Document Type



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Publication Details

Irish Journal of Sociology 13(2): 66–83. 2004.


Abstract This article is based in a broader study of the production of Fair City, Ireland’s most popular television soap opera. The study argues that such shows are potentially important in civil society. They can promote discussion and debate on hidden or taboo social issues. They may thus inform public opinion. Until recently the potential role of soap opera in civil society has largely been overlooked. The research examined the social issues that Fair City could introduce to public discussion by examining its production process. It found the main limits on what the show could and could not say to be determined by practical pressures. The study interprets cultural production through a Bourdieuian conceptual model. Thus in understanding the production of Fair City it takes stock of how the programme is shaped by long term processes at organisational, national and international levels. This article looks inside the production of Fair City. It argues that the show’s limitations must be understood within the context of a new broadcasting environment. Fair City’s success depends on a level of rationalisation that is unprecedented in Irish television drama. This has consequences for the diversity of issues that the show may cover. It also affects the working lives of the show’s creators. The pressures of the new broadcasting environment have reduced the professional autonomy and creativity of those who work on Fair City’s cultural production line. This article offers the hypothesis that this is one example, among many, of how market influence may bring about a ‘proletarianisation’ of formerly autonomous and prestigious cultural work.