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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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24

Is Media Work Good Work?

A Case Study of Television Documentary

David Hesmondhalgh and Anna Zoellner

ABSTRACT

This chapter examines a politics of creative media work in order to make claims for what is good work. These claims follow a number of recent critiques of work emerging from media production studies. Drawing on sociology, philosophy, and social theory, the chapter develops a model for the analysis of good and bad work in general. A case study of the independent television sector in the UK and Germany then applies this model to illustrate the coexistence of positive and negative features in media work. This intervention aims to promote the kind of emancipatory social action necessary to make access to good work, including good creative work, more equal and just.

To what extent is the work involved in media production good work? What is the quality of working life in the media industries? These are surely vital questions for anyone concerned with media production, and yet they have been neglected amidst the boom in studies of creative or cultural labor in recent years. Many recent critics have rightly pointed to problematic aspects of media labor, and we explore some of these below. But we shouldn't forget that there are real reasons to think of media work as attractive, satisfying and rewarding, at least some of the time.

In one research interview, for example, a camera operator spoke of the pride and satisfaction he gained from work that involved “doing really good ...

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