9 December 2009 1:30 PM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

David Brent danced, Big Brother was born, Doctor Who was reborn – and reality TV became an unstoppable force. It was the era of viewer-power, scandal and wannabes

British television has always favoured the Orwellian term "controller" – rather than director or editor – when it comes to the job description for those who commission and filter content. But in the first 10 years of the 21st century, control has been progressively surrendered to the viewers – first deliberately, then involuntarily.

The rise of reality TV created a new genre of drama, containing names listed not in Equity but in local telephone directories. And these programmes – joined later by reality talent shows – gave viewers, through phone-voting, an unprecedented degree of say over the outcome. By 2009, having already taken over many of the duties of casting directors, viewers had also become distributors: posting their favourite material for free online, to the despair of copyright lawyers and DVD publishers. »

- Mark Lawson

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