, the inclusion of a complete and correct bibliography and filmography (of television programmes) and adherence to formatting guidelines.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 60%
Essay  (1500 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

FILM1001 or FILM2006 or FILM1020 or ENGL1079

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