Live television is still alive: On television as an unfulfilled promise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although live broadcasting has declined in the long term, and is deemed of little importance by most television theorists, this article maintains that an analysis of 'liveness' remains central to an understanding of television in general. 'Liveness' is not defined as a technical phenomenon, but rather as the viewers' belief in live broadcasting. This belief depends on the televisual text, on the social context, on the social characteristics of viewers and on the temporal sequencing of television viewing. Based on the combination of sounds (especially the voice) with images, a typology of television sequences is proposed according to the degree of liveness reached: (1) fully live (maximum liveness, as in major media events); (2) continuity (appearance of liveness without certainty, as in game shows); (3) edited (non-fiction and non-live, but influenced by the context of live television, as with some news reports and documentaries); (4) fiction (minimum liveness especially in films, but influence of liveness in some genres). The analysis is applied especially to national and general audience channels. However, a short survey of cable programming shows how liveness has not disappeared, and is related to the possibility of switching, at any given moment, to live channels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-556
Number of pages26
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2000


  • Genre
  • Montage
  • News
  • Non-fiction
  • Semiotics
  • Theory
  • Voice


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