Nowadays reality TV is omnipresent in the afternoon program of (German) commercial broadcasters like RTL, RTL II, Sat.1, VOX and Kabel eins. The genre’s origins are American documentations about crime fighting (e.g. „Cops“ (FOX, 1989)) but the show that really pushed the genres popularity is „Big Brother“ (in Germany on RTL II, since 2000).
The representative aspect of the genre is the blurring of fact and fiction to a so-called „factual entertainment“ or „faction“ (a combination of ‚fact‘ and ‚fiction‘) and thus the media construction of truth of the depicted events. Although reality TV shows do have a „claim to the real“ (Holmes/Jermyn 2004), producers intentionally irritate the attribution reality vs. fiction and cross borders between genres, which is why the shows are eventually „made-for-TV-factuals“ (Hill 2007).
The main research question is how reality TV sticks to a discourse about reality although it is also obviously using fictional(ized) elements, and what patterns and strategies certain shows use to keep up this pretence of reality. One part of the answer is connected to the medium television, which does not just present but also constitute reality. For the current research approach it is irrelevant if and to what part this reality is an effect of its presentation. Instead, the focus is on how the intervention of the television changes reality and how these changes can be shown.
Dr. Daniel Klug
PD Dr. Axel Schmidt
Institute of German Language Mannheim