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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2004

Arresting Images: Crime and Policing in Front of the Television Camera

Aaron Doyle. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003; 198 pp; hardcover $50 CA., paper $24.95 CA.
While most research on television examines its impact on viewers, Arresting Images asks instead how TV influences what is in front of the camera, and how it reshapes other institutions as it broadcasts their activities. Aaron Doyle develops his arguments with four case studies of televised crime and policing: he examines the popular American 'reality TV' series Cops, the televising of surveillance footage and home videos of crime and policing, coverage of Vancouver's Stanley Cup riot, and the broadcast of publicity-grabbing demonstrations of the environment group Greenpeace. The four studies show how televised activities tend to become more institutionally important, tightly managed, dramatic, simplified, and fitted to society's dominant values. Powerful institutions, like the police, often harness television for their own legitimation and surveillance purposes, dictating which situations are televised and producing 'authorized definitions' of the situations, which allow them to control the consequences. While these institutions invoke the notion that 'seeing is believing' to reinforce their positions of dominance, the book argues that many observers and researchers have long overstated and misunderstood the role of TV's visual component in shaping its influences.

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