current affairs


current affairs
   Current affairs, news bulletins and documentary all employ actuality. While news can be seen as communicating daily events of note, or at least those events which are construed as properly belonging to the discourses of news, current affairs explores the issues that ground those events, the context of those issues and explanations for them. It rarely initiates public debate, usually responding to issues that have been brought into the public sphere through other discourses such as politics, scandal or economics. Accordingly, current affairs programming tends to comprise either a mixture of report, structured discussion and debate usually involving experts or extended reports unsupported by discussion.
   Where there is discussion, especially where that takes the form of debate, it is led by a presenter. The role of the presenter is crucial in that he or she interprets or mediates both a range of facts around the issue and the way in which the experts present them, on behalf of the viewer or listener. The convention of the presenter or anchor-person as the linchpin around which the debate flows is compromised by the fact that the presenter negotiates both facts and defining questions, and orders or even selects the assembled experts. The BBC World Service daily radio programme The World, for instance, structures discussion around issues of politics, arts, science and sport. The debate is conducted through the cross-examination of experts, usually by regular presenters who can be determining in any conclusion that is reached or how the debate is closed. The programme is anchored to the voices and personalities of the presenters, and its distinctive character is further stamped by the insertion of features, a quiz and listeners’ views.
   Television current affairs tends to locate the presenter behind a desk with occasional forays to a less formal area. While the desk infuses authority, the armchairs, while remaining resolutely unnatural, indicate an approach that is more leisured and discursive than the news. One of the walls of the studio will function as a screen for the back projection (chromokey) of reports and interviews with experts or correspondents who are not in the studio. The effect is to suppress any appearance of the means of production which might allow the premise or the authority of current affairs to be called into question.
   See also: news, television; teletext
   Further reading
    Eldridge, J. (ed.) (1995) Glasgow Media Group Reader, vol. 1, News, Content, Language and Visuals, London: Routledge.
   JIM HALL

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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