Pages 28

All that the reader needs to know about this book is contained in its title. So, as a preliminary to the more detailed exposition of its background, aims and methods which follows, let us take each component of the title in turn, beginning with ‘Television and Culture’. First and foremost, the phrase confirms that we are interested in televi-

sion’s location in contemporary post-Soviet Russian culture, signalling that our allegiances are primarily with the Cultural Studies rather than the Political Science wing of Media Studies. We are concerned less with the political and socio-economic determinants of Russian television discourse than with the cultural meanings that the medium generates, both at the level of text, and at that of audience. But also significant is the fact that we have opted for the copulative ‘and’,

rather than the comparative ‘as’ (‘Television as Culture’); the latter would imply, misleadingly for our purposes, that the medium is usually studied outside of its cultural dimension, but that we have chosen, unusually, to treat it in this aspect in order to gain new insight. Nor, however would the adjectival ‘Television Culture’ correctly convey our intentions. Here, the medium is subordinated to the more inclusive category of ‘Culture’, creating the impression that we are leaving aside the essence of television in order to study one of its peripheral features (‘television culture’ rather than ‘television’ itself). The title ‘Television and Culture’ recognises television’s ambiguous socie-

tal status, an ambiguity replicated in academic discourse about the medium: it clearly operates within culture but it is sufficiently ubiquitous to be capable of driving cultural development at large and is even partly constitutive of culture in its modern form. Paradoxically, television’s very importance means that it must be considered apart from culture, yet it also seeps into its every nook and cranny. This, in turn, signals that television provides the perfect object of analysis for standard cultural studies paradigms, but that it exceeds the scope of those paradigms. It is at this point that we must qualify our assertion that the book is located primarily within Cultural Studies. For we

will argue that, given television’s elusive status, no existing academic field of study is entirely adequate to the issues that it raises. As Colin McCabe puts it:

to treat television as a unified cultural form … is to confuse electronic hardware with cultural form … all that it is possible to do is to examine the diverse and incomparable ways in which the developing technology interacts with the reality or fiction that it frames.