MS4: Text, Industry and audience
The regulator of television in the UK
legal duties, as set out in the UK Communications Act 2003, are
the UK has a wide range of electronic communications
services, including high-speed information services (for
a wide range of high-quality television and radio
programmes are provided, appealing to a range of tastes
television and radio services are provided by a range of
people who watch television and listen to the radio are protected from
harmful or offensive material;
people are protected from being treated unfairly in television and radio
programmes, and from having their privacy invaded; and
the radio spectrum (the airwaves used by everyone from taxi firms and
boat owners, to mobile-phone companies and broadcasters) is used in
the most effective way.
Ofcom is funded by:
• fees from industry for regulating broadcasting and communications
• grant-in-aid from the Government.
Ofcom answers to the UK Parliament but we are independent of the UK
Government. The Government Departments that sponsor Ofcom are the
Department for Business and Regulatory Reform and the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport.
What is public service broadcasting?
There are 8 basic principles of PSB:
1. It’s universal – reaches the whole nation
2. It’s universally appealing – makes good quality programmes to
appeal to some people all of the time and to all people some of the
3. It recognizes citizens not just consumers and they have
responsibilities to these citizens
4. It will cater for substantial minorities as well as majority
5. It seeks to inform & educate, as well as to entertain
6. It should be independent of political and commercial interests
7. Competition should be about good programming as well as
8. It should liberate the programme maker – not restrict them
Channel 4 – what’s its history and remit?
Channel 4 is a publicly-owned, commercially-funded public service
broadcaster. We do not receive any public funding and have a remit to be
innovative, experimental and distinctive. Channel 4 works across
television, film and digital media to deliver our public service remit, as outlined
in the 2003 Communications Act and most recently the 2010 Digital Economy
Channel 4 was launched on 2nd November 1982 with a unique business
model, under the Broadcasting Act 1981. We are funded predominantly by
advertising and sponsorship, but unlike other broadcasters such as ITV,
Channel 4 is not shareholder owned. Channel 4 is a statutory corporation,
independent of Government, and governed by a unitary board made up of
executive and non-executive directors, who are responsible for ensuring that
Channel 4 fulfils its remit and delivers its financial responsibilities. Nonexecutive directors are appointed by OFCOM in agreement with the Secretary
of State for Culture, Media and Sport. This system ensures our not-forprofit status; that we are held accountable and that all profit generated
by our commercial activity is directly reinvested back into the delivery of
our public service remit.
In addition to the main Channel 4 service, which is available on all digital
platforms as well as through traditional analogue transmission, our portfolio
includes E4, More4, Film4 and 4Music, as well as an ever-growing range of
online activities that includes channel4.com, Channel 4's bespoke video-ondemand service 4oD and standalone digital projects. Through its film arm
Film4 Channel 4 is also a key supporter of British film making talent.
As a publisher-broadcaster, Channel 4 is required to commission UK
content from the independent production sector. We are a major investor
in the UK's creative economy, working with around 300 creative companies
from across the UK every year and investing significantly in training and talent
development throughout the industry.
Channel 4's primary purpose is the fulfilment of its public service remit,
which is defined in the 2003 Communications Act.
This states that "the public service remit for Channel 4 is the provision of a
broad range of high quality and diverse programming which, in particular:
(a) demonstrates innovation, experiment and creativity in the form and
content of programmes;
(b) appeals to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society;
(c) makes a significant contribution to meeting the need for the licensed
public service channels to include programmes of an educational nature
and other programmes of educative value; and
(d) exhibits a distinctive character."
The remit was updated by the 2010 Digital Economy Act, which, in addition to
the above, requires Channel 4 to participate in a broader range of activities.
v The Digital Economy Act 2010 requires Channel 4 to participate in:
v the making of a broad range of relevant media content of high quality that,
taken as a whole, appeals to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse
v the making of high quality films intended to be shown to the general public
at the cinema in the United Kingdom;
v the broadcasting and distribution of such content and films;
v the making of relevant media content that consists of news and current
v the making of relevant media content that appeals to the tastes and
interests of older children and young adults;
v the broadcasting or distribution by means of electronic communications
networks of feature films that reflect cultural activity in the United Kingdom
(including third party films), and
v the broadcasting or distribution of relevant media content by means of a
range of different types of electronic communications networks
In addition Channel 4 must:
• promote measures intended to secure that people are well informed
and motivated to participate in society in a variety of ways;
support the development of people with creative talent, in particular
people involved in the film industry and at the start of their careers;
support and stimulate well-informed debate on a wide range of issues,
including by providing access to information and views from around the
world and by challenging established views;
promote alternative views and new perspectives, and
provide access to material that is intended to inspire people to make
changes in their lives.
From the information above create a mind-map of key points about the
history of Channel 4 and what it is required to do under its OFCOM
Task: Research the available programming on Channel 4 (use their
website and programme schedules). How many documentary/news
programmes are on the channel? Can you identify any particular target
audiences on particular days?
Can you link any of the programmes above to the key remit values the
channel has to follow?
999: What’s Your Emergency?
The volume of 999 calls has jumped by 60% in the last generation, with 31
million received in 2011. Filmed 24/7 with police, fire and ambulance teams in
Blackpool over six weeks, from the moment calls are received, this
documentary series shows how Britain is changing, through the eyes of the
emergency services on the front line.
The series highlights issues ranging from the damage caused by drugs and
alcohol to the reality of domestic violence, and from the dysfunctional way that
some people bring up their children to the plight of those who slip through
society's safety net.
Documentaries focus on real-life events and situations and present a version
of a reality.
Although documentaries are said to be a reflection of the truth all of them are
carefully edited and constructed.
999 could be said to be a fly-on-the-wall documentary – looking at a situation
in detail. The programme uses a mixture of techniques to create a sense of
Typical documentary techniques:
Ø Hand-held camera, often used where lighting and sound aren’t always
perfect, creating a sense of realism
Ø Editing is sometimes disjointed
Ø Use of a voiceover or presenter makes it clear to the viewer this is not
Ø Interviews with participants are used to add authenticity and detail
Ø Captions, archive footage and establishing shots are often used to
contextualise time and place emphasising the factual
Ø Music is often used to support the visuals or sometimes used to clash
Ø Framing of shots and editing often positions the audience as to where
their empathy should lie
Series 1: Episode 6
This programme focuses on how women
in our society are changing; whether it's
putting themselves in harm's way as
members of the emergency services, or
the increasing number of women the 999
system is having to deal with.
Female emergency service workers reveal their motivations for doing the work
that they do and the challenges they face on a daily basis, while the
programme features young women for whom drink, violence and law-breaking
have become commonplace and a perverse source of pride.
The number of women being admitted to A&E after excessive drinking has
more than doubled in a decade and ten times as many women are arrested
for being drunk and disorderly compared to ten years ago.
'Young ladies aren't much like young ladies anymore,' says paramedic Erica
Reynolds. 'If you're looking for somebody to blame, it's the Spice Girls.'
The programme reveals young women who are increasingly using violence
against friends, partners, strangers and the emergency services.
And the police officers reflect on what it's like to enter into violent and
potentially dangerous situations. Some believe it can be easier for women
than men to defuse confrontation.
Task: Fill in the viewing grid overleaf – making detailed notes on the
documentary features used and also the issues of representation the episode
Visual and audio
structure – is it
linear? Is it
edited to create
– link to theory,
Episode 6: Fill out the key points, (adding some of your own too) evidencing
your analysis with clips from the episode:
Key issues around the episode
Objectivity of the filmmaker?
Episode 7: Alcohol is fueling problems
across the UK. Britain likes to drink and
Blackpool is a magnet for stag and hen
parties, with around 2000 clubs and bars.
'It's a mixture between a zoo and Jeremy
Kyle's waiting room,' says Sergeant
Dunne. 'We've practically turned into a
nation of just drunkards really, haven't
'You learn a new language when you start
working here,' says ambulance control operator Alex Bathgate. 'When I first
started I couldn't understand a word anyone said. But four years down the line
I can speak drunk quite fluently on a Saturday night.'
But there are more serious consequences to our alcohol consumption than
falling over and having a sore head the next morning.
With more than a quarter of adults drinking to hazardous levels, alcohol is a
major factor in half of all crime and more than 70% of violent crimes, and
costs the NHS £2.7 billion a year.
It dominates the work of all three emergency services.
Alcohol is also a factor in a third of all fatal fires: 'Cigarettes and alcohol
combined are a lethal combination,' says fire fighter Tony Barlow. 'That is a
good majority of fires where people die.'
The programme also looks at other problems associated with excessive
drinking, including anti-social behaviour and the fallout from alcohol
Visual and audio
structure – is it
linear? Is it
edited to create
– link to theory,
Key representational issues around 999.
Applying theory to a question:
Explore the different ways in which audiences and/or users respond to
your chosen texts. 
Write up 3 academic paragraphs on audience and 999, using both episodes.
It could be argued that 999 could be read polysemically, depending on the different
audiences who have viewed the programme.
Viewers from the Blackpool area may have an oppositional reading to the clip …
The audience is positioned through the use of technical and visual codes, which may
impact on their response to the programme.
Uses and gratifications theory can be applied to 999 in different ways. For example,
some members of the audience may use the programme to give them a sense of
Marketing and promotion of 999
Consider how 999 fits into
the Channel 4 schedule.
What time is it on and how is
the show marketed online
and in the press?
Task: research the official
Channel 4 website and
make notes on how the
programme reaches out to a
wide target audience. What
assistance does the website
offer to viewers?
TV ratings: Go to the BARB website: The British
Audience Research Board, (www.barb.co.uk/)
which collates viewing figures for UK shows on all
channels. 999 began its first series on Monday,
September 10 and continued through November.
Find the ratings for at least 4 episodes and note
them down below. Do this by clicking on Weekly
top 30 programmes, then click on Channel 4 and
the listings of top shows come up for each week.
The People: 999: What's Your Emergency? shows the darker side of
Nov 4 2012 by Jon Wise, The People
★The secret to working on an emergency services line was revealed on 999:
What’s Your Emergency?
Operator Alex said: “You learn a new language when you start working here.
“I can speak ‘drunk’ quite fluently on a Saturday night.”
Well, let’s face it, being drunk on a Saturday night is the only way to get
through Bruce and Tess on Strictly.
Another operator on the C4 show added: “You just prepare yourself for what
could be one of the most traumatic things you’re gonna hear.”
What’s that? Rylan, Saturday nights, ITV1?
And with the show reporting Blackpool has twice the national crime rate, it did
nothing to plug its tourism.
The Daily Mail:
Knives in their handbags, hell-bent on out-drinking men - The TV show
that makes me weep for young women today: A new documentary leaves
ESTHER RANTZEN horrified - and deeply concerned
The grim image etched into my memory by a Channel 4 documentary
on tonight is of two very young women staggering down a dark street, skirts
riding up above their knickers, their legs splayed and buckling beneath them,
while the police attempt to help them walk.
Eventually, one girl falls against a lamp post and collapses, so drunk
she cannot carry her own weight, as one woman police officer says,
helplessly, incredulously: ‘I’m like a mother to them all. Don’t they know the
The central focus of this shocking, despairing documentary shot with
the emergency services in Blackpool is that the gravest danger facing young
girls, right here in Britain, right now in 2012, is not from a stranger or a violent
partner, but from themselves.
More young women than ever are deliberately crippling themselves
with binge drinking, putting themselves in real peril by fighting and carrying
knives, and using their fists and foul language as offensive weapons.
And I have to ask, echoing that police officer and speaking as a mother
of daughters myself, where are the mothers of these loutish, brutalised girls?
These extremely young women seem so determined to self-destruct
that it makes me wonder if they ever had a loving role model — namely, their
While so many girls work hard, achieve, support good causes and fill
their families with pride, why do these others fill the city streets at night,
cluttering up our police cells, our ambulances and accident and emergency
departments, existing as nothing but living, breathing symbols of ‘broken
Who called the emergency services to our TVs?
The channels are awash with observational documentaries trailing doctors,
paramedics and police officers. How much real-life drama can we handle?
"999. What's Your emergency?" Reassuring words in a moment of
crisis for the 31m callers each year, they are also music to the ears of TV
commissioners – and familiar to viewers of the current Channel 4 show of the
same name. Shows such as Coppers, The Force, Helicopter Heroes, Police
Interceptors and Extreme A&E fill the TV schedules. And there are more:
Junior Doctors: Your Life in the Their Hands, Great Ormond Street, 24 Hours
in A&E, and One Born Every Minute. We can't seem to get enough of
programmes featuring those people we rely on in extreme situations.
So what is it that makes these observational documentaries so
attractive to viewers? For one thing they are simple and gripping, throwing up
a steady stream of real-life dramas. In 999 What's your Emergency in which
we follow phone operators taking 999 calls in Blackpool, we're shown a
compelling mix of moments of crisis, a social context for what we're
watching, and the odd cheery yarn to provide some light relief.
As one might expect in a seaside town renowned for occasional bouts
of booze and excess, the footage is sometimes upsetting. When a 999
operator tells someone to "pump the chest hard and fast", the news is rarely
good. But the show can also be instructive – who knew there was quite
such a Mephedrone problem in Blackpool? – and even occasionally funny.
"Suze, vibrator stuck in anus?" asks a genuinely puzzled operator, desperate
to know if this constitutes a genuine emergency.
But many of these shows can, at times, also leave viewers feeling
slightly uncomfortable; wondering just how voyeuristic our enjoyment is.
And sometimes you have to wonder why anybody involved allowed
themselves to be filmed. Channel 4's documentaries commissioning editor
Mark Raphael says he never fails to be surprised at the ease with which
participants agree to sign the necessary release forms. But, he argues, our
love of emergency services documentaries isn't based on voyeurism,
although they of course bring natural drama.
"When a police car or an ambulance whips by in the street it is natural
we crane our necks to wonder what is going on," he says. But, beyond that,
these shows also offer reassurance that when things go wrong, there are
people whose job it is to care. "People like to feel there are good people out
there," he says. "People don't watch to reaffirm their life but people watch 24
Hours in A&E because they feel uplifted."
Along with One Born Every Minute, 24 Hours in A&E uses a fixed-rig
camera unit, which means people are less guarded and "more truthful"
Raphael argues. "If you have a camera operator and a sound guy you can
never be as real or as close."
Certainly I won't forget the dad-to-be on One Born Every Minute
wondering whether to eat a custard cream; or the one who kept shifting in his
seat, concentrating on his own comfort while his wife had rather less of her
own. These very odd but very truthful moments.
Jo Bishop, series producer of the BBC's Junior Doctors: Your Life in
their Hands argues that medical shows in particular are comfortingly
familiar – for all of us who have experienced medical care and the NHS
workers she says also avidly tune in."There are extremes of life and death
and what it's all about, what makes us live and what makes us die," she says.
"[But you also] meet the nurses who deal with these situations and you see
them eating sticky buns or talking about their holidays. They are just like us."
Bishop is also realistic enough to admit that there are so many of these
kinds of shows because trends are important in TV commissioning – and
currently emergency services observational documentaries are strutting
the TV equivalent of the Paris catwalk. Or as she prefers to put it: "It's
like the ice-cream salesman. You get a lot in one area because they
know it's good territory."
BBC News story, November 5, 2012
Blackpool has become a "refuge for the dispossessed", the leader of
the town's council has claimed in an open letter.
Simon Blackburn said: "I can't stand by and let Blackpool be seen as...
a hapless victim of society's ills."
"How much longer can we run around after people fixing their problems
because we are frightened that nobody else will do it?"
But Jim Cullen, of charity Homeless in Blackpool, responded: "What
are we supposed to do?"
The Labour councillor's comments to residents in the Lancashire resort
have won cross-party support.
The council leader said two events - watching an episode of Channel
Four series 999: What's Your Emergency about Blackpool and having to use
public transport more because his car was off the road - had brought him to
the same conclusion.
He said: "I am forced to wonder therefore, at what point we accepted
that Blackpool was going to become a refuge for the dispossessed and the
"When did we simply accept that if people turned up here with both
profound and enduring criminal records, major social problems, housing
issues or poverty issues, we would scoop them up into our bosom and seek to
Mr Blackburn added: "It becomes an issue though when we are fuelling
a culture of dependency on the state, a dependency we are struggling to
afford now, never mind in another 10 years' time.
Blackpool's population has not gone up in the past decade
"How much longer can we run around after people fixing their problems
because we are frightened that nobody else will do it?"
Mr Blackburn said the resort's population had not changed numerically
in the past 10 years but unemployment had grown, public health had
deteriorated, poverty was up and there was "little improvement in alcohol and
drug-fuelled violent disorder and anti-social behaviour".
He said the council could soon be saying "Blackpool is full" and
advising that if people wanted to move there they needed to think, would they
have a job, a home to go to and "means of entertaining themselves which do
not negatively impact on the wider community"?
For each episode, fill in the different documentary techniques used and
differences in the narrative structure, then in the overlapping part, write in the
techniques used in both episodes.