This present study has produced useful baseline data on UK heritage television viewing trends for 2005–06. However, there is a range of more finely detailed issues that could be explored in order to identify specific types and kinds of programmes as they relate to particular audience groupings. Furthermore, research should be undertaken on broadcaster scheduling as it impacts on viewing profiles. The table below details broadcasts of Simon Schama’s A History of Britain on the digital channel UKTV History. Note that due to extrapolated averages and the absence of viewing figures for those under 16, totals are not equal across categories.
Arguably this series would be commonly understood to attract a similar audience across its individual programmes. The table above clearly indicates that this is not the case.
Perhaps most interestingly, the daytime broadcast attracted the fewest C2DE and over 65 viewers, which raises important questions about the commonly held view that people in lower social class groupings and older people are more likely to watch heritage on daytime television.
Again, there is significant audience variation across individual programme figures. On 19 June 2005, 56% of viewers were women, 50% were from social class C2DE, 9% were 16–24 and 1% were from ethnic minorities. By contrast, on 26 March 2006 46% of viewers were women, 53% were from social class C2DE, 7% were 16–24 and 1% were from ethnic minorities. Under the present scheme of research it is not possible to speculate as to the reasons behind the wide variation in the numbers of women watching Time Team. None the less, they are clearly significant and warrant further investigation.
Suggestions for future research in this area would be to augment this baseline data research with a longitudinal qualitative study of a number of audience groupings, in keeping with the important research undertaken over the past decade in the heritage and museum sectors in a higher education context (eg, Macdonald and Fyfe 1996; Bagnall 2003; Piccini 1999) and also in the field of television studies (eg, Ang 1991; Morley 1992; 1995). Specific methods could include focus group discussions within formal settings and ethnographic research – from participant observation to audio analysis of recorded interviews – within a domestic setting in order to tease out the specific identity politics of heritage television. Although it is problematic to use such qualitative research to extrapolate generalised meanings, and certainly any researcher has to be alive to his or her own influence within the research context (Lotz 2000), such methods can assist in identifying new questions to ask of data and can suggest new research avenues to follow. While beyond the scope of the commissioned aims and objectives of this report, it would appear that in order to understand how to make a greater impact with young people and people from ethnic minority groups, such detailed research on a programme-by-programme basis is necessary. Such case studies would work in tandem with the data produced by BARB and analysed by TRP to produce ground-breaking research in this field.
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