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Rhetoric, repetition, reporting and the "dot.com" era: words, pictures, intangibles

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to add to theoretical and empirical work on the rhetoric of narratives and pictures in annual reporting by using the lens of repetition to examine the Annual Reviews of British Telecommunications (BT) plc. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study constructs a conceptual framework of repetition in signifiants (from rhetoric) and signifiés (from philosophy, notably Barthes, Deleuze, Eliade and Jankélévitch). Signifiants are established by reference to rhetorical figures based in repetition: anadiplosis, anaphora, alliteration/rhyme and lists. Signifiés are indicated as conscious rhetorical emphasis, and unconscious reflections of sameness and difference; networks and links; and, of particular interest during the "dot.com" years, exuberance and compulsion; differentiation, ritual and reassurance. The framework is used to analyse BT plc's Annual Reviews from 1996-2001. Findings ‐ The application of the framework is enlightening: repetition is shown to be prevalent in BT plc's Annual Reviews, especially during the "dot.com" years. Repetition emphasises BT plc's intangible assets; less consciously, repetition reflects BT plc's corporate identity and its participation in the "dot.com" era. Research limitations/implications ‐ The paper provides a model which may be applied to the wealth of discretionary narratives and pictures in contemporary annual reporting. It would also benefit from the assessment of readership impact. Practical implications ‐ The analysis is of interest to accounting researchers, practitioners, trainees, auditors and any user of accounting and accountability statements. It illuminates the way in which discretionary words and pictures highlight and supplement accounting information. Originality/value ‐ The paper augments theoretical and empirical work on the significance of narratives and pictures in accounting.
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Keywords: Annual reports; Narratives; Rhetoric; Telecommunications; Visual media

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 2008

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