10.4185/RLCS-2015-1055en | ISSN 1138 - 5820 | RLCS # 70 | 2015 | |
Audience participation as added value for public service proximity television. The case study of ETB 2’s La noche de…
A. Azurmendi [CV] [ORCID] [GS] Full Professor of Communication Law – School of Communication. Universidad de Navarra - Spain - firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction. While the model of public service television that focuses on audiences has been traditionally criticised for being more akin to the commercial television model than to the public service broadcasting model, contemporary literature points out that in the age of digitisation and convergence audience participation is precisely a key element of public television (Castro, 2012; Doyle, 2010; Kjus, 2009; Bardoel, 2007). This article examines audience participation in Spanish regional public service television and, particularly, tries to determine two questions: 1) whether the variety of participation channels provided by crossmedia productions –a TV show’s website, discussion forums and Twitter and Facebook accounts– increases effective audience participation; and 2) whether this participation can be said to contribute to the fulfilment of the mission of public service television, especially proximity television. Method. The study first provides a review of the literature on audience participation and the forms of participation promoted by European, national and regional policies. The TV show La noche de…, broadcast by the Spanish network ETB 2, is subsequently analysed based on the results of the literature review. Results: The increasing attention paid to audience participation in the European and Spanish literature and legislations is not proportionally reflected on the reality of public service television, and particularly of regional public service television corporations.
Keywords: Audience participation; proximity television; crossmedia interaction.
Contents: 1. Introduction. 2. Review of literature on audience participation. 2.1. Participation in the media: a broad concept. 2.2. Structural-related participation in the media: the governance of public media. 2.3. Content-related participation. 2.4. Audience participation in the public media: concepts and content-related participation. 3. References to participation in audiovisual legislation. 3.1. Audience participation in the European regulation. 3.2. Audience participation in the Spanish legislation on Audiovisual Communication (Ley 7/2010) and Public Radio and Television (Ley 17/2006). 3.3. References to audience participation in regional audiovisual legislation. 4. Audience participation as added public service value for proximity television. The Case study of ETB 2’s La noche de…. 4.1. The subject of study: La noche de…. 4.2. Research method and analysis variables. 4.3. Format, structure and content of the TV show. 4.4. Audience participation strategies in multiplatform television: application to the case of La noche de…. 4.5. Discussion: fulfilment of the public service mission. 5. Conclusions. 6. Notes. 7. References.
Translation by Cruz Alberto Martínez-Arcos, Ph.D, (Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas)
While the model of public service television that focuses on audiences has been traditionally criticised for being more akin to the commercial television model than to the public service broadcasting model, contemporary literature points out that in the age of digitisation and convergence audience participation is precisely a key element of public television (Castro, 2012; Doyle, 2010; Kjus, 2009; Bardoel, 2007). Two forms of participation coexist in the public media: 1) an official and structural type of participation, linked to the representation of the audience through the so-called “audience councils” –which exist in the public service broadcasting corporations of Germany, the United Kingdom and Ireland– and the “advisory councils” –which exist in the Spanish regional television corporations– and 2) an spontaneous content-related form of participation in which citizens use social networks, SMS, phone calls, among other tools, to interact with the media and with each other as audience.
The objective of this study is to classify the different forms of audience participation that exist in television and to reflect on which of these forms of participation contribute to fulfilling the objectives of public service television. García Avilés (2011) has identified up to 100 forms of participation in Spanish television channels (both public and private) in a crossmedia study that allowed him to identify the eight roles played by audiences: citizens, consumers, collaborators, fans, contestants, commentators, benefactors and activists. On the other hand, Enli (2008) has compared the audience participation policies of the major European public corporations with the objectives of public service broadcasting. From the point of view of the audiences, other authors such as Debrett (2009) and Jakubowicz (2008) highlight the transforming power of crossmedia productions, given that they multiply the possibilities of interaction. Our goal is to determine whether the variety of participation channels enabled by crossmedia productions (the TV show’s website, online discussion forums, Twitter and Facebook accounts, etc.) increase audience participation and, secondly, whether these types of audience participation contribute to the fulfilment of the mission of public service television and, in particular, public service proximity television.
Method: the study begins with a the review of the literature on audience participation in public television in the current context of digital convergence, to identify what forms of participation have been said to contribute to the fulfilment of the mission of public service television. The review departs from the studies carried out by Giglietto and Seva (2014), Franquet and Villa (2014), Negredo (2013), Castro (2012) and García Avilés (2011), among others. The second part of the study consists of the analysis of the references made to audience participation in the European and Spanish regional legislation.
Based on the criteria obtained from the review of the literature and legislation on audience participation in public service television, we will examine La noche de… (“The night of…”), a conventional television show that was premiered on 19 September 1995 on ETB 2 and has been on air for over 19 years. Currently, this show has two sections that revolved around audience collaborations: Vascos en Hollywood (“Basque people in Hollywood”) and El Termómetro (“The thermometer”). Since 2000, the show has its own website, which offers several tools to facilitate the collaboration of audiences in the two aforementioned sections, in addition to a third section called Gazapos de película (“Movie mistakes”). The show also has a Facebook account, since December 2010, and a Twitter account (with 2674 followers) since April 2009.
The objective of the study is: a) to determine whether the increase in the participation channels enabled by this TV show has resulted in an increase in audience participation; b) to identify the most dominant participation roles played by the audience of this TV show; and c) to determine whether this increase in participation can be said to contribute to the fulfilment of the objectives of public service proximity television.
2. Review of literature on audience participation
The study and theorisation of audience participation in the media, and especially in public service media, started fairly late in the 20th century because for much of the last century the media audience was predominantly perceived as a passive mass. It was not until the audience began to be perceived as more active, individual and constructivist (Fiske & Hartley, 1978; McQuail, 1992; Dahlgren, 1995; and Alasuutari, 1999) when the active role of the audience in the media begun to be studied, albeit often at the normative level. During the last years there has been a growing interest in analysing the access and participation of audiences, citizens or the public in the media and in the public media in particular. The causes of this renewed interest are varied. First, the technological revolution, which has intensified globalisation and the ability of interaction between audiences and publics; and secondly, society’s demand of a democratic regeneration, which involves demanding greater accountability from the media towards the public and society, and in the case of public media a greater and better access and participation in their organisation and content.
2.1. Participation in the media: a broad concept
The first challenge in a study of this nature is to define what we mean by participation as it is a very broad term. In fact, the theoretical work of Carpentier (2011) allows us to get an idea of the extent of the phenomenon and its complexity. The proposed definition transcends the media system to encompass all types of participation, but it is useful to start the analysis. Carpentier considers that participation is:
This definition is valid for participation in the public media if we modify it to include the concept of public media: “the opportunities for mediated participation and self-representation in the public debate through a variety of spaces and technologies in the public media”. Indeed, it is evident that it is in the public media where the creation and preservation of this space where citizens can exchange views and interact with their peers, and be represented, is more justified.
To delimit the concept, Carpentier makes a useful distinction between participation in the media and participation through the media. The first includes “structural-related participation” and “content-related participation”. In structural-related participation, the audience intervenes or collaborates in the management, direction, financing and distribution of the media. This would be the case of the Audience Councils –which exist in the United Kingdom and Ireland (Azurmendi, 2015). On the other hand, in content-related-participation, the audience can intervene in the definition of content, in the design of programming through the Advisory Councils, and even in the production processes. With regards to the other large category, participation through the media, Carpentier understands it as the self-representation of the social groups through direct access (which is already regulated in many public service corporations as the Right of Access) and mediated representations by the media themselves (Carpentier, 2011: 67-68). Although there are other classifications of audience participation, like the one proposed by van Dijck and Poell (2014), who examine participation at the level of the institution, the professional practices and content, our study will use the theoretical framework of Carpentier to frame the different research studies on participation in the media, and especially in public media. To delimit this study, we will dismiss the analysis of participation through the media, and, without omitting the review of the research studies on structural-related participation, the review will focus on the “content-related participation”.
2.2. Structural-related participation in the media: the governance of public media
In recent years, studies on the need for participation and the participation channels that exist in the structure of the media have been frequent, especially as a result of the momentum for a better and effective governance of the public institutions, synthesised by the rise of the concept of governance. The growing social demand for greater democratisation of the media has also contributed. This social demand has also caused, de facto, social and political actions in favour of the reform, although with different results both in Europe and the USA (Napoli, 2007; Carpentier et al., 2013).
Thus, it is not surprising that many research studies have carried out a whole theoretical analysis of audience participation as part of an effort to improve the media governance and journalism (Hasebrink, 2011; Krogh, 2012; Heise et al., 2014). A fundamental point of these studies is the need for accountability. This concept is key in the study of Bardoel and D’haenens (2004), who distinguished four variants: political, market, professional and public accountability. The work of Eberwein, Fengler, Lauk and Leppik-Bork (2010) is more comprehensive as it examines a group of countries, and is more focused on the accountability of journalism.
The contributions of Baldi and Hasebrink (2007) are also important in this field. For these authors, accountability and audience participation are key aspects of structural-related participation. Both actions are crucial to improve the governance of the media. According to these authors, audience participation in governance and accountability are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other: the quality of participation depends on the quality of accountability; the quality of accountability depends on the quality of audience participation. In this sense, Fengler (2012) argues that the new technological possibilities can be not only the runway for new ways of content-related participation -as it will be discussed later-, but can also be used to involve the audience in accountability processes and thus overcome the failure of self-regulation systems by establishing a system of “crowd-criticism” that would allow an improvement in the accountability of the media.
With regards to the structural type of participation that is more oriented to the institutional dimension and the management of the public media, an outstanding summary of the European and Spanish situation of the Advisory Councils of the public media is offered by Fernández Alonso y Fernández Viso (2012: 209-213). Their study concluded that the presence of social groups in the Spanish case is symbolic and that the effectiveness of the Advisory Council is practically zero (Fernández Alonso and Fernández Viso, 2012: 227). This idea is also shared by Fuente (2014) and could be improved if we apply to it the potential of new technologies to improve the management of public television (Freire and Cepeda, 2011). In other more advanced countries, the situation is not very flattering. Audience participation is limited in the social councils of German public television corporations, which represent socially relevant groups and bodies involved in the setting of the public broadcasters programming. According to Professor Hans J. Kleinsteuber (2010: 224), partisanship has invaded these organisms and they never cease to be accessories for the political parties. Kleinsteuber warns us that if citizens do not react the result will be an unbearable politicisation of control systems that will disconnect the public media further and further away from the citizens they claim to serve and represent. In short, in this structural participation, “public media have failed to respond to the deployment of the new horizontal, multiple, non-hierarchical forms of governance and of the social relationships that affect their organisation, management and relations with society” (Jakubowicz, 2010: 16). The only cases in which the structural involvement has some vitality are the BBC Audience Councils of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to a lesser degree the Audience Council of Ireland’s RTÉ (Azurmendi, 2015). Their organisation, composition, functions, competencies, and meetings are defined and published on the websites of both organisations. On the other hand, based on the content of the minutes of the meetings, which are also available on the web, it is possible to measure the dynamism of the participation of audiences in the governance of these public media: the level of participation is very limited but real, and the views and interests of the represented public interact with those of the directives that attend the meetings of these Audience Councils.
2.3. Content-related participation
After analysing the structural-related participation of the audience in the media, it is now time to analyse the “content-related” type of participation, which involves interaction between the public and the media and their contents (Carpentier, 2011). We start with the review of studies on participation in general and then focus on studies on participation in public service media.
Syvertsen (2004) was one of the first authors to theorise this type of participation that is more oriented towards the interaction with content than towards the structure or management of the media. As a result of the changes induced by increased competition, convergence and digitisation, Syvertsen defines four types of television publics: citizens –dominant at the beginning of TV-, audiences -fundamental at the time of television’s commercialisation-, clients –derived from the new technologies-, and players –a new kind of public that is involved with the sender–. None of these types is exclusive, but for public operators is fundamental to institutionalise “players”, understood as participants, as effective audiences to maintain the new generations (Bruun, 2014: 14). Later, García Avilés specifies, through an empirical study, the eight roles that are assumed by Syvertsen’s “player” when it participates in multiplatform television: citizen, consumer, collaborator, fan, player, commentator, benefactor and activist (García Avilés, 2012: 435).
The amplitude of the processes and the aforementioned roles show the complexity of the analysis of participation. In order to simplify the phenomenon, the concept of “second screen” has been proposed based on the fact that participation has an evident technological basis. Second screen refers to the tablets, laptops or mobile phones that are used to interact or share the content of a TV show while consuming traditional television. The idea of “second screen” focuses, however, on devices, not on contents. For this reason, the concept of “social TV”, whose terminological strength is based on the idea that the audience participates, shares, and comments on the contents of traditional television (Harboe, 2009, quoted by García Avilés, 2011), is far more relevant.
In terms of effective results about social television, Doyle’s analysis of the British case (2010) has shown that systems of audience participation in the context of digital platforms enhance the television experience and provides clear indicators about their preferences. Giglietto and Selva (2014) show that audience participation, the style of comments and the participation mode are correlated with the type of broadcast content. This idea has been confirmed by Quintas-Froufe and González-Neira (2014), whose study of the Spanish case detected correlations between the general level of audience of certain programmes broadcast on Spanish television and their impact through social networks, in this case Twitter. In the same line, Kjus shows that audience participation with content through new technologies and networks contributes to retaining audience’s attention, especially in reality TV shows, and concludes that exceptional and live programmes are essential to this new type of social TV (Kjus 2009). However, there are no conclusive studies that demonstrate that the “interactivity associated with Internet, if used in intelligent and attractive ways, can broaden the audience base of a TV show or to renew its content” (García Avilés, 2011:190).
From a more critical perspective, Carpentier criticises this techno-optimism that in principle should facilitate content-related audience participation, but in practice is subject to the traditional conditions of mass communication. According to Fernández (2013), it is not enough to participate, it is necessary to reach the audience (Carpentier, 2009) and at the moment, the social audience continues to be defined and determined by the television audience. In addition, its randomness and ephemeral consumption do not determine the future of the audiovisual industry. However, it is true that by questioning segmented audiences, the television industry can find a good niche to enhance the experience of watching television (Fernández, 2013). This criticism is based on the idea that participation enabled by the new platforms constitutes a system that allow mainstream television to increase its distribution and, therefore, its profits, avoiding a dialogic communication model (Cebrián Herreros, 2004 quoted by Avilés, 2011). This idea is confirmed by two research studies on the use of Twitter and Facebook in Catalan radio, which concluded that “the predominant model is broadcast, rather than interactive”, i.e. the dissemination of additional information, participation and relationship with users is neglected in favour of the distribution of contents (Sellas, 2012: 131-132). The social audience does not participate in or change the radio discourse, but usually acts in response to a call from the issuer while its ability of content-related interaction and co-creation is limited (Monclús et al., 2015).
2.4. Audience participation in the public media: concepts and content-related participation
One of conceptual differences between public service television and audiovisual commercial broadcasting services is the potential of the latter to reach greater audience participation through such concepts as interaction, co-creation and participation (Enli, 2008; Jakubowicz, 2010; Glowacki and Jackson, 2014; CdE, 2012b). In this sense, Enli (2008) investigates how the new technological opportunities provide a new chance to improve relations between public services and their audience, and how the public operators, however, are caught in the classic dilemma of attracting large audiences and simultaneously becoming an alternative to commercial channels. The analysis of the official documents of several European public operators shows that new possibilities of participation are used as a central strategy to increase the institutional legitimacy, to justify their expansion to other platforms and as a means to achieve new revenues. In short, the public service mission of Lord Reith, ‘educate, inform and entertain’, should be replaced by ‘educate, entertain and participate’ (Enli, 2008: 105).
On the same line, Jackson argues that after the conceptual shift that meant replacing ‘public broadcasting’ by ‘public service media’, one must be go one step further and create ‘public service commons’. Its main characteristics lie in the important position granted to the audience both at the institutional level as in the design of platforms. Thus, the audience would assume new roles: funder (crowd-funder), co-archiver (Jackson 2014). Medina and Ojer (2011) are more cautious and instead of describing the participation and new services as a central or important strategy, consider that interactive services, which facilitate audience participation, are an element that reinforces the mission of public service.
In any case, participation is not a rhetorical question, is a necessity to the changes in the audience. Van Dijck and Poell (2014) contend that public operators must change the concept of “public” to “social”, given the current environment and the need to connect with new generations, as young people do not distinguish between public service and commercial service since the spatial borders and between media devices are disappearing. However, new conflicts arise. TV programmes that integrate social networks in their production and content collide with the non-commercial ideology of publicness, since social networks are commercial and are trying to monetise their social content. Should we question the values of public service corporations when they encourage participation through clearly commercial companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter?
There is also scepticism about some underlying issues; even in the most successful TV model, the BBC. For Collins (2013), with the new technologies the relationship between the user and the BBC has changed just little, because in rough terms the relationship of the British public with the BBC is conceptually constructed as a passive relationship and not as a two-way relationship. Thorsen (2013) also supports this view based on concrete evidence: he says that audience participation in the BBC journalism production is limited by the production routines and the fragmentation of such participation. A further parallel study on participation in the news websites of the BBC and RTVE, RAI France Télévisions and ARD concludes that audience participation is still low, peripheral and complementary (Franquet et al., 2013: 393). For these authors, it is not enough to enable participation: since the contributions of the users should be evaluated, it is necessary to devise a strategy that assesses and manages user-generated content. The previous work of García Avilés (2011) is based on a larger sample: 190 participation actions; 53 public television channels, based on 9 dimensions and 30 types of participation. The conclusions of García Avilés are consistent with the previous ones, as they show that most of the participation activities are “individual, real-time, collaborative, productive, informative, or focused on personal satisfaction” (García Avilés, 2011: 191).
Audience participation in public media content usually also takes place through citizen-participation TV shows which discuss current political affairs (McNair et al., 2002; Sívori, 2010; Thorsen, 2013). However, for some authors, this participation, although valuable, is poor because it is individual. Thus, based on the analysis of two TV shows broadcast by RTVE, Tengo una pregunta para Usted (“I have a question for you”) and Nosotros También (“Us too”),in which a group of mentally ill people produce and direct the TV show, Sívori emphasised that participation in public media is more individual than social, and questioned the effectiveness of such content-related participation, because at the end it continues to be in many cases a collaboration. In other words, audience participation is mediated and normalised in ways which are laid down by the public operators (Sívori, 2010). Sívori concludes that organised plural groups control more efficiently their programmes and projects, messages and objectives than individualised participation do. In any case, full participation occurs only when the audience or the public controls the design and product’s rights, and in order to represent specific interests and messages it is necessary for the content to be organised. It is in this case when complete participation affects not only public broadcasters but also society and the audience (Sívori 2010). In the same vein, based on a qualitative study of 20 Spanish public TV channels and 100 participation activities, García Avilés (2012) highlights that most users are passive and do not participate, but also concludes that audience participation has evolved from playing the role of fans and consumers to the role of collaborators and activists through social networks.
This idea of the need for organised participation to make participation more effective is supported by the analysis of the participation of young people in the production of three cross-platform projects of the public television corporations of France, Belgium and The Netherlands (Vanhaeght and Donders, 2014). The results show that the success of participation depends largely on whether it contributes to the concept of the programme and it is not an end in itself. The participating audience should know that their participation matter and that it is taken into account. If it does not happen, the concepts of co-creation, interaction and participation are basically rhetorical concepts, which are not taken into account on the day-to-day activities of the public operator.
3. References to participation in audiovisual legislation
References to audience participation in the European legislation are discussed in this section. The reality is that references are limited and basically focus on access, a very limited type of participation. For example, in the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Transfrontier Television of 5 May 1989, the only reference to access refers to access to content deemed important, which is symptomatic.
“Article 9. Access of the public to events of major importance.
Each Party shall examine and, where necessary, take legal measures such as introducing the right to short reporting on events of high interest for the public to avoid the right of the public to information being undermined due to the exercise by a broadcaster within its jurisdiction of exclusive rights for the transmission or retransmission, within the meaning of Article 3, of such an event.”
With regards to the European Union, the 2010 Audiovisual Media Services Directive makes references to participation and access in relation to certain groups in recital 46.
The Directive also repeats the concept of access to important events and their respective summaries, in recital 55 and article 14 and 15:
Therefore, we can conclude that the active participation of the audience or the public in audiovisual media is not regulated beyond the directives that affect the protection of the rights of consumers and the right to rectification of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The European Parliament’s resolutions on the public service broadcasting neither makes references to audience participation as essential or important function of its mission (EP, 1996; PE 2010).
On the other hand, more recently, two explicit mentions to the need for audience participation in European public service media were made in 2012 in two documents of the European Council, although without normative force. The first document, the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on Public Service Media Governance (CdE, 2012ª), states that the governance of these bodies should provide active and effective dialogue with the stakeholders, “including new levels of interaction, commitment and participation”. The following recommendation of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on governance requires member States to strengthen public service media through the inclusion, in the rules that define the public service, of provisions that facilitate the full use of new interactive technologies to promote wider democratic, social and cultural participation (CdE, 2012b).
3.2. Audience participation in the Spanish legislation on Audiovisual Communication (Ley 7/2010) and Public Radio and Television (Ley 17/2006)
The Spanish 2010 Law on Audiovisual Communication (Ley 7/2010) responds to the demand for a unified regulation of the medium television in Spain. It also responds to the new circumstances of the audiovisual industry caused by digital technology and the Internet, which the law describes as an “exponential increase of radio and television signals”, and increased access to audiovisual media with the inevitable fragmentation of audiences (Preamble of the law). This law includes aspects relating to the public as well as commercial television. It also includes measures on radio and other audiovisual communication services, and fulfils the obligation to incorporate into Spanish law the Directive 2007/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on “Audiovisual media services without frontiers”, of 11 December 2007.
However, the active role of the public is recognised only within the “right to participation in the control of audiovisual content”. It is a prerogative that is not limited to the public’s possibility of complaining before to the competent audiovisual authority, but extends to the right of hearing with the service provider that has delivered an apparently illegal content:
Article 9: “When the audiovisual authority considers that apparently illegal content has been broadcast hearing shall be given to the involved service provider and, where appropriate, to the person who requested the intervention of the authority.”
The audiovisual authority can reach agreements with the service provider to modify the audiovisual content or, where appropriate, put an end to the broadcast of the illegal content.”
This is a very limited type of participation, focused on aspects related to content which in no case means structural participation in the media.
In terms of the law that governs the public service audiovisual media, Law 17/2006, grants the public the generic right of access (art. 2 d), which is subsequently developed through open procedure at www.rtve.es . The law also contemplates the existence of an Advisory Council (art. 23), whose 16 members are designated freely by different political and social institutions (table 1).
Table 1. Composition of the Advisory Council
By itself, this type of designation does not guarantee audience participation in public television, beyond the fact that the diversity of the members of the Advisory Council represent the interests of the institutions that appointed them. The information and advice competencies the law attributes to the Council reflect a low profile regarding audience participation in decision-making on programming and content:
Article 23.3. “The competences of the Advisory Council are the following:
3.3. References to audience participation in regional audiovisual legislation
Also in this case the scarcity of references to audience participation is striking. The laws on regional television or audiovisual media mention the democratic contribution of public regional broadcasters and that their objective is to meet the needs -or rights, according to the texts– to information, of a plural nature, to access to culture and education, to the offer of cultural creations. However, these same laws -or other derivatives- do not develop these principles or transform them into institutionalised audience participation channels.
The biggest approach to the concept of audience participation in the laws on regional television is the recognition of the right of access, which is included in most legal texts:
Table 2. Regulation of the right of access
The legal texts do not explain what right of access is, nor establish the procedure whereby it can be exercised in each case. It is more a statement, a general principle which can -or not- contain a diversity of possibilities of action for the interested parties.
Along with the right of access, another expression of audience participation is the recognition of an Advisory Council within the organisation of the regional television corporations, in which some sort of representation of the audience would be included.
Table 3. Advisory Council or organs with similar citizen representation in regional corporations
The legislation describes in details the advising functions of the councils in order to integrate a diversity of actions but without limiting the adopted initiatives. The generality and amplitude of the functions attributed to the Advisory Councils are accompanied by a lack of specification on other aspects such as their composition and organisation
4. Audience participation as added public service value for proximity television. The Case study of ETB 2’s La noche de….
4.1. The subject of study: La noche de….
La noche de… is a general-audience TV show about movies that has been broadcast since 1994 by the second most popular channel of the Basque regional television corporation, Euskal Telebista . In the past 20 years in which this show has been on air and has been hosted by Félix Linares, it has become flagship programme for Euskal Telebista , not only for being the longest-running show, but also because it has been permanently backed by the audience. The premiere of the current season, 2014-2015, reached a 16% audience share, with about 150,000 viewers .
La noche de… is structured in different sections, including: Gazapos(“Movie mistakes”), Políticamente incorrectos(“Politically incorrect”), Famosos que estuvieron a punto de morir(“Celebrities who almost died”), Vascos en Hollywood (“Basque people in Hollywood”), Videos (with films shot in Bilbao, for example), Curiosidades del celuloide (“Curiosities of the celluloid”) and El mundo según LND (“The world according to NLD”, articles on the history of cinema). Some of these sections have survived over several seasons, while others have been alternated. An important part of what is presented in these sections is submitted by viewers who share their content through participation channels opened by TV show from the beginning of the broadcast.
At first, audience participation on the TV show took place via telephone or postal mail as the host and director, Félix Linares, invited viewers to make contributions to the show. These invitations were accompanied by on-screen announcements of the phone number or mail address of the TV show. On occasions, contributions from the public were, and still are, rewarded with the inclusion of participating viewers in different prize drawings, mainly cinema tickets to attend movie premieres. In recent seasons, however, the main participation channels have been the TV show’s website, which provides an email address where viewers can send their content proposals and their responses to other questions posted on the website. As an example, from January 2015 followers of the TV show and users of its website have the opportunity to respond to the question Do you know a movie that makes references to the Basque Country? . Another traditional form of participation in the show is viewers’ submission of “movie mistakes”.
In terms of its social audience, it has a Facebook account since 1 January 1997 and a Twitter account since April 2009, reaching 21,115 followers in the first week and 2,913 in the second. Since 2007, the show also has a YouTube channel which publishes short videos (of about 7 minutes in duration) of fragments of the broadcast content. These videos receive very uneven numbers of views, ranging from the 6,821,011 views of El fantasma de tres hombres y un bebé (“The ghost of three men and a baby”, 2010) to the 206 views of Aupa Etxebeste (2014) .
To analyse our subject of study we developed several analysis cards that collected information about the TV show’s format and internal structure; the contents available on its website; the different participation channels offered to the public; and the roles played by the audience when responding to the strategies deployed by the TV channel. The design of all the tools of analysis is based on the most recent studies carried in Spain on the phenomenon of audience participation in multiplatform (Franquet and Villa, 2014; García Aviles, 2011 and 2012; Castro, 2012; Ruano, 2009 y García, 2008). To evaluate the TV show’s fulfilment of the public service mission we started by analysing the definition of this mission in the current Spanish and European regulations and, for the methodological aspects, the parameters proposed by Laura Fernández and Marta Roel (2014) to measure this property in TV contents . The sample selected for the study included 18 episodes broadcast between 14 October 2014 and 15 January 2015.
4.3. Format, structure and content of the TV show
The first variables that were taken into account for the analysis of the TV show are: format, objectives and presentation style, content and channels for audience participation
A. Format as the idea of the TV show. Format is the new way of calling what was always called the idea of a TV show, which could be easily replicated on television in any other language and anywhere else (Saló, 2003:34). In television, in general, the format can be classified in: informational, fictional and entertainment. La noche de… can be considered a form of entertainment but not in its purest form. According to Soledad Ruano’s presentation of quality programming patterns in Spanish television (2009), this TV show can be defined as a movies-specialised cultural TV show, although its main purpose is not provide exhaustive news coverage on film, but to entertain while reporting the playful aspects surrounding the world of cinema.
B. Objectives of the TV show. As cultural and entertainment TV show, its objectives to contribute to the audience’s education (in cinema) and entertainment. The website of the TV show defines its objectives as follows: “TV show about movies, hosted by Felix Linares with articles on actors, directors and films; diverse sections that help people discover unknown aspects of the Seventh Art”.
Table 4. Guide to analyse the content of the TV show and its website.
Source: Authors’ own creation
C. Contents and internal structure. Genre(s) used. The presentation takes place after an opening sequence that lasts few seconds and involves the use of close-ups and medium shots of the presenter over a chromakey green screen. Linares presents the show and offers a summary of the show to come, which includes previews of some of the issues that will be presented and the film that will air that night. After the summary, the hosts gives way to two sections: “Celebrities who almost died” due to different accidents and under circumstances not always related to filming, and “Non-CGI special effects”. The genres used in the development of the TV show are: the short informative report (2-3 minutes), the presentation of short news on films, and commentary (sometimes criticism). These are all fundamentally informational genres with cultural content.
D. Audience participation: channels and audience interaction. Audience participation in the TV show can be evaluated by looking at: the level of interactivity of the spectator with the TV show; the origin of the participation initiative; the number of actors involved in the process; and the existence of incentives (García Avilés, 2011). These variables were subsequently related to the results obtained from our object of study, La noche de…, to see how audience participation is approached by the TV channel:
Table 5. Dimensions of the forms of participation in public television: La noche de…, (ETB2).
Source: Authors’ own creation based on the proposal of García Avilés (2011: 182).
E. Crossmedia production refers to the presence of content for television, the website, presence on social networks and several channels integrated in each of the media. –with regards to the TV show under analysis…:
F. Web accessibility. The accessibility of the TV show’s website  is fairly limited for groups with certain disabilities. For example, it is not easy to navigate through the website using only the keyboard and the TV shows available on the website do not display subtitles for the deaf. The two basic principles of accessible web design are: the creation of web pages that can change from one language to another, and offer content in an understandable way to facilitate navigation on the site. In this sense, the website of La noche de… does provide alternative methods for non-textual content by enabling access to them via images, tables, infographics, etc.
4.4. Audience participation strategies in multiplatform television: application to the case of La noche de…
According to the strategies deployed by the TV canal and show, the audience plays a series of roles while participating with the medium. Following the classification of García Avilés, the roles of the audience could be summarised as follows: citizens, consumers, collaborators, fans, contestants, commentators, benefactors and activists (2012: 435-440).
4.5. Discussion: fulfilment of the public service mission
The TV show under analysis offers various participation channels to the audience, of which the most important is its website. However, based on the number of access points and the content made available to users, the website does not constitute the most important strategic line for the TV channel or the TV show. In this case, the gradual increase in the number of user access channels has meant an increase in the number of followers but this does not seem to be significant enough to talk about its influence on the increasing success of the TV show. Audience participation is concentrated in the social networks and the TV show’s website in the form of comments and sometimes collaborations (contents sent by the audience and presented during the broadcast show). The roles played by the audience, therefore, are mostly commentators and fans, despite the latter are little active with the majority of broadcast programmes.
The level of participation of citizens, viewers in this case, in the television contents is a medium, more active on the website of the TV show than on Facebook or Twitter, during the period under analysis. Web accessibility is low and does not include other crucial parameters for the TV show to be considered a public service programme, despite it is an entertaining cultural programme about movies that targets the general public. We are talking about compliance with, for example, self-regulation codes: subtitles for the deaf, audio descriptions for the visually impaired or child protection measures. The format does not present a plurality of views nor shows specific activities in favour of the constitutional values or social minorities. The TV show is neither impartial since its presenter comments openly on much of the contents presented. In addition, films and other contents presented on the TV show are often violent or sensationalist in nature.
La noche de… is a successful format in the Basque regional television; a success that guarantees high levels of audience season after season. However, after the study of the TV show during the aforementioned period, it is not clear whether the TV show’s increase of audience access and participation channels, which incorporate objective functions of the Information Society, have contributed to the increase in the success of the TV show. Also unclear is whether the TV show fulfils the mission of public service proximity television.
Expectations on audience participation in the media have grown, on the one hand, due to the technological revolution that has intensified globalisation and the ability of interaction of audiences and publics; and, on the other, due to society’s demand for a democratic regeneration, which involves greater access for and participation of citizens in the public media.
These aspirations or trends have yet to receive enough social and media projection to talk about consolidated avenues for audience participation and of functions or activities recognised by citizens in their interaction with the media.
The review of the European and Spanish literature and the study of the current regulation shows that audience participation in the public media has become in recent years a relevant objective from a political and social point of view. Paradoxically, this granted importance is not proportionally reflected on the reality of public television channels, particularly in regional public television channels. As noted by Avilés (2012) and Franquet (2013), audience participation is rather individual, peripheral and scarce.
Social networks offer new possibilities for audience participation, but in order for them to facilitate and invigorate this participation, television corporations need to implement a strategy in this direction. Without it, audiences will continue playing a mostly passive role, and making incipient collaborations, as it occurs with the case under study: Euskal Telebista’s La noche de….
In particular, the study shows how despite La noche de… offers multiple audience participation channels, the amount of access points nor the content made available to users/viewers represent a strategic line of first order for the TV show. On the other hand, with regards to the parameters that could establish a correlation between greater audience participation and greater chances to fulfil the mission of public service television, La noche de…, despite offering film-related cultural and entertainment content, does not meet the requirements of public service, such as subtitling for the deaf, audio description for blind people or the protection of children. In addition, films and other contents presented on the TV show are often violent or sensationalist in nature.
 Available at http://www.rtve.es/rtve/derecho-acceso/ . It is a simple procedure that begins with a request to the Governing Council of TVE, iRTVE.es or RNE and the delivery of the relevant documentation. The Commission on Right of Access of the public corporation will be in charge of delivering the proposal on the exercise of the right to the Governing Council.
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How to cite this article in bibliographies / References
A Azurmendi, C. Llorens, N. López Vidales, J.J. Bas Portero (2015): “Audience participation as added value for public service proximity television. The case study of ETB 2’s La noche de…”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 70, pp. 490 to 518.
Article received on 14 May 2015. Accepted on 22 July.