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Hilmes receives Fulbright award for broadcast research in U.K.

June 5, 2013 By Kerry Hill

Michele Hilmes, professor and chair of the Department of Communication Arts, has received a Fulbright Award to enable her to conduct research into “transnational” British and American broadcasting at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom for six months in 2013-14.

Photo: Michele Hilmes

Michele Hilmes

Created by treaty in 1948, the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission is the only bilateral, transatlantic scholarship program, offering awards for study or research in any field, at accredited U.S. and U.K. universities. The commission is part of the Fulbright program conceived by Senator J. William Fulbright in the aftermath of World War II to promote leadership, learning and empathy between nations through educational exchange.

Hilmes, a professor of media and cultural studies, is conducting research for her next book, a follow-up to “Network Nations: A Transnational History of British and American Broadcasting.”

“My book, which came out in 2011, took this British-U.S. history up to the 1970s, so my next book takes it from there and goes forward,” she says. “There was a huge change that happened around then which was satellite broadcasting, something we take for granted now.”

At the University of Nottingham, she will be working with the culture, film and media faculty to explore the history of television co-production between the United States and the United Kingdom.

She explains that her research focuses on programs made with both U.K. and U.S. audiences in mind versus shows that are adaptations, such as “The Office” or “House of Cards.”

“When we watch a program like ‘Downton Abbey,’ it’s a bonding experience. We are all enjoying this wonderful drama, and we are attached to it,” she says. “It is really creating a sensibility that is uniting us across national, cultural boundaries. I call that the transnational public.”

That transnational public is especially what interests Hilmes.

She also is an ardent fan of radio and creative sound work as developed by the BBC, and looks forward to developing a greater knowledge of British radio and television during her Fulbright term.

“After many research trips to the UK over the last several years, I am delighted to be able to spend a longer period of time actually living in Nottingham and getting to know the country as a resident,” she says.

Hilmes, who grew up in Indianapolis, received her BA with Honors in comparative literature from Indiana University in Bloomington, and earned her MA and Ph.D. degrees in cinema studies at New York University.

She joined the UW–Madison faculty in 1993. Her work focuses on media history and historiography, particularly in the area of transnational influence and cultural exchange in the fields of radio and television.

In selecting scholars, the Fulbright Commission looks not only for academic excellence but a focused application, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills, a desire to further the Fulbright Program and a plan to give back to the recipient’s home country upon returning.

Nearly 300,000 women and men from all over the world have participated in the Fulbright Program. Of these alumni, approximately 15,000 U.K. nationals have studied in the U.S. and 12,000 U.S. nationals in the U.K. on Fulbright educational exchange programs.