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Issues, Codes and Conventions of Factual Programmes

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 4467 words Published: 18th May 2020

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In this assignment I will be creating a report that identifies and investigates the issues, codes and conventions of factual programmes as well as that I will be identifying any potential issues within a factual programme that has a reference to bias, accuracy, subjectivity, privacy, impartiality and representation. In this scenario I have been given I will be a Head of Factual Programming and I have been asked by my TV Station to provide guidelines for my production team. Firstly I am going to explore and look at some potential issues showing what each means, how to avoid them, good examples of each and what can happen if you do not obey them.

Potential Issues



The job of a researcher is to make sure that a factual programme are completely true and well researched, as a producer your first job while producing your programme is to make sure the information you’re including is legitimate, this is because of the amount of fake news around, you have to check your source and make sure they are trustworthy or if you are going to make a claim you would have to say ‘Allegedly’ the reason for checking your source is, when you make a factual programme you’re making a claim to the audience watching that your programme is completely truthful and therefore if you twist the truth or even make events up you could be considered to be fraudulent. If you’re making a reconstruction of an event for your documentary you must make sure you make it clear to the audience that this is a reconstruction and not observational footage, this means you have made the reconstruction as close to the real thing as you can possibly get and you have checked every aspect you can to make it close to the real event. If you do not state it as a reconstruction or if you make parts up and add parts, then you could face complaints from the audience on how accurate your documentary actually is.



This means ‘Treating all rivals or disputants equally’[1] within the news channels its vital that any and all news be reported with accuracy and to be shown as impartial. When presenting a news story, it needs to be impartial as this means the views are shown to be fair and all equal. On top of this it would need to include different arguments for each point to make sure it’s not agreeing with one side. An example of this would have been during the BREXIT lead up referendum as this is when the UK were going to do a vote to see if they should leave the EU. During this time the BBC would need to stay impartial as they would need to show the opinions of both leave and remain people and individuals within the rest of the EU. This is due to the fact that the BBC is owned by the public so they have to be unbiased in these situations, by showing all sides of a story they can leave the viewer to make up their own mind. If the BBC made this story not impartial then it may make the audience angry and less likely to continue watching the news on this channel.  



The phrase bias means ‘Inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair, prejudice towards a certain group of people which feel to be different to anyone else; race, sexuality, gender’ [2]So when a writer goes to a company to see if their script is worthy enough to be commissioned the company need to take in considerations as to what the subject of the content is and whether it is appropriate for an audience and if so then if it’s appropriate for their audience for an example if someone had written a comedy sketch show but it was offensive toward disabled people such as deaf then they would not show that on a channel with sign language interpreters on screen as their audience would be predominantly disabled with deafness. So companies can take into considerations if it is offensive towards a group or if it can damage the company. If it can they the company will more than likely prevent them from commissioning the script as they do not want to come across offensive to any group, with media spreading so much and so fast in recent years it would be unwise to air a video with this sort of offence.




This means ‘The fact of being based on facts and not influenced by personal beliefs or feelings[3] This is the ability to analyse and understand the truth whilst making a decision from the discoveries that have been made through research.  A factual news programme would need to present the bare facts of the subject in their report, without including any of their own opinions or emotions into the report this links well with Bias as they cannot show any personal feelings toward the subject, this is why you’ll sometimes see at the start of programmes etc it will say this in no way shows the views of our company or any individual of. This allows the viewers to come to their own conclusion and opinion about the subject as well as seeing the bare facts about the subject providing them with healthy information. A good example of a factual programme that has to remain objective is ITV News and other news channels like channel 4 news.


Subjectivity means ‘The influence of personal beliefs or feelings, rather than facts’[4]is basically the opposite of objectivity, in the sense that with subjectivity you can include your own opinions and emotions into your reports. Subjectivity doesn’t work well for a factual news programme because it would be unbalanced and opinionated. A good example of a factual programme that uses subjectivity would be BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’, where the pundits would present the facts and statistics of a game, but deliver them with their own opinion and judgement. American news programmes, like ‘FOX News’ are very subjective, because the anchors will give their own opinions and views on the reports they present to their viewers.



Representation in factual programming is about how various groups, and individuals are represented in the media. It’s important to represent groups equally in a factual programme, you can’t represent one group in a bad light but represent another group in a better light you must show both sides of both groups so not to tarnish the view of one. For example, the factual programme would be deemed sexist if you represented Males in a good light, but represented females in a bad light. You always have to represent groups fairly.  



Privacy is perhaps the most talked about and the most controversial when it comes to factual programming. There are many grey areas when it comes to someone’s privacy. A factual news programme, such as ‘BBC News’, will release suspects or victim’s names of certain crimes, even without knowing all of the facts of the story. This is controversial because obviously if the suspect is proven innocent and released by the police after questioning, his or her name has been broadcast to the public, which could in fact be a threat to their safety.



Codes and conventions of Factual Programmes

What are codes and conventions?

Codes and conventions are used by the media to help communicate ideas through visual, audio and technical techniques. Each media has codes and conventions that would make their genre and allows the audiences to have an understanding of what they are watching and relate to other shows as well as understanding what type of Show it is.  There are different types of codes used to break up different sections. Visual codes would could consist of using angles, camera shots and movements this would be wether they are artsy shots or very straight and steady shots, as for example there would be a major difference between a music video and a News program

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For instance, a low angle would make the character seem much more powerful and a little bit intimidating as it makes them look much bigger than they actually are.  Lastly, technical codes consist of things that have been changed during post production, Examples of these would be editing, lighting and VFX. The way in which these are used can define whether a character is an antagonist or protagonist whilst giving the audience an overall better understanding of the importance of each character.

A Factual television show is a genre of TV which is always non-fiction as it speaks about real people and real events that have occurred. This genre would include broadcasts such as; documentaries, news shows, chat shows, review shows and Reconstructions. An example of a factual programme would be Crime Watch, This real-life crime programme features detectives from across the UK in the `Crime watch’ studio that take viewers’ calls in an attempt to solve some of Britain’s biggest unsolved cases. The show, which usually airs a new episode every month or two, also features crimes caught on camera in a CCTV roundup and information on arrests and convictions in previous cases that resulted from viewers’ tips[5].  The positives of factual programmes are that they can educate and inform the people that are watching whilst also creating some form of empathy for the audience to change. However, the main examples of factual programmes I am going to discuss is documentaries and the news. Documentaries tend to offer vital information’s on a various amount of topics whilst the news state statistics and facts to their viewer, without any other parts in, for example in a documentary you may see an insert of a reconstruction etc the news tends to leave these out.

There are many different roles within these genres and Below I have compiled some of the main ones with a brief explanation as to what they do, some name s of people that do the job and what their salary is:


The role of a presenter is to say the information given to you in a matter that will engage the audience, through using clear language and making the structure easy to understand. Another role of a presenter is to be able to narrate the story effectively which could involve using voiceovers for certain stories. It is very common for a presenter to perform in front of a green screen as then pictures can be displayed behind them if needed. An example of famous presenters would be Ant and Dec or for more factual like th news Huw Edwards he presents on the BBC. The BBC hire presenters that are non-bias as they want to create content that will not offend their audience. If it was biased it would be constantly changing the ideas of their audience and persuaded them to do things in a certain way. Salaries for presenters can be very high if you take a look at this link we can see how high they get. https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/news-anchor-huw-edwards-now-bbcs-highest-paid-journalist-after-big-beast-pay-cuts-but-bbc-women-say-still-far-to-go-on-pay-equality-full-list-of-salaries/



Correspondent/field reporter

The Wikipedia meaning for this is “A correspondent or on-the-scene reporter is usually a journalist or commentator for magazines, or more speaking, an agent who contributes reports to a newspaper, or radio or television news, or another type of company, from a remote, often distant, location.”[6]  A correspondent will typically work for a Radio Network, newspaper company or television news. This member of the group will travel to different areas to report the news from where it is actually happening. They have to research the information themselves and then create a script to use during the recording section. A disadvantage of becoming a field reporter is the fact that they can get interrupted by the general public quite often which could ruin the story. An example of when a field reporter was needed was when the News in Britain was reporting about ISIS or Islamic state they had reporters in the affected countries, this was so they could capture the atmosphere as well as interviews with refugees etc.

News reader

The news reader is the person in charge of reading out the news to the audience. The news reader is also responsible for helping the research section and making sure everything that is written down makes sense and is factual. On top of this they always use formal language and appear to constantly be impartial as otherwise some audience members may feel they are being persuaded to a certain belief. To link with being formal they are also meant to keep eye contact with the camera as it further shows professionalism.  An example of this would be BBC news as they are always dressed in suits, they are slow moving and clear talkers.


Here are some conventions that are commonly used:


Interviews are very important in the media industry as they are used to help get added information from people who are known to be experts on this situation. Interviews allow the audience to learn something new in which they probably never would have before. An example of this would be the BBC’s ‘Match of the day’ as they interview a vast majority of players and managers to get their thoughts after the game. They ask questions on whether they think the game was deserved and if they believed the team played well etc.

Actual footage/images

This is footage that can be related to whatever the news reader is discussing. They more than likely will put the video on whilst the reader speaks over the footage. This is used to visually helped the audience understand the story more. An example of this would be from the BBC again as they are always using this when speaking about different countries that are involved in war.

Modes of address to the user

The mode of address to the user is in basic about how the reporter presents news to the audience. An example of this would be BBC and ITV news readers precise languid but unlike BBC three and channel 5 is much less formal and uses slang to attract the younger audience. BBC three traditionally has celebrities and does the news in a whopping sixty seconds. This furthermore attracts the younger audience. 

Report structure

Most reports in the news focus on putting the most important aspects of the story at the top of story and then leave the least important sections and the bottom of the story. They present it from top to bottom. This would mean the most important information is obviously discussed first.  This could be seen as a positivity as it allows the audience to put on the news and see a story which interests them right at the start.

Documentary Formats;


This type of documentary interacts with its participants and uses archival film to retrieve history.  Its deficiencies are intrusiveness, excessive faith in witnesses, and a tendency to produce naïve history.  These participatory documentaries strongly agree that it is not possible for the film maker to not change the events after it is being filmed. In these documentaries it’s not only the film maker which is involved in the programs as the audience also get an understanding of how certain situations can be changed their presence.


This type of documentary likes to observe things whist recording them and tend to not use commentary afterwards whilst controlling less technical aspects. Observational documentaries attempt to simply and spontaneously observe lived life with a minimum of intervention. A type of documentary that follows this would be the show ’Teen Cribs’. This reality TV shows follows the lives of teenagers their extreme houses and discusses how they live in the places they do. This show would be an observational documentary as it follows teens around and observes their day to day life and what it’s like. Even though there are not any interviews the teens still discuss their emotions and express how they feel to the audience.


The performative documentary acknowledges the emotional and subjective aspects of a documentary whilst also addressing the audience the emotions. They are strongly personal, unconventional, perhaps poetic and/or experimental, and might include hypothetical enactments of events designed to make us experience what it might be like for us to possess a certain specific perspective on the world that is not our own. Performative documentaries often link up personal accounts or experiences with larger historical realities. A perfect example of the performative documentary maker, perhaps the Genres most famous, is Nick Broomfield. By including the footage that other directors would have cut out, for example his failed attempts at an interview with Aileen Wuornos in ‘Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer,’ Broomfield’s films are as much about the making of a documentary as they are the main story, offering an onscreen reality that is small-scale and seemingly honest, but always entertaining. It could be argued that on-screen Broomfield portrays a naivety or innocence that often diverts the interview subject from his true intentions. He plays a part, acting for the sake for the audience, drawing a side from his subjects that might not be entirely natural.


This documentary the film maker is the main focus within shots whilst also narrating the documentary. The reflective documentary is typically associated with documentaries that are experimental. This is where the viewer is as interested about the film is being created as they are with actual content. Sometimes the documentary can draw attention away from lighting and editing compared to the actual documentary itself, as you see it being made at the same time this means you will see cameras and BTS (Behind The Scenes). This form of documentary tend to have the most factual information as it is always about realism. On top of this the viewers are easily swayed be the person who makes the documentary. An example of someone who creates a few reflective documentaries would be Louis Theroux. He is very well known for making his programmes controversial and as he is always in front of the cameras he is now a casual interviewer. In some occasions he takes part in certain activities that he is documenting, so he can get an inside look, but still impartial and slightly detached.


A poetic documentary is typically about a topic that the people involved in can relate to as they interviewees and presenters can relate to the topic. It aims to create a specific mood and tone rather than to provide the viewer with information. It will normally speak about someone’s life but it is presented through editing, camera shots, music and camera angles. It is a lot more artistic compared to the other styles of documentaries due to this. In this documentary music is vital as it sets the tone and mood of the storying whilst having hidden messages in it. Instead of using traditional linear continuity to create story structure, the poetic documentary arrives at its point by arranging footage in an order to evoke an audience association through tone or rhythm. Ron Fricke’s Samsara is a good example.


This is known to be when to be when the film creator has a direct address within the subject and is actually involved within the documentary. This type presents the relationship between the filmmaker and the filmed subject. Makes the director’s perspective clear by involving them right into the source. The director becomes an investigator and enters unknown territory, participates in the lives of others, and gains direct and in-depth experience and reflection from the film. An example of a documentary like this would be ‘Life of Michael Jackson’ By Bashir (2004)


The subject is talk by the filmmaker and introduced by a montage of Michael Jackson, We see Bashir and Michael at Michaels house and we see them talking and we see his lifestyle


 I think if you are creating a factual programme then you need to make sure that every point discussed in this Report used this is to protect yourself and your programme. If you created a factual programme that is unbalanced and biased towards a certain opinion, then your programme will not be respected by your audience, and it will gain a very bad reputation for only showing one sided arguments. Personally, I believe that all of the points discussed above are important, but impartiality, balance and bias are incredibly important for a factual programme. I believe this because these are the three things that new viewers for your programme will notice straight away. If they feel the programme is one sided and biased, it will make them have a bad opinion of your programme and most likely they will not watch again. Audio codes would consist if everything that can be heard within the scene. Examples of this would be sound effects, music, voiceovers and sound effects. These are all used to help show the story in an easier manner for the audience. It is important to follow these key points for a successful factual show.  


[1] Sourced From https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/impartiality 2019

[2] Sourced From https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/bias 2019

[3] Sourced From https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/objectivity 2019

[4] Sourced From https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/subjectivity 2019

[5] Sourced From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimewatch 2019

[6] Sourced From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correspondent 2019


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