In this section, we offer some snapshots of project that have already used BoB and/or TRILT as tools for research. We hope that this will be a ‘live’ section, with more examples to be added over time.
Whether BoB or TRILT will provide the more useful tool for a given search will depend partly on the specific point you want to address. By way of explanation, consider the following two genuine examples – searching for “Campylobacter” and for “acrylamide”.
Acrylamide is a potentially cancer-causing chemical which can be formed during the cooking of some starchy foods. A news story about the health risks associated with burnt toast led to some concern in 2017. Searching for “acrylamide” on TRILT (without any restrictions) generates only four hits, including one programme in Welsh and two records of the same episode of The Food Programme, transmitted at different times. In contrast, searching within BoB finds 33 programmes, many of which relate directly to the original scare story on 23rd January 2017. For this purpose, therefore BoB would clearly be the more effective search tool.
In contrast, consider a search for “Campylobacter” using both BoB and TRILT. A search on BoB throws up an initial 693 records, which sounds very promising. In fact, too promising; why would a bacterium causing food poisoning have received such coverage? On closer inspection, the situation is even more surprising – programmes apparently discussing the bug include On The Buses, Deathwish 2, Wild at Heart and Blue Murder at St Trinians. So what’s going on? It transpires that a very large number of the hits actually relate to an advert for a credit card promoting holiday insurance, which included the line “This is Campylobacter jejuni. A tummy-churning, far-from-home, trip-spoiling bug.” A search for that full phrase in BoB shows that showing of this advert in commercial breaks accounts for 513 of the matches, in a time window from 16th March 2013 to 9th April 2016.
What can a researcher do about this? BoB has the option to exclude transcripts – but if you do this, then the number of matches falls to 25. In other words you have lost about 150 hits that were not attributable to the credit card advert. One alternative would be to conduct a search excluding the identified date range. An effective alternative might be to search BoB for “Camplyobacter NOT jejuni”, which leaves 167 records. Alternatively, or additionally, conducting a search for “Camplyobacter” using TRILT, which garners 51 hits initially, falling to 31 when “show only latest broadcast” is chosen to exclude repeats. This smaller sample might represent the richest source of programmes to examine initially, with the potential to move on to some of the others identified in BoB at a later stage. In this case, therefore, we would probably advocate a parallel screen using both BoB and TRILT.
Case Study 1:
In the Journalistic Role Performance project, we undertook systematic analysis of the state of journalistic cultures in the contemporary media landscape across the world. In 39 countries across every continent, teams of researchers analysed news content across four platforms (press, TV, radio and online) through the duration of 2020.
We did this by using content analysis, a quantitative method for the systematic analysis of large numbers of texts. To ensure that the data was comparable, all 39 countries used a standardised content analysis coding procedure to capture the presence of six journalistic roles (the interventionist, watchdog, loyal facilitator, infotainment, service and civic) in the content of news.
Because analysing every news story across several news outlets over the course of a year is neither necessary nor possible, we used the constructed week sampling method, which ensured a robust sample of stories were selected, representing different months and days of the week, and avoiding over-representation of any one period.
I led the UK team in this project, and BoB was central to our endeavours. For the broadcast part of our sample, we sampled four of the most watched TV news programmes (on BBC1, Channel 4, ITV and Sky News) and most listened-to radio news bulletins (BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 2, Classic FM and TalkSport). All of these are available on BoB, so we scheduled their recording, made shared playlists, then analysed them amongst the team. For radio, you must record the whole programme on BoB which is often 2-3 hours long. As we were only interested in the news bulletins, we could crop the files on BoB accordingly. In total, we coded 4185 stories from our sample period, including 890 through BoB.
While we were sampling scheduled dates throughout the year for this project, other researchers might typically want to go back in time to analyse how the UK news covered a particular news event. Fortunately, many of the major news broadcasts are automatically recorded by BoB, so you can go back and do such an analysis based on a robust sample. Journalism researchers and students all over the UK are regularly using this resource.
Case Study 2:
The issue of who is entitled to receive state benefits is a political hot potato, with elements of the press actively promoting the impression that some of the recipients are intentionally obtaining support in a deceptive or dishonest way.
When there is suspicion of deliberate misrepresentation of individuals’ motivation and inaccurate characterisation of the poor, it is important to examine the issue as carefully and objectively as possible. I used the Learning on Screen databases TRILT and BoB to conduct the television arm of a broader study of news coverage of “benefit fraud” and five related terms.
TRILT was used to look for occurrences of the keywords for the decade from January 2008 to December 2017. Additionally, BoB was used to conduct a more detailed analysis of programme transcripts for the final year of that window. (Print media during the same period was analysed using LexisNexis, but I won’t say anything further about that in this context).
The survey put a spotlight on the particular relevance of several documentaries, both one-offs such as Tricks of the Dole Cheats, and series such as Saints and Scroungers and Council House Crackdown. In both broadcast media and print formats, a strong correlation was made between criminality and receiving benefits, despite the fact that government figures show less than 1% of benefits were claimed fraudulently. The role of the media in both reinforcement of prior views and in agenda-setting were considered.
For more details see Gavin N.T. (2021) Below the radar: A UK benefit fraud media coverage tsunami – impact, ideology, and society. British Journal of Sociology 72:707-724.
Case Study 3:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term principally used to describe two long-term conditions, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative colitis. Media portrayal of living with a chronic disease can influence an individual’s perception of their own situation.
In this project, medical students Andy Willard and Sam Addelman, used BoB to scrutinise coverage of IBD on UK television in a two-year period from January 1st 2019 to December 31st 2020. A long list of potential programmes was generated by searching BoB with the terms “Crohns” (189 programmes) “Colitis” (92), “Inflammatory bowel disease” (32), “Stoma” (71), and “Ileostomy” (12).
After removal of duplicates (e.g. found via more than one search), each programme was rated for accuracy on a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (high). Programmes scoring less than 6 when reviewed by two independent assessors were excluded. A final list of 58 programmes was then re-watched with special attention to: Language used before and around diagnosis; Language re ongoing condition; Current attitude; Message to viewers; Description of the disease; Symptoms, management, medical aspects, etc; Psychosocial aspects; and Other.
Programmes were counted in a range of (potentially over-lapping) genre categories: Reality TV; Factual medical; “Celebrity” interviewed; Magazine programme; Documentary; News; Medical drama; Covid impact; Non-medical drama or comedy.
Unsurprisingly, reference to IBD mainly featured in news reportage, factual medical shows and documentaries. Explanations of IBD were often brief, but mostly accurate. However, it was notable that there was a tendency for programmes to frame living with IBD in extreme terms, either positively or negatively.
Positives included the benefits of talking openly about the condition. The most significant coverage came in the two documentaries: Strictly Amy: Crohn’s and Me featuring professional dancer Amy Dowden, and CBBC show My Life about a boy’s experience of living with colitis.
Negatively, language focused on feelings of fear and helplessness, especially before and around the time of diagnosis. The metaphor of a “battle” with the condition was widely used.
It is hoped that this work will lead into further empirical work, looking directly at the response of young patients watching the selected clips.
Find out more
BoB and TRILT are terrific resources, however it is worth being aware of potential limitations before embarking on a project.
What are BoB and TRILT, and why are they great resources for studying broadcast media?