Screen Encounters with Britain: What do young Europeans make of Britain and its digital screen culture?

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Culture Media and Creative Industries


Screen encounters across borders are transforming. Transnational video-on-demand services like Netflix and YouTube fundamentally change viewing patterns and affect the nature and extent of overseas audiences' digital encounters with the UK. But we do not know how. This project seeks to fill this knowledge gap by applying overlapping and integrated analyses of: (1) How young Europeans define, find, access, value and experience screen content (fiction & non-fiction) from the UK, and what motivates them to do so; and (2) how they understand the UK and British culture based on their screen consumption and wider UK-related experiences, and how this impacts their attitudes about the UK.

The project's intervention is timely and important, culturally and economically: Popular culture plays a decisive role in circulating representations, which viewers use to make sense of the world. As radically different mediascapes (Appadurai 1996) emerge, it is vital that we comprehend how they reshape viewing communities, and impact UK content distribution and by extension the production and 'modes of cultural reproduction' (Vertovec 1999) that inform and shape how people perceive the UK. The country's departure from the EU lends additional urgency and makes Europe a particularly important site of investigation now.

The research focuses on young, digital audiences (aged 16-34) in four case study markets, Denmark, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands-chosen for feasibility, variety in market size, different levels of English-proficiency and perceived cultural proximity to the UK. Six questions guide the research across three work packages: markets, cultural intermediaries and young audiences. The mixed-methods approach combines document analysis to assess market trends with quantitative and qualitative methods (survey, digital activities, online interviews, workshops) to illuminate viewing behaviours, preferences for and views about UK screen content, and the role that cultural intermediaries from industry, education and social media play in in shaping these behaviours.

Academically, the research is of relevance to the fields of media, film, TV and cultural studies, audience research, intercultural communication and cultural policy. Alongside its significant and important empirical contribution, the project makes a theoretical intervention by advancing our understanding of (1) the complex interaction of personal, demographic, local, national and transnational forces that determine the consumption and reception of screen content; and (2) how digital encounters with other cultures impact opinions and behaviour towards these cultures, with implications for international relations. Methodologically the project makes a vital contribution by adopting and promoting a transnational research framework, and by developing an innovative mixed methods approach for researching digital, transnational screen audiences in context.

Outside academia, screen practitioners will benefit from a better understanding of how young European audiences find British content and what they like and value about it. UK political institutions and cultural policy makers will benefit from insights about how young Europeans perceive the UK and the role screen content plays in shaping perceptions. Non-academic project partners include the BBC, BBC Studios, the British Council, the BFI, All3Media, HMR International, and the Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact).

Research findings will be shared widely with industry, policy and academic communities in the form of 4 open access interim country reports, 2 webinars, an edited book with papers from practitioners and academics attending 5 knowledge exchange roundtables, and an end of project symposium and report. Academic dissemination further includes conference papers, 3 journal articles, two ECR/PGR methods workshops and a co-authored book (post-award).


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