Scheduling for Christmas: how an ‘Ordinary’ piece of television became extraordinary

Paul Tucker, Helen Wolfenden, Howard Sercombe

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Is Mise Michelle (I am Michelle)(2011) is an hour-long television programme commissioned for BBC Alba, the BBC’s Gaelic language television channel. Filmed in the summer of 2011, the scheduling intentions were very open, as needs must where frequent replays are financially necessary. Unexpectedly, however, the programme was scheduled for the prime 9pm slot on Christmas Day 2011. In the process, the programme is transformed: from ‘ordinary television’, in Bonner’s (2003) concept, to prime television. Conceived originally in Lotz’s (2014) terms as ‘mainstream niche’, the programme had to carry the weight of bringing the mainstream to the niche in this high-value slot. Originally conceived as a story of ancestry along the lines of Who Do You Think You Are?, in its new Christmas clothing, the programme becomes a bearer for a more universal longing for home, for family, for community and for belonging.
This article explores these transformations, and the decision-making that led to them, through interviews with the primary practitioners involved in the production process, from commissioning through to scheduling. In particular, the under-researched role of scheduling in the encoding/decoding transaction (Hall: 1973/1993) gets some much needed attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-48
JournalJournal of Popular Television
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Television
  • Schedule
  • Christmas
  • Ordinary
  • Gaelic
  • Niche
  • Transformations


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