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HomeBroadcasting health and disease

Broadcasting health and disease

Émission(s) de santé

Bodies, markets and television, 1950s-1980s

Corps, marchés et télévision, 1950-1980

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Published on Tuesday, January 30, 2018


In the television age, health and the body have been broadcasted in many ways: in short health education films, school television, professional training materials, TV ads, documentaries, reality TV shows and news, as well as stand-alone videos distributed to specific audiences. This three-day conference proposes an exploration of how television formats have influenced and staged bodies, health and healthy practices from local, regional, national and international perspectives, and how these TV programmes spread the conviction that viewers could and should invest in their health and shape their own body.



Throughout the age of television health and body-related subjects have been presented and diffused into the public sphere via a multitude of forms, ranging from short films in health education programmes to school television, from professional training to TV ads, from documentary and reality TV shows to TV news, but also as complementary VHS and similar video formats circulating in private and public spheres. From live transmission of daunting surgical operations or accounts of medication scandals in the 1950s and 1960s to participatory aerobic workouts or militant AIDS documentaries, bodies and health on television and more genuinely the interrelationship of the history of health and bodies and the history of the various TV formats has not been extensively researched. Our assumption is that such audio-visuals are not conceived merely as a mirror or expression of what is observed, but that visuals should be regarded as a distinct, interactive performative power of mass media societies.

The three-day conference aims to investigate how television programmes in their multiplicity approached issues like medical progress and its limits, healthy behaviour or new forms of exercise by adapting them to TV formats and programming. A telling example of this is the US born aerobics movement as it was brought to TV in Europe, in shows such as Gym Tonic (from 1982) in France, Enorm in Form (from 1983) in Germany or the Green Goddess on BBC Breakfast Time (from 1983) in Great Britain. Contemporary, similar and yet differing in national broadcast contexts, the conference seeks to analyse how television and its evolving formats expressed and staged bodies, health and in the above example fitness from local, regional, national and international perspectives. How spectators were invited not only to be TV consuming audiences, but how shows and TV set-ups integrated and sometimes pretended to transform the viewer into a participant of the show. TV programmes spread the conviction that subjects had the ability to shape their own body.

Further, we take into account the long-term evolution of televisual editorialization and staging, notably as it focused on the intimate and adapted to consumer/market logic. We ask what effects these had on the preventive information and the messages related to current health and medical techniques that were diffused.

The conference seeks to better understand the role that TV, as a modern visual mass media, has played in what may be cast as the transition from a national bio-political public health paradigm at the beginning of the twentieth century to societal forms of the late twentieth century when better and healthier lives were increasingly shaped by market forces.

For further information or to register, tkoenig@unistra.fr


Monday, February 19th

10:30-11:00 Welcome and General Introduction 

  • Angela Saward(Wellcome Collection)
  • Christian Bonah (Université de Strasbourg)
  • Anja Laukötter(MPIHD-Berlin) 

11:00-12:00 Keynote lecture

  • Isabelle Veyrat-Masson French television: Between attracting audiences and meeting public service needs


Panel 1 – Television portrayals: What subjects are shown (or not shown)

Chair: Christian Bonah

  • 1:00-1:30 Fabiola Creed, ‘A visual feast [of] muscle builders’: Men, Sunbeds and Television in Thatcher’s England
  • 1:30-2:00 Ana Tominc, Helping “the troubles of fat people”: Health, body and food on the Slovene socialist television

Coffee break

  • 2:30-3:00 William Fowler, Doctor Who, The Trial of a Time Lord: An exercise in corporeal identity and keep-fit
  • 3:00-3:30 Pascale Mansier, Portraying victims in French television health magazines: a survey from the fifties to the eighties

3:30-4:00Commentary & Discussion

4:30-6:00 Projection TBA

6:45 Opening reception, Reading room, Wellcome Collection 

Tuesday, February 20th

10:00-11:00 Keynote lecture

  • Susanne Vollberg Health magazines in FRG and GDR television, 1960s to 1980s 

Panel 2 – Television portrayals: How subjects are shown (or not shown)

Chair: Tim Boon

  • 11:00-11:30 Robert Stock (Dis-)Abling images of public health. Broadcasting the thalidomide body – challenges and transformations since the 1960s in Germany and the UK
  • 12:00-12:30 Jessica Borge Clarifying the code: Mid Twentieth-Century British Commercial Television
    Regulation as a Gateway for Understanding Contraceptive Products and Practices in Mass Media

Coffee break

  • 12:30-1:00 Hannah Elisabeth Kershaw ‘Private things affect other people’: Depictions of HIV, antibody testing and sex education in Grange Hill

1:00-1:30 Commentary & Discussion


Panel 3 – Television discourses: messages (to be transmitted)

Chair: Virginia Berridge

  • 2:30-3:00 Elisabeth Toon Visualising bodily agency: Women and breast cancer treatment on British television in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s
  • 3:00-3:30 Anne Masseran and Philippe Chavot Graft on the screen, 1950s to 1990s. Televisual, social and technomedical contexts
  • 3:30-4:00 Stefan Offerman Responsibility for One’s Own Heart. Health Education Films on Cardiovascular Diseases in the German Democratic Republic, 1960s to 1980s

Coffee break

  • 4:30-5:00 Ayesha Nathoo Broadcasting therapeutic relaxation in Britain, 1960s-1980s
  • 5:00-5:30 Sylvie Pierre Quand la télévision explore la sexualité. L’amour en questions : une série d’émissions sur l’éducation sexuelle à la 5ème chaîne (1995-1996)

5:30-6:00 Commentary & Discussion

Wednesday, February 21th

10:00-11:00 Keynote lecture Tim Boon and Jean-Baptiste Gouyon Doing the Work of Medicine? TV and museum display across the era of social revolution

Coffee break

Panel 4 – Social forms and functions of television

Chair : Anja Laukötter

  • 11:30-12:00 Sheryl Hamilton Screening Hygiene/Spraying Health: Disinfectant Commercials and the Governance of Contagion
  • 12:00-12:30 Angela Saward Television Discourses: A critique of the University of London Audio-Visual Centre’s educational video programme


  • 1:30-2:00 Camille Boubal Building health campaigns in nutrition: limited rationality and communication constraints

2:00-2:30 Commentary & Discussion 2:30-3:30 Round table discussion 

The conference is organized by the ERC funded research group BodyCapital, and hosted by Wellcome Collection.

The healthy self as body capital: individuals, market-based societies and body politics in visual twentieth century Europe (BodyCapital) project is directed by Christian Bonah at the Université de Strasbourg in collaboration with Anja Laukötter at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin. The project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Advanced Grant agreement No 694817).

The scientific committee

  • Christian Bonah (Université de Strasbourg)
  • Anja Laukötter (Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development, Berlin)
  • Tricia Close-Koenig (Université de Strasbourg)
  • Sandra Schnadelbach (Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development, Berlin)
  • Angela Saward (Wellcome Collection, London)
  • Tim Boon (Science Museum, London)
  • Virginia Berridge (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
  • Alex Mold (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)


  • Wellcome Trust - 215 Euston Road
    London, Britain


  • Monday, February 19, 2018
  • Tuesday, February 20, 2018
  • Wednesday, February 21, 2018


  • histoire television, histoire médicale, marché, économie, santé, vingtième siècle, France, Allemagne, Grande-Bretagne


  • Tricia Close-Koenig
    courriel : tkoenig [at] unistra [dot] fr
  • Tracy Tillotson
    courriel : t [dot] tillotson [at] wellcome [dot] ac [dot] uk

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Tricia Close-Koenig
    courriel : tkoenig [at] unistra [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Broadcasting health and disease », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, January 30, 2018, https://calenda.org/431000

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