Professor Roger Silverstone, who has died aged 61 following corrective surgery, was a leading pioneer of British media and communication studies. As the author or editor of 12 books, he played a prominent role in the intellectual development of a new academic subject in Britain, just as he did in its institutional development.
Television was just beginning to attract interest as an academic subject in Britain when, at the age of 27, Silver- stone started on a PhD at the London School of Economics. His thesis, published as The Message of Television (1981), drew upon literary and anthropological theory to analyse the medium's storytelling power. It was followed by one of the first - and still one of the best - ethnographies of television in Britain, Framing Science: The Making of a Television Documentary (1985). An analytical insider's account of how processes within the BBC shape the representation of science, it is lucid, elegant and insightful.
Television and Everyday Life (1994), perhaps Silverstone's best known book, was translated into four languages. Television, he argued - in an age before multiple TV ownership and multiplying channels - is a source of reassurance in an anxiety-prone world. It has become part of the compensating ordering of daily life, a feature of its hidden routines that create a sense of stability and control. It also connects home life to public and global space, forging a sense of being linked to others.
In a number of distinguished publications, Silverstone went on to explore the changing nature of communications technology and the varied uses to which it is put. At the heart of his best work was a constant concern with the way in which the media represent the world, connect people and ideas within it and forge ties of imagination, trust, and memory. This, and related themes, were summarised in an original synthesis, Why Study the Media? (1999), an enormously successful book that was translated into 10 languages. It led directly to his last volume, Media and Morality, due to be published this autumn, which examines the moral issues faced by the media.
The eldest son of a surgeon, Roger was born in Birmingham and brought up in Birkenhead, where he contracted a lifelong commitment to Liverpool FC. He went on an exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford, and gained a first in geography in 1966. Like many of the brightest of his generation, he was drawn by the siren call of the media. On graduation, he had a short, unhappy stint at the publishers Routledge and Kegan Paul, but then went into broadcasting, working as a researcher and director at London Weekend Television and the BBC. This move determined the direction of the rest of his working life.
Roger was an exceptionally productive academic. Beginning as a sociologist at LSE, and subsequently at Bedford College, London, he switched academic tracks in 1976 when he moved to Brunel University. There, he played a key role in developing the study of communications before becoming the first professor of media studies at Sussex University in 1991.
He returned to the LSE as that institution's first professor of media and communications in 1998. With the support of the director, Anthony Giddens, Roger gathered together media specialists from different departments to create a new department of media and communications. It has since become a leading centre of research into the media, attracting postgraduate students from all around the world.
Roger wore his distinction lightly. He had a modest and unassuming style, and a wry, ironic wit that disarmed academic opposition to media studies. But underneath his quietness was a strong drive that underlay his industry, and a moral sensibility that infused his academic work. He was anchored by an exceptionally happy marriage to Jennifer, a psychotherapist, and by his children, Daniel, Elizabeth and William, and four grandchildren. Having lost his father at an early age, he remained deeply family-centred throughout his life.
He was also a genial host, the giver, with Jennifer, of many dinner parties in which the conversation and food were always memorable. He never realised his ambition of writing the ultimate Jewish cookbook, but in all other respects his was a remarkably fulfilled and successful life that inspired a great degree of love and affection.
· Roger Silverstone, media academic, born June 15 1945; died July 16 2006
Television is a central dimension in our everyday lives and yet its meaning and its potency varies according to our individual circumstances, mediated by the social and cultural worlds which we inhabit. In this fascinating book, Roger Silverstone explores the enigma of television and how it has found its way so profoundly and intimately into the fabric of our everyday lives. His investigation, of great significance to those with a personal or professional interest in media, film and television studies, unravels its emotional and cognitive, spatial, temporal and political significance.
Drawing on a wide range of literature, from psychoanalysis to sociology and from geography to cultural studies, Silverstone constructs a theory of the medium which locates it centrally within the multiple realities and discourses of everyday life. Television emerges from these arguments as the fascinating, complex and contradictory medium that it is, but in the process many of the myths that surround it are exploded.
This outstanding book presents a radical new approach to the medium of television, one that both challenges received wisdoms and offers a compellingly original view of the place of television in everyday life.