Television programmes as media texts

Television programmes present a complex mixture of codes and messages within the media text for the audience to read. These codes include:

Verbal CodesAny use of language, written or spoken, in the media text.
Technical CodesThese include all technical processes used to create the media text, such as the type of shots used, camera movement, camera angles and framing, and how the media text is edited.
Symbolic codesSymbolic codes are cultural symbols embedded in the mise-en-scène. The mise-en-scène is all the elements that constitute the visual represenation of the media text, such as settings, costumes, lighting, soundtrack, and the body language of the actors. All these elements are used to convey meaning to the audience.


TV organisations are regulated to ensure they meet their own codes of practice and also those enforced by government guidelines.

Ofcom is the UK regulator of the television and radio sectors. Ofcom's duty is to examine complaints by viewers or listeners of channels it has licensed to broadcast to establish if the broadcasting code has been breached. Ofcom also ensure:

  • A wide range of different TV shows are available
  • Audiences are protected against harmful or offensive material
  • Participants in television shows are protected from unfairness and loss of privacy

The watershed is the time when TV programmes which might be unsuitable for children can be broadcast.

It begins at 9pm and material unsuitable for children should not, in general, be shown before 9pm or after 5.30am.

In May 2008 Ofcom fined ITV £5.68 million over the unfairness of premium-rate phone lines in a number of ITV hit shows including Soapstar Superstar and Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.

MTV was also fined in 2008 for broadcasting highly offensive language pre-watershed on a number of its channels.

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