Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication


Dr Anna Zoellner

Lecturer in Media Industries; Programme Leader MA Media Industries

0113 343 5813

Clothworkers' Building North, 2.26

Office hours: Tuesdays 12-2pm

MA (Leipzig and Manchester), PhD (Leeds)

Research Interests

My research interests are at the intersection of cultural/media industries, media production research, television studies, and critical cultural labour studies. I have a professional background in film and television production and worked as researcher, assistant producer and production manager in independent documentary production in Germany and the UK for several years. In 2010 I completed my PhD thesis which focuses on the development process of documentary programmes for television. Through ethnographic media production research applying participant observation and semi-structured interviews in the UK and Germany, the research explores the way in which production structures and their economic imperatives impact on the conditions experienced in independent production and the creation of new documentary texts. My last project was an international comparative study that examined the conditions and responses of local radio and television in a digital environment. I am currently developing a project that investigates producers’ perceptions of professionalism in television production.


  • COMM1230 Introduction to Media and Communication Research
  • COMM5710 The Media Industries
  • COMM3960 Creative Work in the Cultural Industries


Programme Leader MA Media Industries

Academic Integrity Officer



  • Paterson C; Lee D; Saha A; Zoellner A (eds.) (2016) Advancing Media Production Research: Shifting Sites, Methods, and Politics. IAMCR Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research. Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
    DOI: 10.1057/9781137541949, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/96692/

  • Steinmetz R, Zoellner A, Lax S, Grieves K, Newton G (2014) Digitale Leuchtturmprojekte des lokalen und regionalen Hörfunks and Fernsehens. Schriftenreihe der SLM. Berlin: VISTAS.

Journal articles

  • Zoellner A, Lax S (2015) “On-Air and Online: Social Media and Local Radio Production in the UK”, Medien Journal. Zeitschrift fuer Kommunikationsforschung Hartung A; Herczeg P (eds.). 39.2: 5-18.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/91552/

  • Zoellner A, Schorb B, Keilhauer J (2010) “Special issue: Partizipation”, merz - medien und erziehung. 5

  • Zoellner A, Paterson C (2010) “The Efficacy of Professional Experience”, Journal of Media Practice. 11.2: 97-109.

  • Paterson CA, Zoellner A (2010) “The efficacy of professional experience in the ethnographic investigation of production”, Journal of Media Practice. 11.2: 97-109.
    DOI: 10.1386/jmpr.11.2.97_1

  • Zoellner A (2010) “The Changing Face of UK Documentary Production: Commerce, Reflexivity and Professionalism”, Journal for the Study of British Cultures. 17.1: 69-80.

  • Zoellner A (2009) “Professional Ideology and Programme Conventions: Documentary Development in Independent British Television Production”, Mass Communication and Society. 12.4: 503-536.

  • Zoellner A (2009) “Kinder, Krieg und Kino.”, MedienPädagogik - Zeitschrift für Theorie und Praxis der Medienbildung.


  • Paterson C, Lee D, Saha A, Zoellner A (2016) “Production Research - Continuity and Transformation”, In: Paterson C; Lee D; Saha A; Zoellner A (eds.) Advancing Media Production Research: Shifting Sites, Methods, and Politics. IAMCR. Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 3-19

  • Zoellner A (2015) “Detachment, Pride, Critique: Professional Identity in Independent Factual Television Production in Great Britain and Germany”, In: Banks M; Conor B; Mayer V (eds.) Production Studies, The Sequel!. New York: Routledge. 150-163
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/91553/

  • Hesmondhalgh D, Zoellner A (2013) “Is Media Work Good Work? A Case Study of Television Documentary”, In: Valdivia AN (eds.) The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies. Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
    DOI: 10.1002/9781444361506.wbiems056, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/42878/

  • Zoellner A (2009) “It's a business, that's just how it is... Documentary Development in Great Britain and Germany”, In: Carpentier N; Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt P; Kilborn R; Olsson T; Nieminen H; Sundin E; Nordenstreng K (eds.) Communicative approaches to politics and ethics in Europe. Tartu: Tartu University Press. 73-83

  • Zoellner A (2009) “Projektmanagement”, In: Hüther J; Schorb B (eds.) Handbuch Medienpädagogik. Grundbegriffe Praxis.. München: kopäd. 248-250

Thesis / Dissertations

  • Zoellner A Creativity and Commerce in Independent Television Production: Developing Documentaries in the UK and Germany.

Research Projects & Grants

  • Sächsische Landesmedienanstalt Leipzig: Research Grant, July 2011 – October 2012 “Regional and Local Broadcasting in the Digital Age”
  • ICS, University of Leeds: PhD Tuition Fee Scholarship, Sep 2006 – Aug 2009
  • Anna Ruths Foundation: Doctoral Research Scholarship, Sep·2006 – June 2009

Research Centres & Groups

External Appointments

Conference Committee·

  • MeCCSA 2017 ‘Culture, Media, Equality and Freedom’, 11-13 January 2017, University of Leeds (convenor)
  • ‘Living Cultures – Contemporary Ethnographies of Culture’, 30-31·March 2009, University of Leeds
  • ‘Re-Thinking the Screenplay’, 12 September 2008, University of Leeds··
  • Journal of Media Practice Symposium·JMP4 ‘Media Practice and its Field’, 20 June 2008, University of Leeds··
  • ICS PhD conference ‘Communication Technologies of Empowerment’, 18 May 2007, University of Leeds

Awards and Training

  • HEA Fellow
  • 2015: University of Leeds Teaching Award Professional Standard 2
  • 2011: University of Leeds Teaching Award ULTA-1
  • 2009: ECREA European Media and Communication Doctoral Summer School, Tartu, Estonia
  • 2009: International·Doctoral·course “Media Production”, Lillehammer
  • 1998-1999: Erasmus Mobility Programme: Scholarship for MA study, University of Manchester

PhD & Postdoctoral Supervision

Nur Kareelawati Abd Karim: The Production Culture of Religious Television: the Case of the Islam Channel

PhD Thesis

Creativity and Commerce in Independent Television Production. Developing Documentaries in the UK and Germany (2010)


My PhD thesis contributes to the growing field of media production studies through an ethnographic study of independent television production companies in Great Britain and Germany. Discourses of self-enterprise, free markets and con-sumer choice supported by technological developments, audience fragmentation and neoliberal legislation have led to a shift from a formerly predominantly public-service orientated broadcasting environment to a commercialised, competitive and consumer-orientated television industry. Because they seldom command high ratings, ‘serious’ documentaries are not a high priority for broadcasters compared to other programme genres, and a formerly protectionist attitude toward documentary is being eroded alongside public service broadcasting values. The thesis examines the impact of these developments on independent companies involved in documentary production. It inquires into the ways in which the new commercial production structures affect the work of independent documentary makers and asks to what extent they constrain or enable individual creativity in the development of original documentary programming.

Combining participant observation with practitioner interviews, the study analyses the complex ways in which television workers adapt to creativity-commerce tensions. It describes how commercial imperatives cause independents to act as service-providers for broadcasters and to conform to predetermined programme preferences. The empirical results show that a sense of professional identity alongside occupational values and genre traditions play a particularly important role in this context. They disguise commercial conformity and prevent or dissolve creativity-commerce tensions. At the same time, they form the basis for an understanding of programme quality that is independent from and potentially in conflict with economic objectives. Consequently, television workers both accept their commercial supplier role and the creative constraints it entails, and are also critically reflexive about the production culture and their own role within it. The thesis discusses the interplay of these competing values and address the consequences they have for the developed programmes and the documentary genre in general.

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