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French 'reality television': More than a matter of taste?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Hugh Dauncey


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During the early 1990s, reality programming (RP) was introduced into the French television industry in the form of what became known as téléréalité, or, perhaps in deference to their American and Italian origins, 'reality shows'. Initially greeted by a storm of controversy about their legality, and about the desirability of some of their feared effects on French society and institutions (especially the legal system and the right to privacy), reality shows have now become a more accepted, but equally controversial feature of French broadcasting. This article examines the growth of reality programming in French television during the 1990s, describing the main programmes and styles of RP in France, and setting the phenomenon within the double context of ever increasing commercial constraints on programme production and traditional French concerns to maintain France's image as a country of culture. The article analyses the discourse of criticism and of justification which has arisen around the issue of reality shows, manipulating notions of democracy, authenticity and empowerment of individual citizens in defence of RP and presenting fears of informing, voyeurism and exhibitionism in the case against. It is seen how reality shows are taking their place in the constant modernization of French society, including the modernization of notions of what is represented by 'culture', but, also, how these new trends in television programming are undermining some of France's traditional values and aspirations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dauncey H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of Communication

Year: 1996

Volume: 11

Issue: 1

Pages: 83-106

Print publication date: 01/03/1996

ISSN (print): 0267-3231

ISSN (electronic): 1460-3705

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0267323196011001004


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