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SMST21606B Television


Examples of TV genres include: soap opera/serial; sitcoms; news; current affairs; sport; lifetstyle programmes, children's; youth etc. Some ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: SMST21606B Television

SMST216-06B Television
  • Week 30 (July 26)
  • Ways of Studying Television Codes

  • Codes and conventions
  • Narrative
  • Genre

I Codes and conventions (1)
  • Television has become a significant part of
    almost everyones lives and reaches more people
    than any other socialising institution, apart
    from the family and schooling?. This has led,
    however, to a common belief that television is an
    activity that requires little or no skill, and
    understanding it is an intrinsic quality,
    embedded in us from birth but we have to learn
    the codes and conventions of the medium, in order
    to understand it and benefit from it, similar to
    learning to read or speak a verbal language.
  • Katie Harris (2002), Is Television Like a
    Language Which We Read?,

codes and conventions (2)
  • Codes are collections or groupings of signs,
    which construct and represent meaning.
    Conventions are the rules which organise signs
    into a code, and produce meaning through encoding
    and decoding. Television can be described as an
    elaborate sign system, arranged into complex
    codes and conventions which become naturalised
    or accepted practice. (Lealand Martin, 2001)

Codes and conventions (3)
  • In terms of television convention refers to
    normal or established practices understood by
    both programme-makers and audiences. An
    audiences familiarity with the conventions of
    television explains the ability to tune in midway
    through a previously unseen programme and
    understand what kind of programme it is genre
    and, indeed, what is going on.
  • Casey et al Television Studies The Key Concepts
    p. 43
  • video MTV3

Codes and conventions (4)
  • It is frequent repetition of such conventions
    that makes us accustomed to them so we can
    appreciate the meanings in television programmes.
    (Fiske Hartley, 1978)
  • We have become so accustomed to the codes and
    conventions of television that we only now
    recognise when they the rules are disrupted or
    violated in some way.
  • video Brass Eye Animal rights (Channel Four)
  • This is David Lander
  • Northern Exposure

Codes and conventions (5) Television News and
Current Affairs
  • Television news, most usually presented in a
    nightly bulletin of 30 or 60 minutes, is a high
    status television genre. Television news (eg ONE
    Network News) is often regarded as the flagship
    programme, gathering the highest ratings and
    revenue for its host channel.
  • Television current affairs are less frequent
    programmes (usually weekly), distinguished from
    the news by their ability to background and
    detail events in greater depth, within magazine
    formats (eg 60 Minutes, 20/20) see Mirrors pp.

Codes and conventions (5) Levels of codes
  • As with all television genres, News and Current
    Affairs are distinguished by
  • Level One codes Reality
  • All television content is already constructed
    (encoded) by social codes, which include
    appearance, dress, speech, accent etc.
  • News personnel (reporters, presenters) are
    customarily middle-aged, white (Pakeha),
    well-groomed, well-spoken, well-educated (imagine
    a Rastafarian reading the news!)

  • Level Two codes Representation
  • Social codes are further encoded by technical
    codes, such as camera angles, lighting, editing.
    These codes, in turn, transmit the conventional
    representational codes which shape and determine
    the structure and meaning of narrative, action,
  • As in the authoritative news presenter addressing
    us directly, explaining events within 50-60
    second news stories, in an atmosphere of
    importance and urgency.

  • Level Three codes Ideology
  • Social codes, technical codes and conventional
    representational codes are organised (by
    convention) into ideological codes (familiar,
    socially acceptable codes) of individualism,
    national interest, gender, race and class, power
    relationships etc
  • For example ideological assumption determines
    what is news-- a focus on the 52 people killed
    in the London bombings, rather than the estimated
    25,000 killed in Iraq language choice
    determines our responses to events eg suicide
    bombers rather than martyrs ..

News values
  • Closely aligned to the codes and conventions of
    news and current affairs, are those factors which
    determine what is news--or, more significantly,
    what journalist and editors determines what is
    news. from Galtung Ruge, 1965
  • frequency threshold
  • unambiguity meaningfulness
  • consonance unexpectedness
  • continuity composition
  • reference to elite nations reference to elite
  • personalisation negativity
  • Video The Making of a News Bulletin (TVNZ)

  • This suggests that there is nothing natural
    about television news and current affairs (and
    news generally?) it is a matter of
    construction--constructed by
  • The medium of television--its codes and
  • Journalistic practice

As well as presenting the news..
  • Television news and current affairs claims to be
    objective and neutral. But this is impossible,
    given its constructed nature--and its emphasis on
  • TV news/current affairs is also entertainment
    the audience has to be persuaded to watch, and
    continue to watch
  • Such news is also a commodity it delivers very
    valuable audiences to advertisers

II Narrative (1)
  • everything on television is connected in some
    way In all television narratives, and across
    all programmes and genres, the objective is to
    assemble all story elements in a coherent and
    logical stream of meaning, to ensure we keep
    watching and understanding Lealand Martin. p.73

Narrative (2)
  • Narrative in television is shaped and determined
  • Repeated patterns of story construction and
    story-telling (as in the news story the 30
    minute sitcom)
  • Individual authorship (eg director, scriptwriter)
    is rarely important in television. The
    imperatives of genre and format are more
    important eg it is more important to produce a
    good sitcom, rather ascribe authorship to a
    sitcom director

Narrative (3)
  • 3.Television narratives are constrained, and
    constructed, by the need to tell stories within
    very strict time-frames eg the 60 sec news story
    the 30 sec TVC the 30 minute sitcom
  • 4.Television narratives are frequently fragmented
    or incomplete (eg serials, coming up after the
    break), interrupted or suspended (eg ad breaks
    episodic drama), frequently non-linear (eg
    flash-backs, flash-forwards), multiple and
    complex storylines (especially serial drama),
    highly repetitious content (eg TVCs)--all
    occuring within a relentless flow of programmes
    and continuity.

Narrative (4)
  • 5. Television needs to tell public, general and
    familiar stories which connect with both the real
    lives and fantasy lives of a wide diversity of
    viewers ie to match our expectations that stories
    should have a beginning/middle/end
  • 6. Nevertheless, 50 years of television has
    enabled the development of variations on
    traditional story-telling (cf. the
    fairy-tale)--most particularly in respect of
    complex plots, multiple story-lines, disruption
    of linear narratives (eg Six Feet Under, The
    Sopranos, The Simpsons)

Narrative (5)
  • Over the decades, television narratives have
    become increasingly dominated by seriality, or
    the continuing story. This is now characteristic
    of both fictional programmes (eg soap opera
    story strands in episodic drama), and factual
    television (eg TV news reality TV)--sometimes
    with unexpected consequences
  • video The Suzanne Smith story

III Genre (1)
  • Television genres are groupings of categories
    whereby programmes are defined, produced and
    placed in the schedule (the timetable of
    television). Examples of TV genres include soap
    opera/serial sitcoms news current affairs
    sport lifetstyle programmes, childrens youth
    etc. Some genre categories are now very broad and
    loose, due to programme diversity and genre
    hybridisation or borrowing eg reality TV

Genre (2)
  • The television industry uses the term to
    categorise and identify the various parts of its
    programming mix. Audiences use it to identify and
    choose their viewing preferencesIt is a
    particularly tidy way of describing the mess and
    muddle which characterises television
    programming, across the multitude of channels and
    hours upon hours of programming. Lealand Martin,

Genre (3)
  • The genre approach within television studies is
    a way of theorising how television programmes are
    classified and organised. It includes a
    consideration of the codes and conventions within
    and between television programmes but Given the
    proliferation of television forms and channels,
    classification into recognisable genres is
    becoming increasingly difficult, even on a
    common-sense level. Casey et al, 108-111

To summarise
  • One can regard the concepts used today as
    stepping stones in the construction of both
    content and meaning in
  • signs (the smallest component of content)
  • are combined into codes and conventions
  • (such as narrative codes conventions), and
    thus into genres (groupings of programmes), and
    then placed in the schedule