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Commercial television and primate ethology: facial expressions between Granada and London Zoo.

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This article examines the significant relationship that existed between commercial British television and the study of animal behaviour. Ethological research provided important content for the new television channel, at the same time as that coverage played a substantial role in creating a new research specialism, the study of primate facial expressions, for this emergent scientific discipline. The key site in this was a television and film unit at London Zoo administered by the Zoological Society and Granada TV. The Granada unit produced 'Animal expressions', a twenty-five-minute television film based on research on monkeys and apes by the Dutch postgraduate student and soon-to-be-leading-authority Jan van Hooff. Recovering the production and multiple uses of 'Animal expressions', this paper offers the first sustained historical analysis of science on commercial television. I show how Granada patronage helped Van Hooff to support his argument that human expressions such as smiling and laughter shared common evolutionary origins with similar facial movements in nonhuman primates. Emphasizing the mutual shaping of science and ITV, I argue that 'Animal expressions' repurposed televisual conventions of framing talking heads, and blended serious science with the comedy of 'funny faces', thereby epitomizing Granada's public-service strategy at a time when commercial television was defending itself from criticism in the Pilkington report.



4303 Historical Studies, 50 Philosophy and Religious Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology, 5002 History and Philosophy Of Specific Fields

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Br J Hist Sci

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Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Arts and Humanities Research Council (2260731)
British Society for the History of Science Research Grant Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge