National television archives routinely collect all manner of material
about the medium, including information about producers, performers and
writers, as well as copies of the programs in which they were involved.
While this is already a highly selective archive (see McKee, this volume),
in media studies terms the industry and text side of the television equation
has been relatively well attended to. Less well observed is how television
was actually watched or what it meant to those who were doing the
watching in specific historical, geographical and cultural locations, both
then or now. In industry terms, the audience is rarely visible except as an
anonymous ratings statistic, which is best regarded as the currency
employed in the TV trade to leverage funds. However, these statistics
don't tell us very much about how television was woven into the lives of
its audience in any real way. With this gap in the records in mind, it is
salutary to note how often claims are made about the experience of
television or the impact it has had on its viewers without anything but the
slightest of clues.