'Live' anniversary event TV as public service ephemera: Doctor Who, Casualty, Match of the Day, EastEnders and BBC moments of attachment

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Considering a range of recent BBC TV programme anniversaries, this article analyses how the BBC has utilised different modes or zones of ‘liveness’ to promote the value of public service television via ‘event’ TV. Such anniversary events strategically collapse together the ‘hyper-ephemeral’ (having to be there) with the ‘anti-ephemeral’ (commemorating TV history), as longer term audience memories of public service television’s trustworthiness and durability are evoked. Contra scholarly debates which have positioned media anniversaries simply as a matter of (hyper-)commodification, I address Doctor Who’s 50th, Casualty’s 30th, Match of the Day’s 50th and EastEnders’ 30th anniversary as each shaping a sense of remembered ‘public service ephemera’. Through this process, audiences’ recollections of past programmes, and their integration with memories of everyday life, are articulated with emotional attachments to the BBC, thus making an affective case for the British Broadcasting Corporation’s cultural legitimation. Very different types of TV that we might not usually think to analyse side-by-side – flagship, returning, and soap dramas, along with sports coverage – can all work coherently as programme brands to defend the BBC’s cultural standing, without surrendering to what’s been termed ‘BBC nostalgia’, and while simultaneously bidding to colonise second-screen ‘digital flows’ circulating around TV premieres.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-242
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Studies in Television
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


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