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GCSE Media Studies – Set Product Fact Sheet

The Archers
Component 1: Exploring the Media by the sale of advertising slots and public service
broadcasting is funded by public money either
Focus areas: directly from the government or a licence fee. In
Media Industries the UK, BBC radio is funded by a licence fee.
Audiences • The Archers is aired on Radio Four, the BBC’s
Media Contexts main spoken-word channel, and so is funded by
the licence fee. The BBC has a public service
BACKGROUND CONTEXT remit (to educate, inform and entertain) and The
• The Archers is aired on Radio Four, has Archers was originally established to educate
over 5 million listeners and is considered a farmers. The show soon became a major source
significant part of British popular culture. of entertainment for people from all walks of
Running for 65 years, with six episodes a life, not just the rural community. However,
week and an omnibus on a Sunday, it is the the show still prides itself on the quality of its
world’s longest running radio soap opera. research and its ability to portray real rural life.
• The Archers follows the residents of the • Producing a radio series like The Archers
fictional farming community of Ambridge, requires tight schedules and long term planning.
in the fictional county of Borsetshire, »» The production team meet biannually to
in the English Midlands. Its tagline is, plan the following months, and sometimes
“contemporary drama in a rural setting”. even years’ worth of storylines.
»» Monthly script meetings then take place
PART 1: STARTING POINTS – Media Industries where four writers have to produce
a week’s worth of scripts each.
Historical Context: »» Recording takes place every four weeks and
• The Archers was originally established in 1951 actors only receive their scripts a few days
to educate farmers which, it was hoped, would before. Actors are employed for six days in
increase food production after the second world which they record 24 episodes. There is very
war. It was thought that the show could be used little room for error as each 13 minute episode
as a way for the Ministry of Agriculture to is only allocated two hours of studio time.
communicate important information to farmers. »» Episodes are then broadcast 3-6
Social and Cultural Context weeks after recording.
• Wherever possible, The Archers happens in • Due to these recording schedules, actors are
real time i.e. it portrays events taking place not held on retainers and are not employed full
on the date of broadcast, allowing a variety time on a show and often have careers in film,
of topical subjects to be included. If a real- theatre, television and other radio shows.
life event can be predicted, it is often written Consider regulation of the media:
into the script. Even unforeseen events have • Radio broadcasting is regulated by Ofcom,
been weaved into the script with scenes being the government-approved regulatory
re-written and re-recorded at short notice authority for broadcasting. Ofcom sets
such as the 9/11 attacks, the death of Princess standards for programmes and one of its
Margaret and the 2001 foot and mouth crisis. duties is to examine specific complaints
Consider the importance of different funding by listeners about programmes broadcast
models and production processes: on channels that it has licenced.
• Like TV, radio broadcasting falls into two Consider the impact of technologies
categories: public service and commercial and convergence:
broadcasting. Commercial broadcasting is funded • In order to keep up with the different
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GCSE Media Studies – Set Product Fact Sheet

ways people prefer to consume their focused primarily on women’s lives, particularly
media, there are a variety of ways for family relationships, domesticity and marriage.
fans to engage with the show: Therefore the target audience was traditionally
»» Aside from the regular radio slot, listeners females who looked after the home.
can catch up with the omnibus on a Sunday, • Listeners from different walks of life could
hear recent episodes repeated on BBC Radio engage with the show in different ways due to
Four Extra, download the podcast, or listen its multi-stranded narratives. As a listener you
‘on demand’ through BBC iPlayer Radio. might be rooting for one particular character
»» Alternatively, they can check out The whilst your friend might be interested in
Archers’ page on the BBC website, follow another character relationship entirely.
the show on social media by following it • The Archers is perceived as a high quality soap
on Twitter or liking their Facebook page. opera and distinguishes itself from TV soaps by
»» All of these platforms are provided to help providing soap for the educated middle-classes.
audiences increase their enjoyment of the Radio Four has a high cultural status and so
show and make it as accessible as possible the audience for The Archers consists mainly of
for them to keep up to date with it. well-educated middle-class professionals, most of
whom are middle aged and above, white women.
The Brand
• The Archers is big business for the BBC as Consider how audiences may respond to and
it’s the most listened to BBC programme interpret media products, and the social, cultural
online. In today’s society, market share and and political significance of media products:
brand identity are massively important and • For many of these listeners, The Archers
The Archers succeeds on both of these. If the was a familiar friend which provided a
BBC was ever to lose its licence fee, there comforting background and, until fairly
are certain shows that it is guaranteed people recently, there was an unwritten rule that
would pay to subscribe to – The Archers is nothing too terrible would ever happen.
one of these. Therefore, it’s important that • However, in recent years some listeners
the producers keep the show fresh. One way have complained that The Archers is
of doing this is by introducing new characters beginning to mimic the excesses of TV
or pushing the boundaries on plotlines. soaps such as EastEnders. The most notable
example of this is the 2016/17 storyline of
Rob’s abusive relationship with his wife.
PART 2: STARTING POINTS – Audiences For some listeners, the show they once
Social Context considered to be light, mellow drama, has
Not one to shy away from controversy, the BBC now morphed into actual melodrama.
has opened the gates to less talked about topics and • That being said, such a move has attracted
issues in recent years. The domestic abuse storyline new listeners which are welcomed by the
of Rob and Helen has been building for some time. broadcasters, and there is an argument that
The listeners’ privileged position of being able to such shows should reflect the society in which
eavesdrop in on characters’ private conversation has they are aired. This move has also given the
added a very real touch to the storyline. Audiences BBC the opportunity to open a conversation
have witnessed first-hand Rob’s controlling nature, about topics like domestic violence.
his coercive behaviour and insidious ways (e.g. • Because the BBC can be accessed from around
constantly undermining Helen’s looks and clothing), the world, it’s important to understand that
and listened whilst he has progressively isolated her some of the online audience is global, including
from friends and family. The realistic portrayal British people living abroad. Listening to The
of this storyline has even prompted audiences to Archers is a crucial way for them to keep in
raise over £100,000 in charitable donations, proving touch with British life. In fact, even within
the importance of such a show – and the strong the UK, some listeners from urban areas have
relationship it has forged with its audience. stated how they like the sense of rural life that
is evident in the show. Perhaps, like many,
Consider the ways in which media
they dream of getting away from the city
organisations target audiences:
and moving to the country and The Archers
• Historically, radio soap operas have always
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GCSE Media Studies – Set Product Fact Sheet

helps them imagine this for a short time. storyline may be dealing with
• If we consider Blumler and Katz’s Uses »» for social interaction to discuss with
and Gratifications theory, we could family/friends or by continuing the
argue that audience members listen conversation on Twitter or Facebook
for all of those given reasons: »» for personal identity, to compare their life
»» simply for entertainment/diversion experiences with those of the characters.
from their everyday lives
»» to be informed or educated about
rural life or topical issues that the