Mediating home in an age of austerity: the values of British property television

Ruth McElroy

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Lifestyle television provides a dramatic space in popular culture where the values of neoliberalism are articulated, enacted and sometimes contested. The ideological reliance of this consumer-driven form of television on financial markets and economic growth has posed a significant challenge for programme-makers in the post-crisis recessionary era. This article explores the myriad ways in which British property television has responded to the global financial crisis, particularly as it has been framed discursively as a new age of austerity. Austerity is understood here as an ideological formation that mobilizes a selective version of twentieth-century British history in order to establish continuity of national values of thrift, poverty and collective stoicism that are seen to characterize a cohesive, British response to crisis that emerges from external forces. The article charts the contradictions that become evident when the financial and ideological system upon which the property TV genre is reliant are being undermined. Although UK consumers’ access to mortgages has been a casualty of the crisis, the aspiration to homeownership in Britain has survived relatively unscathed. This article illustrates how these contradictions are played out on-screen in diverse iterations of the property TV genre transmitted by British public service broadcasters, including new domestic craft series presented by property gurus. It argues that the genre, as a cultural and industrial artefact, is remarkably adaptable to new economic and ideological circumstances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-542
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number5
Early online date28 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Austerity
  • aspiration
  • consumerism
  • craft
  • housing
  • home
  • property television
  • recession
  • retrosexuality


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