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Media Coverage and Audience Reception of Disfigurement on Television


Grant holders: Dr Tammy Boyce, Dr Claire WardleProfessor Jenny Kitzinger

Researcher: Joana Barron

Period: June 2006 - May 2008

Background and research design

The research examined the role of television in representing disfigurement and considered how representations might be improved. The project was funded by the Healing Foundation and the Welsh Office of Research and Development. The Healing Foundation is a leading UK organisation dedicated to ‘champion the cause of people living with disfigurement and visible loss of function’.

A team at Cardiff University was commissioned to examine:

  1. The nature of those representations across the span of terrestrial television output (primetime and daytime).
  2. How television representations of disfigurement are produced (e.g. decisions by commissioners, script writers and presenters).
  3. The response to such representations by those with, and without, personal experience of disfigurement.

Research methods

  1. Content Analysis of 8,650 hours of television: one year’s primetime television output (October 2006 to 2007) complemented by analysis of one month’s daytime television (October 2006).
  2. 17 focus groups exploring audience views about, and reception of, representations of disfigurement on television. The focus groups (and small number of interviews) involved 85 people both with, and without, personal experience of disfigurement.
  3. Interviews with 16 media producers: script writers, commissioning editors, disability champions, and documentary producers involved with programmes which have represented disfigurement.

The Healing Foundation

One of the aims of the Healing Foundation is to understand 'the processes of psychological adaptation and recovery', and the media can potentially have a significant impact on these processes. As a result of our research we will produce a comprehensive and accessible report of our findings, including practical advice and tools for working with television programme makers to improve the portrayal of people with disfigurements in the UK media.

Research Outputs:

Media Coverage and Audience Reception of Disfigurement on Television Final Report [3.12MB]

Media Coverage and Audience Reception of Disfigurement on Television Executive Summary [1.87MB]

Related Links:

The Healing Foundation