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Keywords:

  • Debate;
  • drunk driving;
  • television representations;
  • discussion programmes;
  • cultural forum;
  • attribution

Abstract

The mass media are an important source of social understandings and representations. The growing genre of audience discussion programmes functions as a public forum for airing opinions on issues of social concern. The genre is structured so as to involve viewers, to validate ordinary experiences and to express opinion. Four programmes on drunk driving were analysed for the causal explanations they offer viewers. The causes, effects and causal interconnections used within each programme were analysed, and networks of the overall representations of drunk driving were constructed. These showed a broad consensus of causes and effects across programmes, but different explanations in terms of locus, stability and controllability. Programmes typically offered lists of important factors, rather than structured arguments, despite the debating framework. There was an emphasis on external, stable, controllable causes in the programmes.