Limits to Change

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Production studies have become popular over the past decade. Recent studies have analysed, amongst other things, innovation, management strategies and the effects of convergence on editorial processes. There have only been a few studies that have analysed what happened inside media organisations in the earlier transformative stages (outside the UK and the USA). This paper analyses how the Norwegian public service broadcaster (NRK) adapted to the loss of its monopoly and the beginning of competition during the mid-1980s. It provides a window into how the flagship of public service, the Enlightenment Department, dealt with the new situation.

If one follows the production process of the main programme of the department (with the revealing working title ‘Flagship’) from its conception to its realisation as a weekly programme broadcast in prime time, this reveals how innovation at the time was restricted by organisational arrangements, internal values and external pressures. The programme makers included many elements that are still today considered to be advantageous in factual programming (humour, dramatization, popularisation, serialization, recognition, and even interactivity). Along the way several of these were changed: what had started as a proposal for a documentary series turned into something that was predominantly a discussion programme.

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