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August 26, 2008

Channel 4 Films / Film Four

Channel 4 Films

(For other case study work please go to Working Title)

Return to British Cinema Hub


When Channel Four became the fourth terrestrial channel in 1982 (the only channels you could get then were BB1, BBC 2 & ITV) it had a brief for commissioning and showing a range of cutting edge materials which were very different to what was being shown on other channels. British film became a huge beneficiary of this policy and many films were made which appealed to quite different audiences. Many of these films became some of the best known and most financially successful films in British cinema since 1982.  This shows what a powerful influence C4 has had over the long term as it has now been operating for over 25 years. By 1984 C4 had co-produced over 20 feature films for the special slot Film on Four.

Because there was a guaranteed TV premiere for these films they could afford to take more risks in terms of both their content and their treatment of this than mainstream films. Nevertheless few of the films were about contemporary Britain. Alexander Walker (2004) correctly identifies The Ploughman's Lunch (1983) as a film which was more critical of the trends within the Thatcher government of the time to which could be added Mike Leigh's Meantime (1983) which deals with a dysfunctional London based family with everybody in it on the Dole (Income support rather than gainfully employed). this had great resonance at the time given that unemployment in the UK was approaching the 3 million mark under the Thatcher government.

Channel Four Films and the Industrial Context

In terms of costs C4 films were typically £500k-£600k at the top end, this compared with conventionally funded feature films of the time which typically cost around £3-4 million. (Walker 2004). C4 films proved attractive to filmmakers and producers because until 1985 there was a generoius system of tax write offs against production costs in which costs could be written off against profits straight away whilst films not initially targetted at TV had their cost written off over several years. This meant that in terms of risks and returns for investors funding C4 films was much lower risk in a high risk business. The Nigel Lawson budget of 1985 was to reduce this tax shelter as the government sought to ensure it got its share form the film-making business.

Whilst film-makers enjoyed the tax write offs they wanted to have their cake and eat it by having the films given a theatrical release in the cinemas first of all. Many wanted an 18 month to two year window for cinema release however David Rose the commissioning editor for fiction at Channel 4 correctly felt that this wouldn't allow C4 to build up its audiences. The reality was that these films even when they did get theatrical release didn't enter into the mainstream anyway usually being released in a small number of cinemas which were identified with the Art House circuit. From the perspective of many in the audience this acted as an artificial ckoke on the market and represented greed from the investors by tryng to squeeze every last penny out of audiences. The problem for C4 was also that the freshness and sense of the contemporary would inevitably be watered down if audiences had to wait. They might even lose interest in the film.  As a result few films had theatrical release and those that did had very limited ones. At this time there was still considerable friction between the film and TV industries. Cinema was very defensive about its major circuits of distribution and exhibition which is where the real money has been made in cinema. The distributors wanted to keeep films off TV for three years and only in the case of commercial flops were they prepared to allow them onto TV inunder three years.

Channel four was badly effected by this industry restriction on trade practices. An example cited by Walker (2004) concerns She'll be Wearing Pink Pajamas (1984) starring Julie Walters. Walters had starred in the very successful film Educating Rita (1983) only the previous year a film which she is still rembered for and consequently her fees had gone up considerably.   C4 had put up all the funding for this film coming to £950k, whilst they had planned an initial theatrical release they had intended to release it on TV as soon as possible in order to recoup their very high overheads against tax. Sadly they were unable to follow this release strategy and the film didn't justify its costs.  This is a good example of the British film industry cutting its own throat when it comes to investment in genuinely British films rather than what are effectively Hollywood ones.

During the mid 1980s the costs of video recorders was coming down considerably as was the cost of films on video and by 1990 most homes had a video-recorder. The rise of video rental shops was an important phenomena and this began to undermine the distribution industries stranglehold on film release. Piracy and fear of piracy within the industry meant films became generally available to audiences much more quickly at at more reasonable prices than before. When videos were first made of Hollywood films they cost around £50-00 each at 1980 prices.

Channel Four had been established with the aim of getting many programmes either by commisioning or buying in programmes from other companies rather than producing its programmes in house which was what both ITV and the BBC did. By 1987 24% of C4 programming was externally produced and films were a large part of this 24%. C4 had an ambitious target of co-producing 20 films per year which was beyond the resources of any other film making companies in the UK. According to Walker (2004) it had a budget of £6 million to spend on fully or part financing films. It typically invested between £250k - £300k per film buyijng in the TV rights. C4 also invested £750k per year in British Screen Finance  and another £500k per year in the BFI Production Board.  One of C4 first films The Draughtsman's  Contract (1982) was a co-production with the BFI Production Board . In the case of the last two investments funds were matched by the government which provided extra stimulaus to the industry.

By the end of 1987 C4 was producing 17/28 films per year on a £9.5 million budget. Very few of the films directly recovered their costs and to all intents and ourposes C4 remained an 'art-house' producer as the films weren't reaching mass popular audiences they had on the other hand established a good rapport with more specific audiences and can be used as an example of how audiences were beginning to fragment as more media products became available. The breakthrough films for C4 were My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), Letter to Brehznev (1985) Mona Lisa (1986). A useful boost was that these films also found an alternative audience in the United States.

By 1989 the bonanza for the film industry through TV funded film was beginning to dry up. Channel reduced its financial committment to film making reducing its annual production target down to 16 films and capping its financial committment to any one film to one third of the overall costs. The head of film at Channel Four David Rose was about to retire. He had had a considerable influence on the success of C4 Film with about £50 million spent on around 160 films up until this point. Many in the British film industry were critical of the C4 approach arguing that the small scale cutting edge film that C4 had built its reputation around was dead. They further argued that C4 had not acted as the launchpad for British cinema which they had expected instead film makers still had to find a considerable amount of finance for themselves. In all honesty this sounded like the carping on of filmmakers eager to break into the Hollywood market and get themselves fame and fortune. Pure greed and overblown egos and the hubris which has seemingly beeen present in the British film industry for decades. In the first instance if the ideas for British films were so good why shouldn't they go out and sell it to find the financial backing? People in other types of business do this all the time. Rather than looking to the amazing effect that C4 had in stimulating a distincly British type of film which was representing aspects of British society greed was the driver of these criticisms.

Walker (2004) suggests that many in the British film industry including the likes of David Puttnam and Working Title (the production company which had grown dramatically on the back of Film Four) were impatient for the bigger budget more ambitious films. TV financed films were too small in their cope and their appeal so the argument went.

Despite this criticism one Film Four success of the time was Riff-Raff (1991). There was a huge debate about whether this film should receive a theatrical release at the time. Eventually the BFI arranged some limited screenings and then Palace Pictures screened it in a range of university / art house cinemas around the country. It reached around 200 screens out of the 3,000 available in the country at the time. Walker is keen to point out the problems that independent British films had in Britian compared to releases in continental Europe:

In Europe where a culture of exhibition existed and was valued, Loach's film was a popular success, ahcieved full-scale releases in several countries and won the new European Film Award in 1992 (Walker, 2004 p 122)

In 1991  C4 decided to back the Crying Game (1992) as a co-production with Palace Pictures (Stephen Woolley) along with Miramax run by the Weinstein's. it was also backed by British screen. Overall it had what Walker described as 'an anorexic budget of £2.3 million' (Walker, 2004 p 149).

Successes of the Early Years of C4 Films: Developing New Audiences

Films that were especially successful in the early years of C4 were Letter to Brehznev (1985) and My Beautiful Laundrette (1985). My Beautiful Laundrette was a seminal film of the mid 1980s for it brought the mischievous and iconoclastic scriptwriting of Hanif Kureishi into the public eye as well as proving successful for director Stephen Frears and actor Daniel Day Lewis.

These were films that touched contemporary critical audiences in the 20 something to 30 something age ranges especially. Kureishi had been brought up on the back of sixties hippiedom then the punk rebellion and then Ken Livingstone's first GLC which had promoted festivals, events and activities by the ANL, Rock Against Racism, feminist organisations and Gay Pride. The concept of cultural industries was also developed. London and young audiences especially in larger cities around the country were keen on seeing the representations and contradictions concerning hybridity and identity which people of a critical nature were keen on debating, discussing and acting out at the time. My Beautiful Laundrette was followed up by C4 and Kureishi a couple of years later with Sammie & Rosie Get Laid (1987). Again directed by Frears and scripted by Kureishi it failed to touch the cultural moment in the way that My Beautiful Laundrette had done but at least Asian identity was now recognised in British cinema. Before My Beautiful Laundrette a large percentage of the British population  went largely unrepresented in the media. There can be little doubt that C4 Film made a significant contribution in this respect.

The 1990s under David Aukin

By 1992 the succession from David rose to David Aukin had been completed. Channel 4 had increased its average contribution to the financing of films to over 40% "but only because costs had risen, not due to optimism" asserted Alexander Walker (2004 p 154). The cost of a typical Channel Four film had risen from £400k in 1982 to £1.8 million. So much for Thatcher's stance against inflation or was it the greed of filmmakers and others in the industry which caused this 4.5 fold increase over a ten year period? Walker's explanation doesn't really add up here. However by this date C4 had part-funded nearly 250 films which is an excellent record.

It was still associated with more radical and alternative film-making for it co-produced Derek Jarman's Wittgenstein with the BFI Production Board. The film was produced by Tariq Ali and the script was written by Terry Eagleton. In 1994 C4 backed Shopping which was pitched to them as a film made with the stylishness of Luc Besson. 1994 also saw C4 become involved in part backing The Madness of King George. It starred Nigel Hawthorn and Helen Mirren and was an excellent history film which also benefitted from crossing over with costume drama thus fitting the heritage genre. However the film was dealing with an unusual and turbulent period of British history and didn't simply celebrate the successes of Britain in the past. It was a much more expensive film than was usual with its budget running in the region of £13 million. It gained good distribution in the USA and turned out to be a profitable film.

The sort of films that C4 was involved with through commissioning and / or co-production deals include
Trainspotting and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Both of these films were hugely successful although appealing to very different audiences. Trainspotting was a low budget film based upon the book of the same name which had carved itself a good niche audience. It was co-produced with Working Title and backed by the powerful Polygram filmed entertainment department. Polygram put some canny marketing into the film. Knowing it would appeal to ravers and clubbers they focused their marketing on this large niche audience which proved highly successful. As a result the film gained distribution in the USA as well although it did need sub-titles there. Four Weddings and a Funeral was a clever production which played upon aspects of national identity successfully including Scotland, however moving renderings of a W. H. Auden poem provided a double theme of national and gay identity, and the film played upon the 'naice' elements of Britishness rather than focusing upon the sort of aspects of British society apparent in Shopping and Trainspotting (ram-raiding and heroin addiction respectively). With a continuing well handled light-hearted romantic comedy audiences were won over on both sides of the Atlantic by its feel-good factor making all concerned large amounts of money and providing the breakthrough film for Hugh Grant as the quintessential 'English Gentleman'.

Channel Four Films and the Representation of Cultural Hybridity

Channel Four has had a very progressive policy when it comes to helping to fund films - and guaranteeing a scrrening of these films -  representing relatively recently ethnic groupings in the UK. These films have been far more than just about separate communities which early multicultural ideas were concerned with. The films commisioned explored and developed ideas of cultural hybridity in which there was mixing and exchange of ideas and attitudes in a complex way. My Beautiful Laundrette launched this approach which was followed by Bahji on the Beach, The Wild West and perhaps most successfully East is East which was the first British film representing hybrid and ever changing cultural and social mix in Britain to make it into mainstream multiplex cinemas. Recently Film four produced the BAFTA prizewinning film Brick Lane (2007) directed by Sarah Gavron. In this respect Channel Four has played a groundbreaking role taking a lead in developing this theme for over twenty years. It also screened the film Yasmin when it failed to gain a cinema distribution deal in 2004. As well as extending the ways in which British society is represented Channel four has thus sought to develop and win over entirely new audiences who are foar mor hybrid and cosmopolitan in their world view. It is not unreasonable to suggests that out of all the  film making institutions  operating in Britain since 1982 -when the Channel Four film arm was initiated- Channel Four has been by far and away the best in this respect. In that sense its committment to the public service broadcasting ethos perhaps means that it has earned the right to gain some of TV licence fee payers money.

1999 Film Four Dominates at Cannes

The late 1990s saw many changes in the structure of the film section of Channel Four.  FilmFour separated from Channel 4 to become a stand-alone company in 1998 (Guardian July 2002). By 1999 Film Four was at the top of its game with nine films were officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival that year although some of these were American. By the late 1990s Film Four was building on its successes but also responding to changes in the structure of TV in the UK which had seen the launch of Channel Five a few years previously and increasing numbers of digital satellite channels becoming available via Sky.  This led on to more changes  in 2001 & 2003:

In 1998 FilmFour, a specialist subscription film channel, was launched.... and in April 2001... FilmFour World and FilmFour Extreme, two further film channels, available to subscribers to FilmFour. These channels were available on ITV Digital but are not carried by Freeview, a wholly free-to-air proposition. In 2003 Film Four World and Extreme were replaced by Film Four Weekly... In May 2001 Channel 4 formally launched a new incorporated company, 4 Ventures Ltd, to manage all its film, learning and other new business activities. (ITC [now Ofcom] on C4 history)

Problems at Film Four

One of FilmFour's biggest problems has been competing for cinema space with multinational film companies, whose films account for more than two thirds of UK box office takings. FilmFour blames the poor box office results on its lack of clout in the distribution market rather than the quality of its films. (BBC on Film Four Partner Search)

2001 turned out to be rather a problematic year for Film Four. Charlotte Gray contributed to a £5.7 million loss as it was one of the most expensive films thay had made and it was a box office flop. Ever since it has become remembered for causing major financial problems at Film four however the problems were more deepseated than that.

In 2001, Film Four put out 14 films, but its releases accounted for just 0.7% of the UK box office market. (ibid)

By 2006 Film four was struggling. Its business model of pay TV on a subscription basis wasn't working, Andy Duncan C4's chief Executive announced:

The people who make money in terms of pay channels tend to be the platform owners or big rights holders. The subscriber levels that we have been getting [for FilmFour] have been very low. We believe we can make money from advertising," (Guardian report)

The actual relaunch came in July as the BBC reports:

In the process it will become the UK's largest free film channel, available to 18m homes, the broadcaster says.

Around one-quarter of the films shown on the channel will come from the UK, but they will be broken up with advertisements for the first time.

Film 4 currently appears to b doing well now it has migrated to Freeview and has taken to an advrtising model to pay for it.

Timeline of Channel Four / Film Four: Films & Events

Year Event Director of Film Arm Films Produced Director

Launch of Channel Four. A separate film arm Film on Four was established. 

David Rose

The Draughtsman's Contract

Angel (Danny Boy US title)

Peter Greenaway

Neil Jordan



The Ploughman's Lunch

Mike Leigh

Richard Eyre


1985 The Nigel Lawson buget removed the tax shelter for C4 Films.

Letter to Brezhnev

My Beautiful Laundrette

Chris Bernard

Stephen Frears


Mona Lisa


Neil Jordan

Derek Jarman


1988 Lawson economic boom underway

1989 Beginning of downturn in TV financed film


Life is Sweet
Mike Leigh
1991 Recession in UK

Riff Raff
Ken Loach
1992 Britain forced out of the ERM
David Aukin now head of Drama at C4

Bahji on the Beach

The Crying Game

Gurindar Chadha

Neil Jordan



Raining Stones

Derek Jarman

Ken Loach


Four Weddings and a Funeral

Madness of King George


Mike Newell

Nicholas Hytner

Paul Anderson


Shallow Grave
Danny Boyle

Secrets & Lies


Brassed Off

Mike Leigh

Danny Boyle


David Aukin left C4 and went to Miramax Welcome to Sarajevo
Michael Winterbottom
1998 FilmFour separated from Channel 4 to become a stand-alone company in 1998 Paul Webster an ex-vice-president of Miramax was appointed in Aukin's palce in February

Film 4 "dominates Cannes" (Walker 2004 p300)
East is East Damien O'Donnell

Sexy Beast Johnathan Glazer
2001 FilmFour makes loss of £5.4 million

Charlotte Gray

Lucky Break

Gillian Armstrong

Peter Catteano

2002 UK distribution and international sales departments folded.  Film production budget was slashed by two thirds to £10m.  50 staff  axed Paul Webster Chief Exec loses job Once Upon a Time in the Midlands
Shane Meadows

Touching The Void

Bright Young Things

Kevin MacDonald

Stephen Fry



February 8th Film Four leaves pay TV and goes onto Freeview






Film 4 Productions: About

Film 4 Recent Productions

Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation

Screenonline Channel Four Films / Film on  Four / Film Four

BritFilm.Org on Channel 4 & Film

BBC 2002 on lossmaking of Film Four

BBC: How Film Four lost the plot (Useful audio clips available here)

BBC 2002 News Story on need for C4 to make cuts and dangers to Film Four

Guardian Story 10th July 2002: Executive goes as Channel 4 pulls plug on ailing FilmFour production arm

Film Four guarantee money back to audiences over Dancer in the Dark if not satisfied after half an hour

Film File Europe: Film Four Production Profile  

BBC Film Collective: The Demise of Film Four

Cast & Crew of My Beautiful Laundrette

Return to British Cinema Hub

(For other case study work please go to Working Title)

May 16, 2008

Contemporary British Broadcasting Hub

Contemporary British Broadcasting Hub


This page is primarily designed for those studying the OCR Contemporary British Broadscasting Unit as part of the Media Issues and Debates Paper.  

British Broadcasters 

The Changing Nature of TV in an "On Demand" Era. There is no doubt we arein the middle of a media revolution.   There are a massive range of new media technologies coming into the market place. The digital grail is the notion of 'convergence' where people will be able to slip seamlessly from one format to another and where all information will be digitally encoded in order for this to happen. The reality of course is somewhat different with format wars and different standards ensuring that this doesn't happen easily. The most popular legal music system iTunes doesn't allow downlaods in mp3 format for example. This entry has started to examine how TV might emerge out of all these changes. Whatever else the future is very uncertain and quite a lot depends on what kind of content and services the audiences want as new possibilities emerge. This entry provides maps for the digitisation programme in the UK.

ITV Heavily Fined for Phone Scam by Ofcom

British Broadcasting Going Digital

BBC 2006 Guide to the new broadcasting technologies. (Please note Freesat isn't in here)

2012: Going Digital. This entry looks at the path laid out for British broadcasting to go entirely digital by 2012. 

Chronology of Developments in digital Free TV  in the UK

Finally Freeview Looks as Though it will Deliver High Defintion TV. A November 2007 entry which takes a look at the latest information on whther Freeview will deliver HD (High Definition) TV. 

Digital Radio Mondiale Comes to Devon. This entry looks at an experiment being carried out by the BBC to create digital radio on the old AM or medium wave channels. If successful this could open up even more bandwidth to new services. The system is different to the DAB one which is currently going to replace all the FM stations.

A survey of broadband usage from November 2007. The access to high-speed broadband networks (we are taling several times the speeds currently available in the UK) is going to be a benchmark for societies at the top of the media tree. Increasingly what will be accessed on domestic screens is going to be provided by these networks - indeed the notion of TV itself is becoming eroded by this tendency. This entry starts to explore these problems and provides links into a range of views.  

Digital Projection: Foundation of a New Exhibition System in the UK? This entry looks at the new digital projection systems currently being installed  in  cinemas around Britain.  This is  not just an issue for the Conetempoary Britiish Cinema Unit although it is a part of that as well.  The onset of  high definition mobile recording , tranmission and  prejection systems  will offer those  exhibition spaces which we think of as cinemas  the possiibility to project live  events from sporting events to rock concerts. There will be excellent  screen and audio facilities  and could provide an exciting form of entertainment  which will compete with films as well as broadcast TV by providing access to live performances with unscripted narratives and plenty of excitement. The fact that these will be one-offs rather than the replication of the same film hundreds of times offers exhibitors and investors a much more stable financial income. Expect to see the 2012 Olympics in a cinema near you!

Freesat Launched May 2008 UK

This entry provides links into stories about the launch of the free satellite TV service backed by a consortium led by the BBC and ITV. It means that there will no longer be dependency upon the Rupert Murdoch owned right-wing  Sky-TV which has so marred the broadcasting environment of recent years.

'Murdoch-vision' has managed to outbid other stations for both Hollywood films and for major sporting events and then clawed back the money by charging higher premiums to the consumer and higher prices to the advertisers. It is the onset of Sky which has destroyed football as a 'sport of the people' and turned  it into a 'sport' for the rich. Money flooding into football clubs and overpaid "celebrities" is primed by Sky's buying power.  Anybody buying into Sky is effectively supporting this powerful commercial agenda.  Take a lesson out of the coming recession and get rid of your subsription!

Freesat will provide a range of free TV stations available right across the country. Furthermore  increasing amounts of the content  will be in HD (High Definition) and finally public service broadcasting will be on an even playing field with the commercial power of Sky. Sky's position was created when the Conservative party created an open door for commercial power in the 1990 bradcasting act. The New Labour Party of Tony Balir was so pusillanimous that Blair went crawling to Murdoch before the 1997 general election to get Murdoch's approval and assure him that so-called "New-Labour" wouldn't offer any challenge to Murdoch's powerful position in both press and broadcasting. 

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting. An introduction to the concept and a range of good quality external links are provided.  

Should the TV License Fee be Topsliced?  

BBC: Moving to a Multicasting Environment and Creating a Vibrant Digital Public Sphere for the 21st Century

The BBC Scandal: Public Service Broadcasting Undermined? Posted in July 2007 this entry is a response to the scandals which emerged from inside of the BBC at the time. That certain individuals have seen fit to act illegally and irresponsibly should not be allowed to undermine the principles of Public Service Broadcasting. That scandals like this have emerged is in part an individualistic response to the presures being exerted by the crass managerialist policies which are so undermining the public sector and quasi-public sector at the moment, from SATS exams to so-called "performance-management". all of this involves people trying to artificially create better numbers and place a veneer of 'quality' upon services. See the scandal emerging in Kingston University in May 2008 for another good example of this. Currently there is a quasi-Stalinist mode of mangerialist thinking which creates a series of outcomes which de-professionalises and results in artificial figures carefully manufactured and manipulated which is reminiscent of Stalinist tractor output meeting all its targets. The fact that most of them didn't work very well wasn't something measured so it wasn't an issue!

History of Television Broadcasting

Timeline of British TV.  Link to a Screenonline chronology of developments in British TV.

Is ITV Going Down the Tubes? This entry looks at the recent scandals around ITV and notes its shrinking shareprice. It raises a number of issues including: 

  • Is there really a need for a company like ITV nowadays?
  • How can ITV reinvent itself to become influential in British Broadcasting assuming that the term broadcasting remains meaningful?  

April 18, 2008

Google 2008 Advertising Results

Google shrugs off ad sales fear

See BBC Business for full report

Google Image

For the first time, the California-based firm earned more revenue abroad - 51% of total sales - compared to its home market. This was partly due to a slump in the weak dollar which increases the value of non-US earnings.

Shares in Google, the darling of the technology sector in 2007, saw its shares reach a peak of $741.80 in November last year, making it the fifth biggest US company by market capitalisation.

But since then, its shares have been hammered on worries that it faced an advertising slump amid mounting evidence that the US is slipping into a recession.

Clicks on Google's sponsored links in the US slowed from a growth rate of 25% in the fourth quarter of 2007 to 1.8% in the first quarter of this year, according to comScore.

Google's Change of Adverstising Tactics

But its upbeat results suggest the reason for this reflects a deliberate reduction in the number of ads on each search results page to deliver to advertisers better matched visitors who are more likely to buy their products.

What's Happening to Google's Competition?

Yahoo is desparately looking at ways to escape being bought by Microsoft.  As a result it has even even teamed up with arch-rival Google in a two-week experiment which will see search-driven Google adverts alongside the search results of Yahoo's website.

Google: 59.8%
Yahoo: 21.3%ut
Microsoft: 9.4%
AOL: 4.8%
Source: comScore March figure

From these figures which summarise the search engine market in early 2008 it is clear that the Microsoft bid for Yahoo is a very sensible one. Yahoo is gradually losing market share to Google. It desperately needs to get this market back but Microsoft which started trying to take-over Yahoo nearly 2 years ago should be confident that it is doing the right thing. Certainly there is no clear evidence that Yahoo has the capability to win back users from Google.  

Google and the British Advertising Market Place  

Extract below from Rory Cephlan-Jones the BBC Technology Correspondent:

And what are most of the eager young Googlers doing? Selling advertising or talking to Britain's biggest brands about how they can move more of their marketing budget online. Because it's easy to forget that as well as being an extraordinarily innovative firm, Google is also rapidly becoming Britain's biggest advertising business. The latest figures - released on Thursday evening - show how rapidly it is growing in the UK, earning $803 million( about £407m) in the first three months of 2008, about 40% up on a year ago.

Let's put that into context. Last year, ITV's net advertising revenue was £1.5 billion. So, even if you just multiply Google's earnings by four and assume no further growth this year, Britain's biggest commercial television business - the original "licence to print money" - is about to be overtaken by an American upstart which only arrived in the UK in 2001. You could not ask for a starker example of the threat to traditional media from the online world. (Emphasis added)

March 14, 2008

Textual Analysis: The Shot

The Shot

Under Construction

(Most parts are now in place and the core definitions are now available)

Return to textual analysis hub page:A2 Resits Only

Return to TV DRAMA Hub PAGE (AS 2008 onwards)

Camera Movement / Mobile Framing Entry  

Introduction: Codes and Conventions of Cinema

Codes and Conventions (General). Cinema uses a number of methods to organise meaning production. Some are general to narrative forms and others are specific to cinema. Cinematic conventions usually work to make the product appear to be seamlessly produced which means that it appears as though meaning had already existed prior to the construction of the film. This is called continuity editing. In fact the cinematic codes and conventions of production produce an axis of meaning which will interact with both the reactions of audiences and the exhibitionary context.

  • Photographic conventions. Framing, long-shots, medium shots, and close-ups all generate particular forms of meaning: To the extent that close-ups are most commonly of central characters in film narratives, they may function to constitute that psychological realism of character which is a mark of the classic narrative. ( My emphasis: Kuhn Annette. 1982. Women’s Pictures: 37).
  • * Mise en Scene*. See separate entry and also lighting.
  • * Mobile framing*. This effect can be produced by different camera movements and can produce a narrative meaning in several ways. A zoom-in can emphasise detail which can be read as bearing a particular significance within the narrative. Camera movements can also move the plot along through panning and tracking. 

Conventions. See also Codes and Conventions. Conventions are established procedures within a particular form of media ( painting, film , novel etc) which are identifiable by both the producer of the artefact and their audiences. Conventions are thus conventions can be understood as agreements between the producer and audience. These will sometimes remain fairly static and at other times there will be moments of strong challenge to these conventions. The French nouvelle vague can be understood as challenging a range of cinematic conventions.

The Shot

Discussion of the shot relates to the framing / camera movement during the shot / the duration of the shot. This article is primarily concerned with the framing of the shot. Linked articles on camera movement and duration will be added soon.  

Shots are the smallest unit from which scenes and sequences are constructed. Shots function to frame the camera's subject. (Framing and the construction of meaning itself will be discussed in another article).  Shots themselves are linked together to form scenes by a range of cuts or transitional devices.  In reality camera shots combine several factors including the angle of the camera which can be tilted up or down and / or from side to side. The size of the content of the frame for the viewer depends upon what distance the director wants the objects/ characters to be visible. There are also decisions to be made about whther only parts of the shot are in focus or whether the whole of the foreground to the background is in focus. The fact that a camera can be moved about on a special crane or a dolly for the duration of a shot also makes a difference. The lighting too is an extremely important factor. The the way the cinematographer makes these decisions is done in discussion with the director.  Becuase of the range of variable involved it is easier to break these different elements of a shot down in different areas however it is important to understand shots as combining a range of features in order for them to effectively move the audience. Below the discussion of shots is focused mainly upon the framing of the content of the shot. Fuller discussions of particular aspects such as camera movement will be added in separate sections accessible via hyperlink when they become available. 

Shot Framing

Aerial Shot. This is a shot taken from a plane or a helicopter. These shots normally function as an establishing shot. These high altitude shots tend to take a detached perspective of what is happening. The opening scene of Mission Impossible is one such example. Aerial shots can also be involved in chase scenes such as the remake of the Italian Job or in Terminator 2. Blackhawk Down had some impressive shots of helicopters flying into Mogadishu.

Birdseye Shot. See Overhead Shot 

Boom Shot. See Crane Shot 

Camera Angle. (See also separate article). In the taking of a shot the camera can be tilted either up or down or from side to side (Canted shot).  To work out  what angle the camera is at in order to describe the  shot  one needs to  think of  what might constitute a 'standard' shot.  This is assumed to  be a straight on  shot  with the camera at the shoulder height of  an average human.  Below this height with the camera tilting upwards is a low angle shot. Above that height with the camera tilting downwards is a high angle shot.

Camera Movement. (See separate article). 

Canted Shot. See Dutch Angle

Close up. Usually a shot of the head from the neck up. Could also be a wringing of hands. See performance and shot. The object or part of the body (usually face or hands / sometimes an iconic murder weapon fill most of the frame. The purpose is to isolate detail from their context to get the audience to focus on the importance of this detail. When it is a character within the diegesis it empahises the expression of that character and it helps the audience to identify with that character.

Cutaway. A cutaway shot briefly interrupts the flow of the conversation between characters for example. It can be used to reveal what characters are thinking about, to show what they are seeing as in a reaction shot. It can also provide a transition and it can comment on the action. They are also used to to avoid showing something which may well be considered as objectionable. The scene in the de Palma version of Scarface (1983) where one of Al Pacino's associates is being cut up with a chain saw to make Pacino talk has many cutaways. 

Crane Shot. A shot made using a crane or a boom also known as a boom shot. A crane is a mechanical arm-like trolley used to move a camera through space above the ground or to position at a place in the air. A shot taken from a crane allows the camera to vary distance, angle and height during the shot.


Dutch Angle. This is a shot which noticeably deviates from the normal horizontal and vertical axes. Images thus appear tilted in realation to the rest of the objects in the frame. This gives the audience a sense of disbalance and signifies within a character a mental imbalance. This YouTube extract from Carol Reed's The Third Man (recently voted the most popular British film ever and strongly recommended) is full of canted / Dutch angles. Set in post World War Two Vienna which at the time  was occupied by Americans, British and the Russians the film's style symbolises a Europe and a world still out of kilter as it struggles to get itself back on its feet. The film can also be seen as 'Rubble film' as it has many shots of Viennese bombed and shelled buildings. 

Establishing shot. This shot uses a distant framing and enables the spectator to understand and map the spatial relationships between the characters and the set / location they are in. It usually occurs at the beginning of a scene. Its purpose is to situate the action for the audience. After the establishing shot takes place the scene becomes broken up through editing. This sequence can clearly be seen in a short YouTube extract from David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. The two characters are black dots in this Extreme Long Shot (ELS), there are then some other shots around the issue of taking a drink of water and then the ELS is cut in again:

Extreme Close up. (ECU). This shows only part of an object filling the frame. In terms of the human figure an ECU isolates part of the face such as the eyes or the mouth. See this extract from a Vertigo trailer on YouTube:

Extreme Long Shot. (ELS). This is a panaoramic shot usually of landscapes in which the human figure is barely visible. These shots might empasise human vulnerability or the need for long and arduous effort in order to travel the intervening distance. There is a lot of this in Lord of the Rings for example. Please also see establishing shot above.

Eyeline Match. (See Match Cut) 

Long Shot.  Long shot is where the subject of the camera is seen in its entirety within the context of its surroundings. In relation to the human figure a standing person would be fully visible within the frame. Please see extract from Lawrence of Arabia above under establishing shot for ELS.

Match Cut / Eyeline Match. (See editing article) 

Medium Close-Up. In terms of the human figure this frames the body from the chest upwards. In this Youtube extract from Hitchcock's Vertigo James Stewart at the wheel of the car is kept in MCU: 

Medium Shot.  In terms of the human figure this frames the body from the waist upwards.

Master Shot. this is usually a wide-angle shot that shows all of the action taking place in the scene. This is then edited together with either shots taken of the same scene with different cameras from different angles or else they may have been shot at different times. The use of this shot is a fundamental tool in achieving both coverage and continuity. The mastershot willbe intercut with a variety of mid-shots or CUs. The transition will occur where there is a lot of action in order to maintain the seamless editing which is fundamental to the continuity editing system. 

Overhead shot. Here the camera is placed directly above the action.  There are often (but not always) implications of entrapment .  Fritz Lang's 'M' has a lot of overhead shots of the child murderer. Here the shots can be read as expressing vulnerability of the character to his own mental illness and also to the inexorable hunting down of the killer by all of society. He is totally isolated with police, criminals and beggars united in their efforts to hunt him down.

Pan Shot.  This is when the camera moves though a panning action in the horizontal axis. (See article on camera movement). 

Point of View (POV). This is the eyes  though which the spectator views the developing plot. In mainstream films this is understood to be through a neutral camera. This can be changed to subjective viewpoints of individual characters. This can be very drmatic at times however the normal use of this POV is to exchange perspective of characters involved in the plot in order to involve the spectator more effectively. The director can vary the amount of POFV time allotted to each character in order to have the spectator identify more with a specific character.

Plan Américain. Common in Hollywood cinema hence its description - the American shot- the human figure is framed from around the kneees upwards. Bordwell and Thompson point out (in their 3rd edition) that when a similar framing is done with non-human content the shot is described as a medium long shot (MLS). Blandford et al (2001) have a slightly different understanding of this shot.  They  argue that it signifies a Two Shot  (two characters occupying the frame) - from approximately the knees up.  The term came about from French critics describing aspects of the 'Classical Hollywood' cinema.

Process Shot. This is the general term applied to a special effects shot in which the live action in the foreground og the image is filmed against a background projected onto a screen by a rear projection system. This was very common in the studio era of cinema but location shooting has grown in importance.Special effects such as wire work in films such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Hero shoot the wirework with a greenscreen as a background the rest is added later. 

Reaction Shot. This is frequently a close-up shot which shows the reaction of a character to some action or event or dialogue in the previous shot.  

Shot Reverse Shot.

Tilt Shot. This is when the camera  moves up or down through a vertical axis. See article on camera movement.

Two Shot. This is a shot in which two people dominate the frame usually in a close-up or medium shot. The increasingly common use of widescreen formats allows variations upon this theme. It makes it possible to have three people in medium to close up shot. Pirates of the Caribbean has a witty scene fairly early on in the film in which Captain Jack Sparrow engages in conversation and gradually distracts two guards so that he can get around them onto a ship. 

Tracking Shot

Return to textual analysis hub page

Camera Movement / Mobile Framing Entry


Blandford Steve, Grant Barry Keith and Hillier Jim. 2001. The Film Studies Dictionary. London: Edward Arnold

Bordwell David and Thompson Kristen. 2008 8th Edition. Film Art: An Introduction. Boston: McGraw Hill 

Hayward Susan. 1996. Key Concepts in Cinema Studies. London: Routledge

Return to TV DRAMA Hub PAGE (AS 2008 onwards)

March 12, 2008

Chronology of Development of Free Digital TV in the UK

Chronology of Development of Free Digital  TV in the UK  

Tue 8th May 2008

Freesat Service Launched
Wed 17th Oct 2007
Whitehaven begins the digital switchover process as BBC TWO is closed on analogue.
Wed 26th Sep 2007
ABC-1 is pulled from Freeview and other platforms
Mon 20th Aug 2007
Channel 4 starts the first timeshift of a terrestrial channel with Channel4+1
Wed 27th Jun 2007
BBC iPlayer is launched as a beta test
Tue 8th May 2007
NEWS 24 becomes the first BBC TV channel to go online.
Fri 27th Apr 2007
BBC and ITV announced high definition Freesat service to launch Spring 2008
Wed 14th Mar 2007
Michael Grade closes ITV Play.
Thu 25th Jan 2007
MPs invesgiate quiz TV channels in the Houses of Parliament
Wed 15th Nov 2006
Channel 4's quiz channel Quizcall is removed from Freeview
Sun 23rd Jul 2006
Film4 relaunches as a free channel and gains a 4.3% share of viewing.
Mon 22nd May 2006
Sky launch their satellite HDTV service
Thu 11th May 2006
BBC launch their HDTV service on cable, satellite and Freeview (London only)
Wed 19th Apr 2006
ITV Play starts as a full-time Freeview channel.
Sat 11th Mar 2006
CITV, ITV's Children's Channel, starts broadcasting
Sat 17th Dec 2005
Ofcom publishes the Digital Dividend Review - how the government can make money by selling off TV frequencies C31-40 and C63-68
Tue 1st Nov 2005
ITV-4 starts
Mon 31st Oct 2005
Sky Three starts
Wed 12th Oct 2005
ITV and C4 join Freeview founders BBC, BSkyB and National Grid Transco.
Mon 10th Oct 2005
More4 launches free-to-air on Freeview.
Wed 25th May 2005
E4 relaunches as a free-to-air channel on Freeview.
Wed 27th Apr 2005
ITV pays £134m for acquisition of a Freeview multiplex
Mon 1st Nov 2004
ITV adds a third branded channel to Freeview
Thu 21st Oct 2004
Sky relaunches the non-subscription satellite boxes for one-off payment of £150.
Tue 31st Aug 2004
National Grid Transco buys Crown Castle International for £1,138m
Mon 29th Dec 2003
The Office of Communications (Ofcom) becomes TV's super-regulator.
Sun 9th Feb 2003
BBC THREE replaces Choice channel.
Wed 30th Oct 2002
BBC, BSkyB and Crown Castle International launch Freeview: a package of 30 free channels though and aerial with no contract.

BBC Press Office Press Release about launch of Freeview

Fri 5th Jul 2002 launched
Wed 1st May 2002
ITV digital (see below) closed with huge losses.
Sat 2nd Mar 2002
BBC FOUR replaces Knowledge channel.
Mon 11th Feb 2002
BBC children's channels, cBeebies and CBBC start in BBC's digital daytime airtime.
Thu 27th Sep 2001
Sky's analogue satellite service is closed.
Wed 11th Jul 2001
ONdigital re-launched as ITVdigital.


Tue 1st Jun 1999
BBC Knowledge launches.
Mon 7th Dec 1998
ITV-2 launches.
Sun 15th Nov 1998
ONdigital launches a 40 channel mixture of pay and free channels, using digital technology though a roof-top aerial.
Thu 1st Oct 1998
Sky launches Sky Digital, now with hundreds of channels and the highest standard pictures using a compact dish. New technology makes pay-per-view films and entertainment a daily reality.
Wed 23rd Sep 1998
BBC Choice, the first UK widescreen channel launches with BBC Parliament.
Sun 9th Nov 1997
BBC launch their News 24 domestic news channel.

March 09, 2008

Should the TV License Fee be Topsliced?

Should the TV License Fee be Topsliced?

Can James Purnell, the culture secretary, really be serious when he talks, as he does, of top-slicing the BBC licence fee to spread the money among other broadcasters? Talking to him at last weekend's Fabian conference, he confirmed he was indeed. (Polly Toynbee)

The problem with top-slicing – and the concept of the Public Service Publisher – is that identifying a particular section of any channel’s programming as its ‘public service output’ ghettoises some sectors and liberates others from public service obligations, a Faustian bargain which allows the popular to get really popular in exchange for keeping the good really good. On the other hand, it’s clear that a return to a universal public service remit is unrealistic. (David Edgar: London Review of Books)

Andy Burnham UK Culture Secretary

Andy Burnham made UK Culture Secretary Jan 2008. 

An ex -Treasury clone 

James Purnell Ex Culture Secretary

James Purnell ex-culture Secretary and previously adviser to Blair 

Stephen Carter, the former Ofcom chief executive, who originally put up the idea of top slicing the BBC's licence income and who is now Gordon Brown's chief stragetist and key fixer. (Nicholas Jones Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom)

To complete this brief round up of the pusillanimous "New Labour" approach to commercialisation Nick Gosling reports on Purnell's choice of metaphor BBC as "Venture Capitalists" in case any visitors thought I am exaggerating: 

"We want the licence fee to act as venture capital for creative talent and nowhere is this clearer than in the BBC's investment in training and research and development." Well it was April Fools Day, but the confusing comment of James Purnell MP, minister for creative industries and tourism did not amuse union delegates and academic specialists at a conference on the new BBC Charter organised by the TUC, Federation of Entertainment Unions and the CPPF. (Nick Gosling Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom)

Under construction


The debate about how to apportion the current and future so called TV Licence Fee is beginning to hot up. James Purnell has gone to be be replaced by another "New Labour" clone from the treasury Andy Burnham oddly only a couple of days after Polly Toynbee's original article.   One aspect of the debate is whether some of the licence fee should be awarded to commercial providers such as ITV / channel 4 who are meant to be providing some sort of public service broadcasting remit. Below I have searched some fora to see what the current state of debate in the digital public sphere is. Whilst this blog resolutely behind the BBC getting the full licence fee to provide the current levels and hopefully improved levels of service this doesn't mean for a moment that the BBC is above criticism. There is a separate debate to be had about how the BBC can be more in tune with its stakeholders and that must be carried on elsewhere. 

It should be remembered that New Labour has at least two reasons why it would like to curb the power of the BBC. They ran cap in hand to Rupert Murdoch before the 1997 general election to reassure him that New Labour wouldn't be against his media empire. Murdoch remember controls Sky TV who are very keen to emasculate the BBC. A view seemingly supported by Raymond snoddy of the Independent: 

The third bad idea, "top-slicing" of the licence fee, is far from dead, though it ought to be. Those with obvious self-interest, the commercial broadcasters who would like to get their hands on some of the BBC's money, will ensure it keeps running to the end. (Raymond Snoddy Independent: Monday, 21 January 2008)

The second reason is that the BBC stood up to Blair regarding the Iraq war. It eventually cost Greg Dyke his job. If you want more information on these issues Greg Dyke's book which describes some of the manoeuvering's around media policy are very educative! It is probably sensible to take these issues into account when considering New Labour's attitude to the BBC. Remember had New Labour had its way the BBC would have been severely curtailed in the digital world if Ondigital a fine commercial flop hadn't opened the door to Freeview. This fine effort from the "prestige" end of the Murdoch portfolio The Times had this to say in support of Burnham about "Topslicing", naturally it is totally unbiased and Mr. Murdoch didn't tell Hames to say this:

The challenge for Mr Burnham is to make it plain that he will be as radical as his predecessor. It is absolutely absurd that a modern party of the centre Left can accept what is effectively a poll tax on television sets, or acquiesce in the fantasy that the BBC is uniquely capable of creating material of the highest calibre. (Tim Hames Times online Jan 28th 2008)

Given that the New Labour clones including Tessa Jowell were hell bent on creating the UK as a Casino "Culture" having entirely failed to created any significant new manufacturing base in the North of England we can presumably expect the discourse of 'cultural industries'  to dominate the thinking about the BBC and carry on dumbing down culture. for those who think that is a an "elitist", "middle class" comment when it came to the Labour party making cutbacks  in culture a few years ago in Coventry including the music school and the Belgrade Theatre Theatre in Education it was Trade Unionists from factories like Rolls Royce who were the most ardent in attempting to defend a proud cultural heritage. 

This article from the Evening Standard is especially revealing as it shows the cosy cabalism which operates behind the myth of "transparency". The fact of the matter is there is heavy pressure on the Government and Ofcom to curtail the BBC, becuase unhampered by rabid commercialism it could be twice the force in the global media world than it is now:

But what are we to make of the relationship between Purnell and two very influential figures: Stephen Carter, the Prime Minister's strategy chief and principal adviser, who was previously chief executive of media regulator Ofcom, and Ed Richards, who succeed Carter at Ofcom and was previously a media adviser to Tony Blair. Richards even helped to draft the Communications Act, which Ofcom was set up to enforce. (Roy Greenslade Evening Standard 23/01/08)

Manchester Super Casino Plan

"Welcome to the Desert of the Real" Morpheus in the Matrix.

While this so-called "Supercasino" in Manchester was eventually stopped can anybody really trust anything that "New Labour" (?) say or do? It is clear they want to marketise culture as much as possible. Goobye Art and Quality..... Hello cultural industries. 

Comments From the Digital Public Sphere

I have kept the spelling of the original comments (even worse than mine on some occasions). 

Difficult to disagree with the comments from the Guardian Organgrinder blog below:

Top-slicing comeback is deeply depressing: Maggie Brown Media Guardian

Top-slicing - or giving a portion of the licence fee to broadcasters other than the BBC in return for public service content - is not the answer to television's problems. An alternative that does not entail undermining the BBC must be found

A politically insightful and thoughtful comment about continuing rightwing pressure to destroy the BBC. One might further  wish to enquire how far Murdoch Corporation etc are keen to see this kind of pressure:

It may be a paradox to rightwingers keen to inhabit their own parallel universe, but the digital age strengthens the case for the BBC.

We have already seen the crass dumbing down of commercial television since the advent of satellite and digital broadcasting. The only thing saving standards is the bulwark of the BBC and the fair, affordable and judicious TV licence.

The paranoia-racked Right thinks it works against their bizarre worldview, and set up loads of "blogs" in ever more desperate attempts to expose bias. Their predictable failure is the BBC's triumph. Their descent into obsessive madness proves that a public broadcaster is more relevant today than it ever was. It prevents the weird Right spewing its claptrap onto the airwaves without challenge (as happens on radio talkshows in the US). I'd pay treble to keep such a service.

To show how paranoid rightwingers are about the BBC, the governor Mark Thompson, posted a thoughtful blog on the BBC news site a week ago exploring issues surrpunding trust in the media (foolishly corroded in all sectors of television by cretinous "phone-ins"). Despite the clear evidence he posted that the BBC still enjoys far more trust than most other institutions, the comments below his piece are riddled with conservatives bleating about alleged bias (yet again again without any proof) and warning of some mythical revolt in viewer land!

Do I think the Guardian/Telegraph/Google/ Yahoo!/Times/Sky/Economist/TenAlps/Uncle Tom Cobbleigh should be allowed to pitch instead of just Channel 4 and ITV? Of course.

Do I think the licence fee should be top-sliced? No.

Why not? Because I have never believed in the pure economist theory that all markets are inevitably improved by competition. What has made BBC drama better is not necessarily public service competition here, but commercially-funded competition from the US. In areas where the BBC has enjoyed near monopoly positions - national speech radio, classical music production, non-commercial childrens' websites, worldwide online news, - one could argue that it has consistently produced better programmes than in the highly competetive areas - or at least programmes with greater public purpose. (Guardian Organgrinder comments)

From Polly Toynbee comments box the international perspective: 

If/when you live abroad (I live in Hong Kong) you realise that British people don't know they are born with regards to the BBC.
For 2 quid fifty pence a week per household, it is the best value entertainment in the world. It should be cherished. Imagine radio 4 with adverts, the BBC website directing you to things to buy, etc.
If I were Bill Gates, I would buy the BBC and keep it as it is to benefit the world. It is that good.

All these people talking up the demise of the BBC. Leave it alone. Out here in bangladesh if it weren't for the world service I'd have gone nuts by now. It still works and it still has great relevance. If it is getting weaker that only means that we need to revitalise it.

In hatred of Adverts 

From DigitaSpy

PLEASE, don't let this mean that the BBC will be forced to have the evil ADVERTS! Thats one of the main reasons why I like the BBC, the fact we fund it and that theres no adverts. I hate adverts!

Im sorry about that, ill just crawl under a rock now...

Marketising the media post 1990 broadcasting act leads to higher prices not lower, from DigitalSpy:

You know, i agree with you on that! (a first) Although it's not always the BBC that decides the fee it pays to the indies - it's the market ultimately. And the market price goes up and up and up the more the BBC is forced to use them.(My emphasis)

A more sophisticated contribution linked costs to the issue of Social Justice / Citizenship from DigitalSpy

But what about people that already struggle to pay the current £11.30 a month? Is it really fair to expect them to pay more?

One alternative may be to strip out some of the BBC's 'premium' services, like iPlayer & charge extra for that. Technically it'd be easier to enforce & people that can afford fast broadband should be able to afford, say an extra £10-15 a year.

An antipopulist contribution in support of weighty programming from the Toynbee box:  

Another problem is how often the more serious-minded BBC programs are jazzed up and undermined with populist techniques such as excessive use of CG, intrusive and inappropriate background music, dramatic reconstructions, focusing on controversial aspects of a subject and not the subject in the round, cutting out specialist/technical use of language by experts interviewed for programs. The BBC appears to have lost faith in making serious, weighty programs.

I agree - handing out the license fee to other broadcasters would be a disaster.

Arguments for advertising to make 'TV' "free" at the point of consumption model

This one is from the Organgrinder Comments Box

Pulic service causes? Surely the political trick of getting the BBC to pay for digital switchover (so OFCOM can sell the spectrum!) makes a mockery of this?

Copyright Payments? Does this mean I get all my digital media consumption free (both as in beer and speech)?

I don't think you've quite thought this idea through - so it may have been better to leave it "in the box" a bit longer.

The only viable model is the ad-funded one, as the cultural expectations for online digital media consumption, at the moment, is free at the point of delivery.

The more thought out arguments for topslicing (We would see the back of Big Brother :-) ) 

From Corin at DigitalSpy:

Channel 4 was set up by the Thatcher administration as an advertizing funded network, so quite simply, if they did not carry paid commercial messages, they would have no income.

As for wasting money on programs such as Big Brother, Channel 4 have to generate sufficient audiences of the appropriate demographics in order to attract the advertizers who pay the bills and since Big Brother is an extremely inexpensive method of filling hours of the network schedule, it is very cost effective, but as you quite rightly observe, devoid of cultural and educational benefit. It could be argued that if this pays for the other quality programing, then it is a necessary sacrifice however unpleasant.

Of course, if the were more creative and innovative producers of programming, they would be able to broadcast something of substance even though produced on a very limited budget, as did the BBC in the 1960s.

More thoughtful comment from DigitalSpy: 

ok i have not read all of peoples comments on this thread but all i say is i think it should be top sliced but we have to pay a bit more for the licence fee. so an extra £15 a year on top of what we pay now. in return ITV take £10 of that to produce a min amount of 10 hours of regional programmes and bring childrens tv back poss 15 hours of that too and a small dose of other things. while CH4 also does childrens tv and other things that are different like along the lines of BBC2 with wildlife etc
at the end of the day people whp pay for cable and sky tv should be able to pay extra for the licence fee too.

On Excess in the BBC (difficult not to be horrified in the case of Johnathan Ross now Stephen Fry...) 

How they use them & how they pay them is though.

Remember Jonathan Ross's £18m pay deal, or not pay deal because it's paying for his 'indie', of which he presumably is a shareholder & would share in any profits.

That's not necessarily a bad thing as long as the profits are not unreasonable & the BBC/licence payer benefits from that investment.

It's also not necessarily unreasonable for shareholders to profit. ITV's shareholders are probably mostly institutional investors (give or take Sky's chunk) & so 'shareholder profits' help pensions etc.
(My emphasis)

DigitalSpy on whether Topslicing might actually reduce market prices: 

Not really. Any market needs buyers & sellers & if it's a functional market, prices tend to equalise.

The BBC does decide some pricing, ie if it keeps paying it, prices will rise, if it stops paying it, prices should fall. If the BBC can't influence the price, then that sounds like cartel behaviour & price fixing, which would be illegal.

It can (or should be able to) influence prices, the main restriction it has is the quotas imposed on it, then any self-imposed restrictions created by cutting it's production facilities.

If it can no longer produce it's own content, then it has less choice where to source it & has to go to market, where it's buying power can have a bigger impact on the market & force prices up for all broadcasters..

Or potentially the opposite, but that's not necessarily in it's interests if it's 'competitive' & focused on ratings.

Both OFCOM & the BBC Trust are looking at the effect the BBC has on the market & topslicing
may be a way to damp cost increases. (My emphasis)

What the Commercial Broadcasters Think

According to this report from the Times on February 18th 2008 ITV & Sky have rejected Conservative Party proposals to share the BBC licence fee. One can resonably suppose they are not altruistic rather they feel that they would make less money that way. Rather by curtailing the activities to providing services that they don't want to they can forge ahead making profits, however in the case of ITV the path to profit looks rather a tortuous one:

A Conservative plan to make the BBC share the £3.4 billion proceeds of the licence fee has run into opposition from commercial broadcasters.

David Cameron has ordered a rethink of the proposals, which he was sent for final approval last month, after ITV and BSkyB made clear that they were unhappy at the prospect of being required to take public funds, The Times has learnt. 

Topslicing a Political Potato: Maybe?

Sadly the current New Labour has a way with it of taking Tory clothes which can only irritate quite a lot of people a lot of the time however it has managed to confuse everybody by presiding over rampant inflation in house prices and endangering recent first-time buyers with the prospect of negative equity. Lets hope they don't follow the current Tory policy of supporting the topslicing of the BBC Licence Fee.

At midday today 31st of March rather than April 1st) the Tory party came out with a position on topslicing the licence fee. The timing makes this seem like a serious policy being tested out in the run up to the May elections and also in a year when there is an election for the Mayor of London.   

Cameron and James Hunt Topslicing plan

David Cameron here supporting his shadow Minister of Culture James Hunt in a call for the topslicing of the BBC Licence fee in the name of "diversity".

James Hunt came out with a blatantly flawed statement in the published paper in support of this which commented:

"When Channel 4, ITV and Sky are at their best they raise the bar for the BBC. Without them, the BBC will atrophy," (BBC online news)

"In order to avoid crowding out innovation in the Internet, publicly funded public service broadcasters should be wary of assuming there is a wide-ranging role for public service Internet activity," it said. (Daily Mail online 31st March).

The report said the BBC had used its brand to create a "massively strong - and controversial - online presence", with BBC Online now the most visited British website.
"The real danger is that a dominant online presence by a state broadcaster will crowd out the innovation that a market will naturally encourage," it added. (Daily Mirror online ibid)

Now this is fairly clearly a ridiculous thing to be saying. The BBC creates - despite furious complaints about mispending  of the license fee - one of the most popular websites, not just in Britain but in the World. Apparently it has something in the order of over 17 million users. 

Now in an age of hundreds of millions of web users this certainly seems successful but then there are thousands of other innovative sites out there most of which are commercial. The fact that the BBC has so many users tells us both about the quality of the content and the service and about the desire for very large numbers of users to have a service which is based upon the notions of citizenship before consumption which is what public service broadcasting is all about!

If the Tories want to go about crtiticsing success in a highly competitive media world then just carry on being out in the electoral desert because you clearly haven't changed your neo-liberal spots. The main problems is currently getting the Not so New but decidedly tarnished Labour party to change theirs! The Tories have no real evidence to back up their absurd statement the y more quickly they withdraw it the better. Even ITV don't want licence fee money Michael Grade wants to make the money slumming it, although it seems an unlikely prospect in the long-term.  

The fact is that the BBC is remarkably open as this open invitation to contribute to redesigning the home page to meet the needs of a remarkably diverse target audience  shows:

Reboot Logo

Blast from the past

Monochrome TV Licence holders are fading away

Monochrome Telly


Nicholas Jones Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom

BBC Trust Speech at Oxford Media Convention by Michael Lyons Chair of the Trust January 2008

Link to a forum on this topic run by DigitalSpy 

Link to Guardian 'Organgrinder' forum on topslicing  

The Register: BBC: Death by a thousand top-slices (I confess I haven't really looked at the Register before but on this article and links it looks well worth keeping an eye on)  

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian on Topslicing  In terms of the digital public sphere this has a huge number of comments on it many of which make excellent points. It is a very useful source of arguments although there are a fw silly unthought out contributions (presumably from Murdoch supporters!)

Business Times on Topslicing Jan 2008. (Beware paper from the Murdoch Stable) 

Evening Standard on the Licence Fee 

Raymond Snoddy Independent: Monday, 21 January 2008

BBC News on Topslicing threat in 2005

Media Watch UK 

A proper academic response to the clumsy marketisation ideas of Ofcom in 2004 from Sylvia Harvey

David Edgar: London Review of Books

For more on this blog on public service broadcasting

March 05, 2008

Is ITV Going down the Tubes?

Is  ITV Going down the tubes?

ITV Logo


Beginning to examine the British TV system in the contemporary Broadcasting / Multicasting environment can be little else but a work in progress which at least gives a notion of forward movement. It is highly debateable whether TV as we know it has got a promising future. Here we examine the long-term decline of ITV which up until the early 1990s had been the companion of the BBC in the British Broadcasting duopoly. What is discussed below is the question of whether the gloabl economic recession will send ITV to the wall or will it force a takeover or set of mergers. Whatever the outcome it is expected that ITV will not survive the next 18 months in its present form. 

One of my alert Sixth Formers alerted me to the fact that a problem had been announced with ITV, this morning. Well it was a very big but expected problem. ITV profits sank by a monstrous 38%.

Commercial broadcaster ITV has seen its annual profits for 2007 fall by 35% to £188m after a difficult year, but says its "turnaround plan is on track" (BBC News online check this page to listen to Michael Grade's rather tetchy protesting too much responses to serious questions. What does that tell you?)

It certainly begs the question about whether current shareholders should run for the exits and get what money they can for the shares despite the presence of the rather abrasive Michael Grade who came in a year ago to try and turn around ITV's lack of fortunes. It is a problem exacerbated by the great phone calls rip off, where loyal but rather naive suckers were phoning in to try and win competitions after the entries had been closed by the institution without telling anybody.

Michael Grade

Michael Grade currently ITV Chief Executive

Former BBC One controller Peter Fincham will join ITV as director of television, replacing Simon Shaps, the commercial broadcaster has said.

Of course I should have guessed these highly significant results were coming out as Monday's Media Guardian was full of upbeat messages about how well TV was doing with viewing hours up. The back page even featured a full page advvert claiming that teenagers were spending more time on line "discussing what they had seen on the TV Yesterday"!!!! 

teenagers online...discussing what they had seen on the TV Yesterday"!!!!

Well I don't think so! Neither did anybody else in the class. A couple said they mentioned a TV programme if they had just seen it and were explaining what they were doing, but to pretend that this is a harkback to the days of mass TV audiences who discussed a significant programme such as Coronation Street the following day...RISIBLE (LOL 2U).

Grade's struggle to turnaround the failing ITV

Below I look at the beginnings of change in the approach of ITV and place it into the contemporary world of rapidly increasing economic crisis in the US and ultimately the UK.  The fact is that the health of the macro-economy is extremly important to the survival and profitability of media companies. I suggest that the emerging economic crisi as well as a changing media environment is going to dramatically effect companies which are effectively medium scale regional players. ITV is one of these and it has had a series of failures and problems in the past few years which now make perhaps the weakest media company in the UK. With the chill wind of recession gathering pace there is little chance of ITV surviving in its present form. Whilst there is no doubt that Grade is probably the best man to get the best out ITV when it gets taken over or merges with another company or is broken up into a production arm and a distribution arm the market view is currently very pesssimistic. 

As far as Sky is concerned they would probably prefer to see the company break-up into a production arm and a distribution arm. With a 17.9% chunk which will need to be sold as a single chunk they are undubtedly engineering deals behind Grade's back. Perhaps with Disney is one suggestion. A likely outcome would then be the production arm being sold off, which might end up with Virgin Media who have no production presence and sorely need some in an era when production for the mobile market after 2012 is going to be highly significant.  It is hard to imagine what Disney would want with the news service and obviously Sky don't need it. Perhaps Virgin would take it on board? another possible is Bertelsmann, certainly speculation is rife, just don't expect ITV to last long in its present form. Grade is increasingly embattled.

Bertelsmann has always been the obvious buyer for BSkyB's stake in ITV. Its subsidiary RTL already owns channel Five. Now that Bertelsmann has shelved plans to spend £710m buying the remaining 10pc of RTL that it does not own, perhaps it will seek new targets to channel those funds. (By Juliette Garside Daily Telegraph Last Updated: 11:48pm GMT29/01/2008)

Regional Cutbacks

One of ITV's original strengths was the fact that it was a network and that it provided strong regional idenitities. Arguably it forced a change in the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) remit. Nowadays it wants to maximise profits (well minimize losses in thier case). As a result massive cuts are being made in regional programming. Given that one of the remits for PSB in the 2006 white paper was to provide for regional identity this is a little ironic! Let's look at what the Press Gazette has to say about it all:

ITV has already cut its regional budget by almost five per cent ahead of a drastic reorganisation of its news output over the next two years, the broadcaster revealed today.
In its end-of-year results, published this morning, ITV said its regional programming costs were reduced by £5m in 2007, down 4.2 per cent to £114m.
Regional news accounts for about three quarters of this budget, or £85m - a figure which could be cut to £40m if ITV's regional news reorganisation is approved by Ofcom.
Under the proposals, the existing 17 news regions will be merged to form nine bigger regions. Widespread redundancies are expected as part of the cuts.(Press Gazette Paul McNally)

Grade's optimism seems wildly misplaced given that the economy in general is heading into a downturn. However deep that downturn is the advertising industry is always the first to react. Just look at the regional advertising for newspapers from the important Johnstone press group which also announced its results today:  

Johnston Press has ruled out making any "significant acquisitions" this year and has warned it is beginning to feel the impact of a slowdown in advertising.
The regional newspaper group posted a 4.6 per cent decline in profit to £178.1m for 207, with revenue up 0.9 per cent to £607.5m.
In its end-of-year results, published this morning, Johnston said print advertising revenue fell 2.1 per cent in 2007.
Early indications based on the first few weeks of 2008 pointed to a 4.2 per cent decline in ad revenue compared with the same time last year, with motoring and property advertising among the worst-hit. (Paul McNally)

Economic Slowdown / Recession / Stagflation: The Evidence

Grade has tried to brush off the ITV share price as just a bit of a 'panic about a consumer downturn' however Evan Davis the BBC Economics editor makes some salient points about retail sales. Let's take a look at what is actually going on. The state of the US economy is fundamental in what happens because it represent 25% of the total world economy! The BBC economics pages make this clear: 

The US economy, a $15 trillion giant which makes up 25% of the world economy, is in trouble, and could drag down world growth. The US central bank has cut interest rates aggressively and the US Congress is planning an economic stimulus package to prevent a recession.

The chart from the 31st of January 2008 below is a disturbing one.

US Economic Growth Figures

This useful BBC timeline provides links to Bank losses in January and February

US economy in slowdown says Fed 5th March

Confidence level at four-year low (UK)

Housing market slowing in Europe 5th March

One in five 'has mortgage fears' 4th March

French Bank hit by losses sustained in US property market 5th March

Thursday March 6th. Large rise in USA of people losing their homes

United States March 7th Unemployment rises. This will contribute to a rise in home forclosures. A dangerous downward spiral is in danger of occurring.  

By Friday the Seventh March the US Federal Reserve seems to have been panicked yet again

Monday March 10th: BBC reports consumer prices at a 16 year high  

Monday March 10th:  Oil hits record price of over $108 per barrel

Monday March 10th: ITV Targets Youth Audience on BEBO. (Adaptation or desperation) 

Tuesday March 11th: The UK's employment outlook is the weakest for 15 years, as companies continue to cut back on their recruitment plans, a report claims.

Tuesday March 11th: The price of crude oil has set a fresh record at $109.72, its fifth day in a row of historic highs.

Tuesday March 11th: The mortgage market is shrinking under the impact of the continuing problems in the banking system, say lenders.

Tuesday March 11th: The world's largest central banks have launched their latest co-ordinated action to calm jittery credit markets. The question many re asking is whther this is a sign of panic and whether they do anything more than hold up flagging markets for a bit. Many commentators argue that central bank intervention can't deal with the underlying issue of too much spending on credit in the UK and the USA. 

Wednesday March 12th: The price of crude oil has set a fresh record for a sixth consecutive day, hitting $110.20 as a falling dollar encouraged buying.

Thursday 13th March looks unlucky for some

  1. Big fall in retail sales in the USA in February. Is this more than straws in the wind? 
  2. Gold hits $1,000 per ounce for the first time ever. Gold always goes up when investors are looking for 'safe haven'. Bit more than a consumer panic I think Mr Grade
  3. Whilst this news will create a flood of crocodile tears the fact that a hedge fund Carlyle Capital is going under even after the Fed and other central banks have taken action to try and reassure the markets shows how deep the lack of confidence is. Read this article and the associated Peston blog to see why this is important
  4. The fact that AOL has acquired BEBO for what seems to be  something of a bargain price shows just how down the market is on media and advertising at the moment.  A good  buy for AOL - does  this harbinger a good-bye for ITV as the media sector loks to 'consolidate'? AOL itself has suffered recent profit falls and is seeking to reposition itself in the internet marketplace. They can afford to buy ITV cannot!
  5. Oh yes and car depreciation rates are set to increase by %8 more than usual this year. Whilst a glimmer of schadenfreude passes the lips as a Range Rover passes the fact of the matter is that all the signs of recession there. In an era when targeted rather than mass advertising is the thing, particularly finding the premuim markets, what is ITV going to be advertising and too whom. Taking a topslicing if the government offers might be a good idea!
  6. A rather telling quotation from a city economist rather than a  panic stricken consumer: "Looking at the markets there is a complete loss of confidence and that's because the markets are concerned over the US financial sector and ultimately what the Federal Reserve will be forced to do to support that sector."

Friday 14th:

  1. US bank Bear Stearns has got emergency funding, in a move that raises fears that one of Wall Street's biggest names is on the verge of collapsing.
      • ...if Bear Stearns had been allowed to collapse, it could have put the whole financial system at risk.

        Bear Stearns shares dropped as much as 53% on the news before finishing Friday trading down 46%.

          Monday 17th: Well the day Bear Stearns banks is taken over for peanuts. This is a powerful financial institution with shares worth at one point apparently 100 times the selling share price of a mere $2.00 US!!! OK ITV isn't a bank but then its shares were never a few hundred dollars. 

          Still think Grade was right about brushing off the state of the economy? The fact isthe outlook is bleak for the weakest sections of the media in general. Expect 'consolidation' over the next 18months (especially with ITV).

          House Repossessions

          House Repossessions rising significantly. 4th of March

          US manufacturing activity shrinks 3rd March

          Property prices fall in February (for the fourth month in a row) 28th February

          Falling House Price 2008

          FSA sees credit squeeze on banks 27th February

          The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has warned banks that the crisis in the financial markets will force them to change the way they do business.

          All this very recent economic and business data shows had bad it is becoming, it seems that an advertising slowdown is well under way. Grade may get a larger share of a falling market but is that good enough? Well most investors must be examining whether it worth holding onto their shares at the moment.  Obviously Sky TV hold around 17% of these shares which it bought at a much high price in order to block any potential takeover from Virgin Media. If forced to sell Sky would make a large loss but from a strategic perspective it would probably be worth it.

          The fact of the matter is that everyday the business and stock markets come out with worse news about financial expectations. The debate over the preceding months has moved from one of a bit of overexposure to sub-prime mortgages in the US to yesterdays slumping markets as a recognition that the US is inexorably heading into recession comes to the fore. The problem for the rest of the world is that it is still highly dependent upon the US which has been living on credit for a long time. Now people are begining to draw the line.

          The UK is clearly in a very weak economic position with an overvalued pound, a housing market which has become entirely disconnected to economic fundamentals because of the availability of cheap credit which has lulled houseowners into feeling richer than they are because the house prices have nominally trebled in value in recent years.

          This is likely to have an enormous effect upon ITV and other commercial media companies, becuase the advertising spend is going to to start drying up big-time. People are rapidly reigning in their spending at a time when the basic cost of living is suddenly beginning to soar in terms of fuel and transport, heating and food costs. At the same time the cost of products is beginning to rise because of the cost of basic commodities such as metals. Interestingly there has been the return of the term "stagflation" in economic discourse.

          Stagflation is a term which emerged in the 1970s partially as a response to high oil prices which coincided with the end of the post-war economic long-boom.  It described a period when prices were increasing faster than wages and economic growth had halted accompanied by a gradual rise in unemployment.

          Whilst the sort of recession seen in the world in 1929 is very unlikely because financial institutions are far more aware of how to manage things there is likely to be a prolonged downturn in spending in the U.K. This means that advertising budgets will become rapidly reduced and overall economic activity is likely to see the weakest media organisations go bankrupt or be taken over by the strong. however a quick read of the influential 'Lex' column this morning (Saturday 08 / 03 / 08) makes my glomy prognosis by no means the most pessimistic about economic futures :

          Now after a very nasty week in markets, the whispers are that it might be the big one: the worst crisis since the 1930s. Signals of distress abound: Yesterday's non-farm payroll data were awful, the US auction rate market is closed, bank shares are collapsing, interbank rates are back in the dnager zone and debt spreads are ballooning. even sovereign borrowers such as Italy are being hit. Meanwhile credit funds that made silly bets are dying." 

          ITV is in a very weak position. It appeals to audiences who tend to be in the lower income brackets and who will feel the consequenses of any economic downturn the most. In the past this would have meant a reduction in profits but shareholders in a stable media environment would know that this was very much a cyclical business with any economic good news rapidly being translated into increased advertising revenue. 

          Because the nature of employment has changed quite a lot of economic activity can be reduced on the margins of society. People will go out to eat less and jobs for teenage studnets may become lower paid, shorter hours or disappear altogether. This is important because these teenagers usually feed their earnings straight back into the market-place buying cultural goods and services feeding the "cultural industries". 

          Already in the US we can see problems emerging in organisations such as Starbucks which is very much the beneficiary of some spare cash in the system:

          Starbucks has been hit by a combination of rising raw material costs, which has forced it to raise prices and a drop in consumer confidence as a result of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, which has made its expensive coffee a little less alluring. The company increased prices over the summer but pricing pressures are continuing - milk prices, for instance, have increased more than 60% since the start of the year. (Guardian November 2007)

          Now if you read this story at first sight it seems to contradict my argument regarding advertising becuase they are going to try and advertise their way out of trouble.  Prior to this though Starbucks had never advertised and the other thing is they now have much more competition. Given the nature of the crisis it is unlikely that advertising is going to make anything other than a short-term difference. The next step will be special offers and promotions and will provide evidence that Starbucks is no longer a premium brand. By January 8th Starbucks had lost its chief executive:

          Starbucks has sacked its chief executive Jim Donald and handed the reins back to its chairman and former chief executive, Howard Schultz. (BBC Report)

          What we can expect in the UK over the next 18months is a consolidation of the market with brands coming up for auction. Possibly private equity will encourage the merging of a couple of brands. We have Cafe Nero / Costa Coffee / Starbucks in most town and city centres. Expect some to go! 

          The Changed Media Environment

          As if the general outlook for media in genral is pretty bleak there are specific factors which contribute to ITV's position as the investment dog amongst media companies. A lot of things have changed in the British media environment in recent years. The internet is still making a huge difference and models of media are still adapting and creating. Here the audience of ITV will tend to be less computer literate and to have lower numbers of computers in the household.  Many of this lower income audience upon whom ITV relies upon especially in the north of Britain have been largely excluded from the nominal rise in house prices which have fuelled the hidden inflation promoted by the government. They are most exposed to the credit squeeze and they inevitably end up with the most expensive credit which after all is spending one's future earnings / income at a price!

          The vast range of different types of media consumption is also also changing audiences. young people spend a lot of income upon games, mobiles, iPods etc.

          The changing media environment had meant that increasingly commercial TV companies had started to change the basis  of their revenue streams in a mockery of much hyped so-called "interactivity". This was the increasingly popular model of creating TV Premium phone-lines for viewers to "particiapte" in media events that were being staged (so-called "reality-TV" for example). To some extent this was managing to move commercial broadcasting companies away form their dpendence upon advertising revenue as advertisers themselves began to migrate onto the internet taking thier budgets with them.  

          Fragmenting Audiences

          As if the above unfurling economic slowdown isn't enough of a problem there is a problem of fragmenting audiences who are getting their content from elsewhere often via the internet. Young people seem to be gradually migrating away from TV and the TV they watch is clearly more targeted at youth audiences. My sixth form students seem to watch Channel Four the most and experience it as the main TV company which is aimed at 'Youth'. With a range of digital channels and forms of public service broadcasting coming from the BBC such as Asian Network there is also a growth of ethnically based media consumers as well. An OFCOM research report from July 2007 suggests that there will be little incentive for ITV to provide public service broadcasting  for regional news services.

          ITV certainly isn't targeted at today's aspirant consumers it is a channel "for grannies" commented one of my sixth-formers. Perhaps a little ageist but the fundamental point is that advertising itself is fragmenting and chasing 'niche' audiences. These niches themesleves are quite dynamic and multicasters have to be able to respond to changing tastes and fashions very quickly.

          Loss of trust in ITV and to some extent BBC

          As mentioned earlier revenue streams for broadcasting companies  previously dependent upon advertising increasingly promoted a model of cheap TV which provided the opportunity to get audiences to participate using premium phone-lines. Here I argue that to a large extent this led to an increased 'dumbing down' of popular TV and ultimately led to a total ripping off of the audiences. The long-term outcome of this is still unfolding however it is questionable whether ITV can continue in its current form.

          Where is ITV Now?

          There are signs of desparation crreping in at ITV as Michael Grade carries on with attempting what appears tobe structurally impossible. This recent Daily Telegraph comment on the business angle shows a scepticism is is hard to disagree with: 

          Show goes on for Grade as Shaps exits

          By Alistair Osborne, Business Editor
          Last Updated: 1:40am GMT01/03/2008

          ITV has instigated a bold management shake-up that sees the departure of television director Simon Shaps and the extension of Michael Grade's tenure as executive chairman for another year.

          As the Telegraph notes in ITV:  

          The shares, down 37pc in the last 12 months, slipped 2.4 to 68.7p. Mr Grade said: "The share price is all to do with panic over a consumer downturn and the overhang of BSkyB’s 17.9pc stake."

          Below in July an investment advice website This is Money noted the optimistic outlook of Michael Grade who argued in July 2007 that advertising outlook was looking strong. Clearly this argument is obviated by the current economic conditions outlined above.  

          First-half ad revenues at ITV1 were down 9% at £595m, slightly better than Grade had forecast at the group's annual meeting in May. With digital stations ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 and GMTV together producing a 24% rise in ad revenues to £122m, the overall group decline in the first half was 5%.
          The British television advertising market looks to be recovering strongly and is expected to be up by 10% in July. ITV's own experience shows that demand became increasingly strong through May and June.
          Chief operating officer John Cresswell said: 'Returning stability in the total TV advertising market has been an important feature of the first half, as has the improving schedule performance and the roll-out of'

          Below are the latest share prices taken from the BBC Markets page on Saturday 15th March. They make pretty grim reading having dropped by a quater since Xmas.

          ITV share price over three months

          Here is a chart for the ITV share price for the last 12 months, it makes pretty grim reading for Sky who have bought over !7% of the company:

          ITV 12 month share price

          Under the circumstances the ITV News at Ten initiative without adverts seems like a desperate measure to recapture audiences reports the Guardian :

          ITV is running its resurrected News at Ten without any advertising breaks - a move that is set to cost it hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost revenue.
          The broadcaster said today it had no immediate plans to introduce a commercial break into the programme, after the first edition of the new-look programme ran uninterrupted last night, with a commercial break at the end before the regional news.
          ITV traditionally runs commercials halfway through its nightly news bulletin, with 60-second spots some of the most expensive on the network at up to £100,000.
          Industry sources said the move to run the new
          ad-free is a bid to lure more viewers away from BBC1's 10 O'Clock News, which runs uninterrupted.

          The Guardian reports that the return of News at Ten haslargely been a failure leaving ITV an even more unconvincing bet:

          BBC1's Ten O'Clock News has pulled in almost twice as many viewers as News at Ten since the ITV1 bulletin was relaunched a month ago.
          Figures for the revamped News at Ten show that since the bongs returned on January 14, it has pulled in an average of 2.7 million viewers, Monday to Thursday, when the ITV1 bulletin is head to head with its BBC1 rival.
          This compares with the 4.8 million viewers who have been tuning into BBC1's 10pm news on average.  

          The ITV Owned loss making Carlton Screen Advertising 

          As if the above information isn't bad enough one of ITV's subsidiary organisations is managing to make a magnificent loss in the Cinema advertising industry. Hard to make a loss in a part of the economy which has been doing well but is likely to be hit as the recession develops. The Times recounts the sorry story yet another in the story of ITV mismanagement making you feel sorry for Michael Grade (well almost):

          The company behind Australian cinema chain Hoyts is looking to buy loss-making Carlton Screen Advertising from ITV.
          Pacific Equity Partners is one of two parties to have registered interest with Grant Thornton, the broadcaster’s adviser.
          Once worth £80m, analysts now value CSA at nothing, despite healthy cinema attendances. ITV may even have to pay someone to take it off its hands.

          The backdrop to declining audiences for both ITV and BBC in 2007

          The Daily Telegraph noted on the 19th January 2008 that:

          The fall in ratings follows an embarrassing 12 months marred by phone-in scandals, with both channels being forced to apologise to viewers for encouraging them to enter competitions they never stood a chance of winning. BBC1's share's of viewers during the peak 8pm to 11pm slot fell from 24.22 per cent in 2006 to 23.43 per cent in 2007, while ITV fell fromFor the first time in television history, fewer than half of viewers watched either BBC1 or ITV1 during prime-time last year. 26.82 per cent to 25.32. The ratings, published by Broadcast magazine, were based on official figures by the research organisation Barb.

          Grade stands by ITV strategy By Ben Fenton Published: March 5 2008 08:05 | Last updated: March 5 2008 21:18

          This article by Fenton in the Financial Times below sees Grade upbeat despite evidence to the contrary:

          Analysts said that, although the company had reported a good start to 2008, it was vulnerable to a slowdown in consumer spending and would be among the first to suffer the effects of tighter advertising budgets.

          Below is a share chart of the successful advertising agency WPP over the last 12 months which doesn't make pretty reading and clearly shows what he market thinks about the liklehood of a serious downturn in the eonomy in the near future. Inevitably advertising and media are very responsive to change in consumer budgets:

          WPP 12 Month Share Price 2

          WPP was very confidant about a good 2008 as can be seen in this trading statement:

          WPP, the world's second-biggest advertising group, expects 2008 to be a bumper year for the industry. The Beijing Olympics, the US presidential election and the European football championships are expected to boost business, it said.

          Maintaining a Public Service Broadcasting Remit

          Michael Grade is nothing if not dogged. At this Ofcom conference in Cardiff whilst the phone-in scandal was reverberating Grade put the case for how wonderful ITV is at regional broadcasting:ITV's role in the nations and regions

          But I want to start today by emphasising the place that ITV plays in national broadcasting and reflecting all of Britain back to itself.
          This year ITV will broadcast around 2,000 hours of dedicated programming for the nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, across news, current affairs and other programming.
          That represents a total investment of tens of millions of pounds every year across SMG, UTV and ITV Wales in programming for the nations.
          Remember none of our main commercial competitors provide a single minute or invest a single penny in such programming. It is just ITV providing a vital alternative to the BBC in this critical genre.
          In addition, producers in the nations continue to win network commissions out of the 50% of the ITV1 budget that goes outside London. That represents a further £30 million over the last couple of years, including programmes as diverse as Rebus and The All Star Poker Challenge.

          Of I fully accept that "All Star Poker Challenge" is a fundamentally crucial piece of regional broadcasting which manages to maintain the identity of a region of gamblers, sharks and small time crooks and presumabaly tax-evaders (are we talking the Isle of Man here?). Certainly the term "diverse" can hide a multitude of sins. Please note that the current government wants to top-slice the licence fee to support this kind of drivel. This is how business media analysts view Public Service Broadcasting as Brand Republic argues:

          Grade has also managed to dump most of its remaining public service obligations (arguably bringing back 'News At Ten' is ITV's attempt at compensation for this) and he may even be able to get rid of the hated Contract Rights Renewal (which allows advertisers to reduce their spend in line with ratings) soon.

          Recent Reports on the Future of ITV

          BBC Business report  2006:  Sky and ITV  

          Independent  07 March 2007

          This Times report from October 2007 on the success of Google advertising probably sounded the death knell of ITV as even the flagship of former year's Coronation Street is shown to be a blast from the past when it comes to creating revenue: 

          Google’s headline advertising revenues surpassed ITV1’s in the third quarter as the search engine demonstrated it could generate more money from sponsored links than 30-second commercials in Coronation Street.

          Grade may find a glimer of hope in this comment from the World Advertising Research Centre: 

          85% of consumers still find TV advertising to have the most impact on their buying habits, although online ads come second best with 65% saying they have the most impact, ahead of magazines at 63%. (World Advertising Research Centre March 8th 2008).

          However the bad news for Grade is that according to WARC the UK at 14% has the highest share of advertising based upon the internet and it's rising. Try out WARC's clickable globe to compare UK and other countries.

          ITV's Broadcasting Portfolio 

          The week ending Friday 21st March brought some interesting aspects of ITV's sports portfolio. sports after all has elements of Public Service Broadcasting embedded within it in terms of national regional and local representation it can also generate a lot of money in advertising. 

          The good news for ITV is that is has retained the broadcasting rights to EUEFA Cahampions League until 2012 as the BBC has reported:

          From August 2009 the channel will broadcast the first pick of Wednesday night games, including the final and Uefa Super Cup Final.

          however Sky has gained part of this competition:

          BSkyB earlier won the right to show coverage of live matches and highlights on a Tuesday, plus matches other than the first choice on Wednesdays.

          The BBC declined to bid for this one.

          Formula One

          Thankfully that ecologically stimulating sport Formula One is back with the BBC who have regained it after 12 years. This is strange as with Hamilton a potential British World Champion giving such a strong naotional interest in the sport it has probably never ben more popular. Was ITV short of the readies to bid up? One must presume either this or else the possibility of splitting up. It seems that Ecclestone is concerned with the future prospects of ITV reading between the lines of his comment on Radio 5 Live:

          Asked why he had decided to split with ITV, Ecclestone told BBC Radio 5 Live: "It's not that we are unhappy with ITV but I think maybe they will have their hands full with other things and maybe the BBC can service us a bit better.

          Ex Formula One presenter Murray Walker who did it for both BBC and ITV has expressed his astonishment and also thinks there is something else going on: 

          Murray Walker, former F1 commentator for both the BBC and ITV, said: "I'm absolutely flabbergasted - I was lying in bed listening to the news this morning and I almost fell out of bed when I heard it.
          "It's an amazing development because I think ITV did and do a superb job, and I think there is more to this than meets the eye." (ibid)




          Whilst it is premature to predict the total demise of ITV, in its current format and in the current economic climate it is hard to imagine a viable business model for the future. With Sky having a 17.9% stake and Richard Branson around 11% it is clear that the sharks are circling. Grade's interview with the BBC business programme so viciously cut out any questions about ITV being split into production and distribution arms inevitably points up the weakest point in Grade's armour. As Virgin doesn't need a distribution system a deal with Sky for the 17.9% stake in which Virgin would keep the production arm might be a possibility. The fact that we can sit around and speculate the likely outcomes at all would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. It shows how far ITV has fallen and how it has really failed to keep up with the rapidly changing media environment. Obviously any deal would have to go through regulatory approval, however with the probability of declining revenues and the possibility of a failing company on its hands the regulator would be under considerable pressure from the market. Grade's strategy of producing better quality programming is an expensive risk which might have worked in a different economic environment but would rely upon increasingly risk averse bankers to provide the funding. One can only assume that Grade is trying to rally around other large shareholders and trying to stitch up a deal which allows him him to exit from the post with a semblance of dignity and which outmanoeuvres both Sky and Virgin. Grade could try to enlarge the  group  by merging with other troubled media groups such as Scottish Media Group.  This would provide much needed consolidation in the sector and might act to water down  Sky's holding but it seems a thin hope.


          Coming back to this a couple of months later we can see how bombastic Grade's claims were. There has been aserious financial meltdown and there is little doubt that ITV will suffer from this. Added to this thay have just been fined a large amount of money by Ofcom over the telephone scam of around a year ago.  

          March 02, 2008

          Textual Analysis OCR Moving Image Hub Page

          Textual Analysis OCR Moving Image Hub Page


          Any information relating to the OCR AS Media Studies Exam  from September 2008 ONLY relates to students who are doing resits from earlier this year. There is now a completely new specification which is based upon TV Drama & Representation.

          I Repeat the new specification starting in September 2008 does NOT include Actio-Adventure films

          For work on the new specification: TV Drama please follow this link


          Several colleges and schools have put up information about this exam so I have decided to  create a hub page and copy and paste where there is different information and material.

          Hub links  

          For more detailed work on the shot please follow this link

          For more detailed work on Camera Movement / Mobile Framing please follow the link 

          For more details about the use of sound including some YouTube examples follow this link

          For discussion and YouTube Extracts about mise en scene please follow this link

          For a revision check list of things to remember in a grid form to practise doing textual analysis at home please follow this link  

          Breakdown of OCR AS Media Moving Image Section of Textual Analysis 

          This section comes from Northallerton College It is mainly taken from OCR's own material describing the exam specifications.  

          The purpose of this unit is to assess your media textual analysis skills using a short unseen moving image media extract and to assess your understanding of the concept of representation using two texts.

          The unit is assessed by examination in May of the AS year. The exam is 2 hours (including 30 minutes for viewing and making notes on the moving image extract) and you are required to answer two compulsory questions. The unit is marked out of a total of 90, with each question marked out of 45.

          There are two sections to this paper:

          Section A (45 marks)

          An unseen moving image extract, between three to five minutes long, from the Action/Adventure genre. There will be one compulsory question dealing with textual analysis of technical aspects of the languages and conventions of moving image medium.

          Section B (45 marks)

          One compulsory question on a comparative study of two Situation Comedies which you will have studied in class. The comparison will largley focus upon representation of gender.

          UNIT CONTENT

          Section A will focus on Action/Adventure Films and will require you to study the technical aspects of moving image language and conventions.The focus of study for Section A is specifically the use of technical aspects of the moving image medium, and its effects on the meaning of the text for audience, rather than the content of the text itself. The technical aspects that you are required to be familiar with for the unseen extract are:

          • Camera Angle, Shot, Movement and Position (Establishing shot; master shot; close-up (and variations); long shot; wide shot; two-shot; high angle; low angle; aerial shot; point of view; pan; crane; tilt; track; dolly; zoom/reverse zoom;framing; composition; hand-held; steadicam)
          • Editing (Sound and vision editing – cut; fade; wipe; edit; FX; dissolve; long take; superimpose; slow motion;synchronous/asynchronous sound)
          • Sound (Soundtrack; theme; tune; incidental music; sound effects; ambient sound; dialogue; voiceover;mode of address/direct address)
          • Special Effects/Graphics (captions; computer generated images (CGI); animation; pyrotechnics; stunts; models; back projection)
          • Mise-en-Scène (Location, set, studio/set design; costume; properties; ambient lighting; artificial lighting; production design period/era; colour design)

          Action / Adventure Films

          The information below is once again lifted directly from the OCR textbook.

          This unit tests analytical skills and assists you in learning how media texts are constructed. For 2003 and 2004 you are required to study action / adventure films.

          The focus is on TECHNICAL ANALYSIS, which means that you need to study techniques used to construct texts. (This is done in detail to help you research FORMS & CONVENTIONS).

          The test is UNSEEN so you can look at a number of different ways in which forms and conventions are used.

          You need to develop the TECHNICAL VOCABULARY to describe texts. This will be necessary to enhance your practical work.

          THE EXAM.

          An extract of between three and five minutes will be shown. It will be shown FOUR TIMES in 30 minutes. You have a further 45 minutes to write your answer.

          It will not matter if you have seen or not seen the extract before.

          GENRE. This is a major Media Studies concept. You will show that you have studied the conventions of the Action / Adventure genre.

          The CODES employed in a text are defined by the genre. There are also technical codes associated with the genre e.g. loud and fast orchestral music accompanies the action. This music would be out of place in the middle of a soap opera or during a news clip.

          TEXTUAL CODES - An Overview.

          N.B. Various examiners over the years specify different codes. Current OCR thinking specifies TECHNICAL CODES, as well as CHARACTER CODES and REPRESENTATIONAL CODES.

          OCR also mentions SOCIAL CODES and the REPRESENTATIONAL CODES to be found within the Technical Codes mentioned above.

          TECHNICAL CODES such as CAMERA CODES, LIGHTING CODES, EDITING CODES and SOUND or MUSIC CODES create EXPECTATIONS, and signal the GENRE of a TV programme or film. For example, the lighting of characters face is a code. If the face is lit from the top or below gives the character a harsh or soft expression. High angle shots make the character seem small and vulnerable.

          CHARACTER CODES include costume, make-up, gestures and language.
          (Film villains inherit many of their codes from days of silent cinema e.g. dark clothing, disability, and villainous gestures). STEREOTYPES are used to build on viewers' previous experience of film and of their own world.

          Character Codes are predictable and can be used as a 'shorthand,' to tell a story quickly or they can be broken for dramatic effect (when a 'goody' turns out to be 'baddy').


          There are REPRESENTATIONAL CODES such as the DIALOGUE and the NARRATIVE employed in a text. They establish whether it is a current affairs programme, a comedy, or another genre.

          We are constantly confronted with genre in this way through both TV and film, and we are able to respond appropriately as they fit in with our own experience, ideology and knowledge of the world.

          Even if we do not understand a foreign programme we can still 'read' the signs and codes and understand the type of programme it might be.


          After studying genre conventions and basic codes, you must look at texts to see how technical codes are used to ESTABLISH the GENRE.

          The examination will ask you to comment upon how the text communicates with / manipulates / engages the audience through the use of technical codes.

          As a conclusion for each question about the technical codes you will be asked to comment upon the rationale behind this approach and reflect upon its success. This is intended to ensure that you do not simply describe the technical codes employed without considering their function.

          You must go beyond describing what you see and hear and explain why and how the texts are constructed in the way that they are.

          It is not possible in 45 minutes to discuss everything, but you can make an informed decision about which are the most significant codes.

          The list of codes which follows, is NOT a definitive list - some may turn out to be irrelevant.

          By observing a selection of action / adventure movies you may discover other codes which may apply.

          SIX TECHNICAL AREAS (Treat every filmic discipline as codes to be read and understood by an audience which 'reads' the messages in the text.

          1. Camera techniques framing and angle
          2. Camera techniques - movement
          3. Editing
          4. Manipulating time
          5. Sound
          6. Graphics / special effects

          1. Camera techniques framing and angle

          e.g. Long shots - show large subjects and their surroundings

          Extreme long shots - sometimes used as establishing shots. They emphasise background and reduce importance of the subject. Can be used as MARKERS between scenes - tension often builds from this point.
          Establishing shots define the location and give audience a perspective on the action to come. They are often essential to initially defining the genre.

          Master shots - are similar to establishing shots and are used at the beginning of sequences.

          Medium long shots - often frame a standing actor. Lower frame line will cut off actor's feet.

          Mid-shots - emphasise both the subject and its setting in roughly equal measure. Emphasises body language from head, chest and hands.

          Close-up - shows a fairly small part of the scene. It abstracts the subject from its context. See also Medium close-up (head and shoulders), big close-up or extreme close-up (forehead to chin).
          Close-ups focus on emotions or reactions, and are sometimes used in chat shows to show people in a state of emotional excitement, grief or joy.

          BCU's are intense, MCU's less so; the camera maintaining a sense of distance.

          Angle of Shot - conventionally subjects are framed at eye-level. Divergence from eye-level tends to have a specific meaning. High angles can make the viewer more powerful than the people on screen, or can suggest an air of detachment. A low-angle shot places the camera below the subject, exaggerating his / her importance.

          Point-of-view shot (POV) - a shot made from a camera position close to the line of sight of a subject, to imply the camera is 'looking with their eyes'. Can be used to imply defencelessness in action film.

          2. Camera techniques - movement

          Zoom - when zooming in the camera does not move; the lens is focused down from a long shot to a close-up whilst recording. The subject grows in the frame, and attention is concentrated on details previously invisible as the shot tightens. It may be used to surprise the viewer. Reverse zoom reveals more of the scene (perhaps where a character is, or to whom he or she is speaking) as the shot widens. Zooming is unusual because of the disorientating effects.

          Tracking (dollying) - when tracking, the camera itself is moved smoothly towards or away from the subject while the focus remains constant. Tracking in (like zooming) draws the audience into a closer relationship with the subject: moving away tends to create emotional distance.

          Tracking back tends to divert attention to the edges of the screen. The speed of tracking may affect the viewer's mood. Fast tracking (especially when tracking in) is exciting; tracking back eases tension.

          Tracking in can force the audience to focus on something such as the expression of a character. During chase scenes the camera will often 'track' with the action to emphasise the sense of speed.

          Pan - the camera moves from right to left or left to right to follow a moving subject. A space is left in front of the subject to ensure that the pan 'leads' rather than 'trails'.
          A pan usually begins and ends with a few seconds of still picture to give a greater impact. The speed of a pan across a subject creates a particular mood as well as establishing the viewer's relationship with the subject.

          Whip-pan - a very fast pan causing the subject to blur.

          Hand-held camera - a hand-held camera can produce a jerky, bouncy, unsteady image, which may create a sense of immediacy or chaos. A hand-held camera can be used to build up tension with unsteady images.

          Steadicam - a hand-held camera worn as a kind of harness. It uses a gyroscope system to ensure the camera remains perfectly level and smooth as the camera moves. For example, a steadicam was used at the beginning of Gladiator to film the battle scenes, so the camera could be within the action to engage the audience more directly. The effect was first used in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

          3. Editing techniques & 4. Manipulating Time

          Cut - a change of shot from one viewpoint or location to another. This may be done to change the scene, vary the point of view, elide time or lead the audience's thoughts, for example at the opening of Gladiator where the CU on the hand trailing through the grass in the sunshine cuts to a MCU of Maximus waiting to begin the battle. The audience immediately makes the assumption that the hand and the character are connected.

          There is always justification for a cut. Where a 'transition' itself is important it can be highlighted, for example, by using a fade to black to suggest a passing of time or a change of scene.

          Reaction shot - any shot (often also a cutaway), in which a subject reacts to a previous shot.

          Invisible editing - the vast majority of narrative films are now edited in this way. The cuts are intended to be unobtrusive except for special dramatic shots. It supports rather than dominates the narrative: the plot and the characters are the focus. The technique gives the impression that the edits are motivated by the events in the 'reality' on screen.

          Mise-en-scene - meaning is communicated though the relationship of things visible within a single shot. Composition is therefore extremely important. All features of the background, costume, proxemics (or spacing, relationship of objects to others), lighting, style of production and framing are significant.

          Setting - can be location or studio, realistic or stylised. Aspects of the setting or props in the text may take on symbolic meanings such as the red and blue pill in The Matrix.

          Costume and make-up - these follow on from and develop these concepts. Towards the beginning of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the elaborate costumes into which Jen is forced serve both to emphasise the importance other family and position (indicating the reason why she should not misbehave), but also to reveal the restrictions and limitations of her world (showing why she feels stifled and longs to break free).

          Costumes in The Matrix are futuristic and aggressive, with frequent use of sunglasses for effect and impact. This heightens the atmosphere of the film and imparts depth to the characters.

          5. Sound

          Music or sound, that belongs within the frame or can be considered to be a natural part of the narrative, is called DIEGETIC music. The source of the sound is often, but not always visible on screen. When the sound (usually music) is used without being part of the action (such as whenever Neo is pushed between the matrix and reality in The Matrix, it is defined as NON-DIEGETIC.

          Music is a key SOUND CODE. The type of music in a text can convey a great deal of information about the mood and tone of the text. Tension can be established, emotions communicated and the music can be used as a comment on the action, to set the context for the next sequence or to provide closure, such as the beginning and end of a round in a quiz show or the entry of a new guest on a TC chat show. Music can be very powerful in shaping the form of the text. The rhythm of the music can dictate the rhythm of the cuts, such as the way the drum controls the cuts in the fight sequences in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or can be used to establish tension. Silence can be used to create tension.

          Voice-Over / Narration are used mainly in TV. Commentary can be used to mediate the audience's interpretation of visuals e.g. in Mad Max II.

          Sound can be used as a bridge, to maintain continuity in a sequence by running a soundtrack under a series of images to link them. This can be useful in chase sequences for example to both create tension and to link the parallel stories of chaser and victim. The music in The Matrix acts as an underscore in this way on several occasions.

          6. Special Effects and graphics

          Titles are central to the opening of a text and may be interspersed at different points during the text to act as information (such as an overlay giving information about time and place) or as markers to define the action (the context information at the beginning of a film such as at the beginning of Gladiator) or to provide visual interest and reflection, or vital information such as use of subtitles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

          The style of text on screen can be deconstructed just as with a print text and choice of font, colour, size and so forth will all be directly related to the text.

          Graphics can be used in many ways. Where used, they can be analysed as a part of the mise-en-scene of a piece and should not detract from the text.

          Still images can be superimposed on each other on screen to create an effect - superimposed images ate merged to some degree as opposed to overlaid images, which hide whatever is behind them on the screen.

          CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is now common in both film and TV and yet increasingly hard to identify. Identifying the scenery seen through the back window of a moving car as a back projection is easy - it is not so straightforward with more sophisticated techniques and equipment.

          Most action / adventure movies make great use of special effects. Some of the final scenes in Gladiator had to be constructed using CGI following actor Oliver Reed's death. The Coliseum and the vast vistas of Rome were almost all created using CGI. (Compare these with those of Ben Hur or The Fall of the Roman Empire.

          Action is frequently shot against a 'blue screen' or a 'green screen' so that the appropriate background can be constructed using CGI and the two merged to make the scene. The use of the 'blue screen' or 'green screen' means that this simple colour is easily to identify and 'key out' of the scene using a computer. It is, however, important that actors or presenters do not wear clothes of the same or similar colours or they can seem to disappear off screen.


          A substantial number of Hollywood films are action / adventure films. The term is often used to define a single genre, since it can often be difficult to differentiate between the two. Films that might be included within this genre include Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone as well as the James Bond films.

          Action / Adventure films are exciting stories in exotic locations. The plot will be action driven with danger and excitement throughout.

          The audience may experience conquests, explorations, battles, discovery, creation of empires, and situations which threaten to destroy the main characters.

          Adventure films were intended to appeal mainly to men, creating major heroic stars through the years such as Arnold Schwartzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

          These courageous, patriotic or altruistic heroes often fought for their beliefs, struggled for freedom and overcame injustice.

          More modern films have been balanced with female stars as well. From this came movies such as 'Speed', 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' etc.

          Within the genre can be included traditional 'swashbucklers' and epics, disaster films, or searches for the unknown.

          They may include stories of historical heroes, kings, battles, rebellion or piracy.

          The action / adventure film first became popular with weekly Saturday serials, running in instalments that often had 'cliff-hanging' endings to entice viewers to return to the next show. (Heroine Pearl White in the silent era's The Perils of Pauline (1914); was the first major super-star of these serials.

          Later examples included successful cheap or 'B' movies; 'Flash Gordon', 'Buck Rogers' and 'Captain Marvel'.

          Steven Spielberg's 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', (1981), the first of a very successful trilogy, was a tribute to these Saturday morning matinees with comic-book archaeologist hero Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) battling the Nazis while searching for the sacred Ark of the Covenant. 'Romancing the Stone' and 'The Jewel of the Nile' were similarly successful.

          The first full-length adventure films were the swashbucklers which included many 'stock elements' such as lavish sets, costumes and weapons of the past. They were often built action scenes of sea battles, castle duels, sword and cutlass fighting e.g. Errol Flynn as Captain Blood, (1935), Robin Hood (1938) and the Sea Hawk (1940). Also notable from this era, Burt Lancaster as 'The Crimson Pirate' (1952).

          Action / adventure Films have a tremendous impact, continuous high energy, lots of stunts, possibly extended chase scenes, rescues, battles, fights, escapes, non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous heroes - all designed for pure audience escapism with the action / adventure sequences at the centre of the film.

          The cinematography and sound is directly structured to sustain this level of activity throughout.

          Within the genre, these days, there can be said to be many genre hybrids: sci-fi, thrillers, crime-drama, kung-fu, westerns and war.

          Always however, they have a resourceful hero / heroine, struggling against incredible odds, or an evil villain, and or trapped in various modes of transportation (bus, ship, train, plane etc), with resolution achieved at the end of the movie, after two crisis points along the way.

          Action / adventure films have traditionally been aimed at male audiences, aged 13 to mid-30s, although modern action / adventure films have features strong female characters to attract a wider audience.

          Among the most well-known and well defined modern day action / adventure hero is James Bond. Beginning in the 60s, the slick Bond 'formula' appealed to large audiences with their exotic locations, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, high-tech gadgets, fast-action suspense, impossible stunts and stunning women.

          The action hero battled unlikely and incredible criminals, usually without even staining his dinner suit.

          The action / adventure-film genre has been among the most successful genre in recent years. Raw, indestructible, powerful and muscular heroes of modern, ultra-violent action / adventure films are often very unlike the swashbuckling heroes of the past.

          Each decade has tended to define its own heroes for the genre and this has defined the style of action / adventure films. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a career out of starring in action films in the 80s and 90s, most notably in the action / adventure films Conan the Barbarian (1982), Commando (1986), Raw Deal (1986), Predator (1987), Red Heat (1988), and True Lies (1994), and also the hybrid sci-fi/action/adventure films.
          His more recent films have been less successful - perhaps because he has attempted to move beyond the action / adventure genre?

          To analyse the technical codes for the action / adventure genre is essentially the same as to analyse the technical codes for most mainstream Hollywood output.

          There are stock conventions used in action / adventure films but these should be familiar to you from many films that you have seen. The process of analysing will be more straightforward since you will have a more secure frame of reference than if you were researching a less popularist genre.

          Suggested Activities

          1. You are casting a new action / adventure movie similar to The Terminator. Draw up a character description for your lead character assuming he will be a conventional hero. Define at least FIVE CONVENTIONS of the ROLE e.g. (tall, dark, handsome, like Mr Mannix!?!). Consider the implications of casting a non-conventional hero.
          2. Select two short sequences of not more than five minutes long. Using the skills that you have studied on textual analysis earlier in this chapter explain how the sequences reflect the codes and conventions of action / adventure movies.


          The Art of Film (Bordwell & Thomson)
          Codes Summary


          Handling the Exam Advice 

          The most recent examiners report gave the following advice

          • Make useful detailed notes on the extract
          • Identify moving image language techniques accurately
          • Select appropriate examples from the extract to discuss – you do not have to cover the
          whole extract or every example
          • Analyse why/how these aspects are used to create meaning for the spectator, deconstruct
          what you see and hear, explain function, purpose and effect
          • Refer closely to the set extract – no generalised analysis of action adventure films nor
          reference to what you might know about the rest of the film
          • Cover all five aspects – do not miss one out
          • Avoid just describing what happens – do not just give a descriptive chronological
          commentary – analyse and interpret.

          February 10, 2008

          Digital Projection: Foundation of a New Exhibition System in the UK?

          Digital Projection: Foundation of a New Exhibition System in the UK?

          Digital Cinema Montage


          The world of films is changing dramatically as the installation of digital technologies develops. In the future the term film will become a term of historical sentiment rather than an existing object. Many European countries are promoting the development of these technologies such as the UK Film Council. Getting the digital strategy right from the outset has been a concern fo rht major Hollywood studios. Competing systems could mean that take-up i slow until a standard is established. As this BBC story shows thet were anxious to avoid that risk: 

          Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK

          Studios unite for digital standard
          Digital films
          Films could be sent by satellite
          Seven major movie studios in the US are to establish technical standards for the development of digital cinema, in a rare joint venture.

          The aim of the as-yet-untitled project will be to set the agenda so that rival digital projectors, software and distribution will use a universal language.

          Digital Cinema in the UK 

          The UK Film Council make it very clear how important they thin it is to change to digital projection systems and point out that it could change cinema-going behaviour considerably. Below is an extract from thier strategy document for 2007-2010:

          Film in the digital age

          UK Film Council policy and funding priorities

          April 2007 – March 2010

          In the digital age, UK film has the
          potential to flourish as never before.
          Digital technology is starting to transform
          the way in which film and moving images
          are financed, produced, distributed and
          consumed. Many of the historical barriers
          which have made it difficult for audiences
          to gain access to a wider range of film are
          beginning to tumble. The UK Film Council
          recognises that it needs to take a lead.
          With the help of our strategic partners,
          we intend to act as a strong advocate
          for change by putting in place policies
          and funding measures which encourage
          and support innovation.

          Digital Projector

          The latest leap forward in cinema projection systems is the reality that ‘films’ can be digitally downloaded onto servers at a cinema. This has several advantages for the distributors and exhibitors.

          There is a huge potential saving in the costs of prints, and profit margins are potentially greater. The film can be released on a global basis by being transmitted digitally via satellite in an encoded form which is to military specifications. This reduces the impact of piracy. From the perspective of the exhibitor it allows more flexibility in terms of screenings. The number of screenings can be locally managed according to local demand especially if co-ordinated with the pre-booking systems. The number of screenings can then be increased or reduced. There is no need to be reliant upon the number of prints in circulation. Each screening would be paid for on the equivalent of a ‘just in time basis’.

          Fifteen million pounds of capital funding has been delegated to the UK Film Council by the Arts Council of England, which is allocated as follows:

          Digital Screen Network

          The largest proportion has been used to create a network of screens dedicated to the exhibition of specialised films in locations across the UK where there is no such provision currently.

          The UK Digital Screen Network how the (Film distribution Association) FDA see it

          FDA welcomes and supports an initiative by the UK Film Council, to invest up to £13 million of National Lottery funds in what will become the world's first digital screen network, placing the UK at the forefront of D-cinema.

          It is planned that up to 200 screens in 150 cinemas across the UK - a quarter of the total - will be equipped with digital projectors. In return, cinemas will be asked by the Film Council to show a broader range of specialised (non-blockbuster) films such as documentaries or foreign language titles on a regular basis.

          Hopefully, such a substantial investment will help the hardware costs to fall, which in turn could facilitate extra installations.

          How the Digital Cinema Chain Will look  

          You will notice on this model from the European Digital Cinema Forum that a live event venue is included in the possibilities for digital uplinks to satellite. Large sporting events are increasingly likely to be viewed in cinemas forget Sky down the Pub!

          Digital Business Model

          History of Projection Systems 

          It is still important to know a little of the history of the technological development of film as a material as well as matters of projection and the types of projectors that have been used and are being used now which depend upon the physicality of film.

          A useful web site which gives some historical and practical information is the Goethe Institute website which is linked to the possibility of exhibiting actual films. An excellent site with many contributors of international standing is the Victorian Cinema site. There is a mass of information on projection machinery as well as a general fund of knowledge on many aspects of early cinema.

          Inside Digital Projection

          Anatomy of Digital film Projector

          The images projected onto the screen from the projector, are formed from the projection source using a reflective technology called Digital Light Processing (DLP)

          Arts Alliance Media  List of Advantages of Digital Projection 

          Digital prints are delivered to cinemas on hard drives, and the content is then loaded onto a server. This has two advantages:

            • The central server can hold many films, meaning that films can be changed more easily (so, among other benefits, one-off bookings are easier).
            • The prints don’t need to be returned after the run, so holding over successful films is always possible.

            Different versions of a film can be easily sent and managed:

              • Subtitled/dubbed versions
              • Hearing-impaired versions
              • In the future, different cuts of films can also be used

              Micro markets can be served – giving the audience more of what they want, for example:

                • Bollywood films can be played in areas of high demand
                • Special themed events can be held – i.e. showing of restored Casablanca for Valentines Day.
                • Special seasons – i.e. late night horror screenings
                • Mother and Baby screenings – appropriate films can be played during traditionally quiet times (such as weekday mornings)

                Sharing the costs of Installation

                The costs of installing new projection equipment can be prohibitive a system called the Virtual Print Fee model is a popular method of persuading cinemas to invest in this equipment below is the explanation from the Arts alliance Media site about how it works. Please note that it specifically mentions Hollywood Studios. This could mean that more independently inclined and less Hollywood driven Cinemas are disadvantaged.

                What is the VPF (Virtual Print Fee) Model?

                The big question over digital cinema is who is going to pay for it? One proposed solution is what is known as the Virtual Print Fee model – which involves both exhibitors and distributors contributing towards the cost of the equipment.

                The way it works is:

                • A third party pays up front for the digital equipment.
                • Distributors and exhibitors pay over time to recoup the cost.
                • Exhibitors sign up to agreed service & maintenance commitments, as well as paying a ‘usage fee’ to cover cost of lease.
                • Distributors save money every time a digital (rather than 35mm) print is shipped, therefore;
                • Every time a digital print is shipped, distributors pay a Virtual Print Fee towards recoupment of equipment. Approximately 80% of costs will be paid for by Hollywood studios.
                • When cost is recouped, the cinema will own the equipment.

                For more information on the VPF model, and how it works, click here to read our FAQ

                How the Film Distributor's Association See It

                Now the cinema industry stands on the threshold of a great, rolling transition from celluloid to digital, which is expected to receive a big boost in early 2005 and then gather momentum over the decade ahead. In time, digital technologies are likely to exert as profound an impact on the cinema sector as on the broadcast and other media sectors.

                Digital or D-cinema has already been piloted in the UK for ten years. Disney/Pixar's Toy Story was supplied and presented digitally (on a Texas Instruments DLP prototype) at London's Odeon, Leicester Square, in 1995. But only a handful of cinemas have had digital projectors whilst further quality advances were achieved. Now, with D-cinema giving state-of-the-art clarity on screen, audiences may be unaware that they are watching a digital, as opposed to a film, presentation.

                The UK is one of the most expensive markets in the world in which to release a film. FDA members spend approximately £125m a year on prints, duplicated in high-tech laboratories. A digitally produced or converted film could be delivered quickly and reliably via disc (a much smaller, cheaper physical medium than a 35mm print), fibre optic cable or satellite - triggering a huge systems change for the whole industry.


                It is clear that the gradual roll out of digital cinema over the next few years provides a number of opportunities for quite different screen experiences in Cinemas. Live events can be viewed in on a huge screen bringing a far better sense of spectacle. By the same token it should be far simpler and cheaper for independent cinemas to have a flexible and varigated programme of new films for quite small audiences. Both these tendencies should revive cinema audiences in the UK which have become increasingly dependent upon the 14-27 year old market along with a few family type blockbusters.  


                Arts Alliance Media Digital Cinema Projection systems details 

                BBC September 2002 on Minister Kim Howells welcoming the early digital projection initiative

                BBC on the 2005 news of establishing a UK Digital Projection Network  

                CNet 2005 on introduction of digital projection technology

                CNet 7 March 2007 on US  film studio coperation over installation of digital projection

                Comparative Report on the penetration of digital screens in the US compared to other regions 

                British Cinema Hub Page

                British Cinema Hub Page

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