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Media Talk

Spoken Discourse on TV and Radio

Andrew Tolson

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Over the past twenty years, a focus on broadcast talk has emerged as an innovative approach to studying the media. Adapting perspectives derived from Discourse and Conversation Analysis, this approach investigates distinctive forms of mediated speech on TV and radio. It provides original insights into the ways in which broadcasting stages 'discourse events' (interviews, debates, commentaries and verbal performances) which are designed to attract and involve overhearing audiences.

Media Talk is the first book to provide a comprehensive review of this important work, in terms which are accessible to students and non-specialist readers. It is however, much more than a textbook, being augmented throughout by the author's own research into contemporary, sometimes controversial developments. An introduction to this area of media studies, and its distinctive methodologies, is followed by chapters on news talk, political talk, sports talk, radio DJ talk, talk shows, celebrity interviews and 'reality TV'. The book is illustrated with examples from British and American radio and television.

Particular themes include:

  • the so-called 'dumbing down' of news and current affairs in increasingly 'conversational' forms
  • the design of forms of talk to appeal to particular target audiences
  • the development of new forms of 'reality' programming featuring unscripted verbal performances by 'ordinary' people


1. Studying Broadcast Talk
2. Analysing Media Talk
3. News Talk
4. Political Talk
5. Sports Talk
6. Youth Talk
7. Ordinary Talk
8. Celebrity Talk
9. Talking to Big Brother.

About the Author

Andrew Tolson is Principal Lecturer and Subject Leader for Media Studies at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. He is a founder member of the Ross Priory Seminar on broadcast talk and has publications which relate to the construction of TV personalities and celebrities, forms of interviewing (particularly on chat shows) and shifting modes of address in TV news. He is author of Mediations: Text and Discourse in Media Studies (Arnold: 1996) and contributing editor of Television Talk Shows: Discourse, Performance, Spectacle (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: 2001).


One of the strnegths of Tolson's welcome new book is to show just how such interchanges can be traced, marked out and understood... the book is a consistently excellent resource for media studies students, by condensing complex theoretical models and providing lucid applications of them to show how the same analytical repertoire can be employed across a wide variety of insitutional forms in both television and radio.
- John Farnsworth, New Zealand Broadcasting School, The Radio Journal
Andrew Tolson has written the first book-length study of talk on radio and television. It is an excellent introduction to the key issues at stake in the analysis of talk and an authoritative guide to its study as the primary communicative medium of radio and television. It shows the range and diversity of talk in many different genres of broadcasting. Teachers and students will find it an indispensable resource for getting to grips with how radio and television really work as media of communication, between broadcasters and audiences, in the contexts of ordinary daily life.
- Paddy Scannell, University of Westminster