Things you're not allowed to do on television

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Mike S
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Things you're not allowed to do on television

Post by Mike S »

I've always been fascinated by broadcasting rules and regulations, particularly ones which (a) seem bizarre, and (b) would never occur to you until someone points out their existence.

One that I only clocked relatively recently was the ban on the use of House of Commons footage on comedy/entertainment shows. I'd been watching Have I Got News For You for years, but had never before noticed its absence. I think there's all sorts of stipulations about Commons footage, actually - they're not allowed to cut away to shots of MPs fast asleep, for a start.

What other strange rules are there? The more specific the better.

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Post by Brock »

Mike S wrote:I've always been fascinated by broadcasting rules and regulations, particularly ones which (a) seem bizarre, and (b) would never occur to you until someone points out their existence.

One that I only clocked relatively recently was the ban on the use of House of Commons footage on comedy/entertainment shows. I'd been watching Have I Got News For You for years, but had never before noticed its absence. I think there's all sorts of stipulations about Commons footage, actually - they're not allowed to cut away to shots of MPs fast asleep, for a start.

What other strange rules are there? The more specific the better.
As far as I know, you're not allowed to show a full act of hypnotism.

You're not allowed to discuss politics on the day of an election - until the polls have closed.

There are rules that are enforced by the broadcasters, although I don't think they have any legal status: they won't show the moment of a person's death for instance. (At least I think that's still true.)

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Brock wrote: There are rules that are enforced by the broadcasters, although I don't think they have any legal status: they won't show the moment of a person's death for instance. (At least I think that's still true.)
A few years ago there was a BBC series in which a genuine death was filmed, it got headlines at the time. More recently there was a Channel 4 documentary about caring for the terminally ill where a woman was interviewed sitting beside her dead husband.

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Yes, it was the final epiode of The Human Body wasn't it?

The hypnotism rule's odd, and seemingly based on a misunderstanding of hypnosis - as far as I know, it's impossible to enter a trance against your will.

There are rules about seances aren't they? Either they're not allowed to be shown as entertainment, or they're only allowed to be shown as entertainment - I forget which. Although in either case, I don't really understand the reasoning.

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Post by GarethR »

The modern-day rules about flashing images would make some archive programmes unbroadcastable without tweaking.

I didn't know until after I'd stopped working in radio that you can't play a full album on the air from beginning to end. Obviously this is rarely (if ever) an issue, but the rule exists.
You're not allowed to discuss politics on the day of an election - until the polls have closed
Although wasn't the 1992 Spitting Image election special allowed to be broadcast before the polls had closed? John O'Farrell uses this example to underline the ineffectiveness of satire in changing anybody's mind about how to vote, saying that it demonstrated how mainstream and toothless the show had become by then that the powers-that-were had no problems with it being shown before 9pm.

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Post by Brock »

GarethR wrote:
You're not allowed to discuss politics on the day of an election - until the polls have closed
Although wasn't the 1992 Spitting Image election special allowed to be broadcast before the polls had closed?
That wasn't on the day of the election - it was the night before.

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Post by Mike S »

I thought the '92 election special was post-polls. (Anyone got the TV Times to check? It was 9/4/92.)

Stuart Maconie certainly abides by the 'no album in full' rule with the Freak Zone's weekly featured album - he'd have more than enough time to play the whole thing, but never does. Even if the album only consists of two very long tracks.

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Post by Brock »

Mike S wrote:I thought the '92 election special was post-polls. (Anyone got the TV Times to check? It was 9/4/92.)
A quick check of the BFI database confirms it as 8/4/92: http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/series/13460. I remember it extremely well for all sorts of personal reasons.

Also, John O'Farrell discusses the broadcast here.

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Post by Mike S »

I've always wondered about rules regarding news bulletins. The existence of the News Bunny suggests there's probably no stipulations about how the news is delivered, but I may be wrong.

Radio stations that carry hourly news bulletins: is that a requirement or an editorial decision? Could 6 Music do away with its news bulletins completely if it wanted to?

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Mike S wrote: Radio stations that carry hoursly news bulletins: is that a requirement or an editorial decision? Could 6 Music do away with its news bulletins completely if it wanted to?
Well Radio 3 doesn't have hourly news bulletins. Radio 4 Extra doesn't have any news bulletins at all (being a pre-recorded network).

5 Live Sports Extra certainly doesn't have them, given that it's not on the air most of the time.

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Mike S wrote:The hypnotism rule's odd, and seemingly based on a misunderstanding of hypnosis - as far as I know, it's impossible to enter a trance against your will.
You can't hypnotise someone on the radio either, the thinking being that it could cause problems for someone driving

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Scary wrote: You can't hypnotise someone on the radio either, the thinking being that it could cause problems for someone driving
The irony being that most people are already in a hypnotic trance while driving anyway - certainly people on their regular commute to/from work.

There's a misconception with hypnosis that it's akin to having a spell cast on you, on taking LSD or something. But it just involves being in a relaxed and focused state, that's all it is. We spend huge chunks of our lives under hypnosis.

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Mike S wrote:I've always wondered about rules regarding news bulletins. The existence of the News Bunny suggests there's probably no stipulations about how the news is delivered
None that I'm aware of. News is sort of self-regulating as far as its delivery goes, insofar as that if a broadcaster actually wants to do news, it will want to do it "properly", in the accepted way. Obviously it's considered okay to modernise presentation styles, but not to the extent of anything like the News Bunny.

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Post by Mike S »

6 Music has started to put an ambient chill-out bed under its news bulletins, which really doesn't work at all.

Outside the BBC, what are the rules about 'balance' in news programmes? Could you have an explicity biased news programme if you wanted to?

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Post by Juswuh »

Music with news reports is nothing new - see any old Pathe newsreel.

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I never saw the News Bunny, how did they handle any genuinely serious (i.e. tragic) news?

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Juswuh wrote:Music with news reports is nothing new - see any old Pathe newsreel.
I know, but 6 Music used to have an 'urgent'-sounding bed similar to any other music station. It's now been replaced by something far more Eno, which doesn't work at all when the news is...well, urgent.

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Juswuh wrote:
Brock wrote: There are rules that are enforced by the broadcasters, although I don't think they have any legal status: they won't show the moment of a person's death for instance. (At least I think that's still true.)
A few years ago there was a BBC series in which a genuine death was filmed, it got headlines at the time.
Was that the "Terry Pratchett Goes to Dignitas" documentary with this wealthy old cad, a hotelier sitting in the corner, the camera pulled away in the distance. It was all very blurred, but not by purpose in that kind of we don't want to see your face way. It was due to the shaky-cam use. They didn't pixelate him or blur him. You saw him when he was alive, a kind of strong-jawed man, once handsome, and I think with a wife. It was affecting.

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Post by Mike S »

Watching it again on DVD, I'd say Educating Marmalade is virtually a PowerPoint presentation on Things You're Not Allowed To Do On (children's) TV These Days.

Seriously, in the (contractually unlikely) event of CBeebies considering it for a repeat run, it would surely be deemed totally unbroadcastable at the first hurdle. And not just because she says 'cock' all the time. Everything, from Mrs Allgood's massive jar of valium, to the comedy Catholic names in the convent episode, from John Bird glugging on a litre-bottle of Gordon's, to Marmalade walloping people on the head with baseball bats...none of it would happen now. Even though (and this is the weird thing) parents of today's 12-year-olds would no doubt look back on it nostalgically as an example of children's TV's golden age. If I had kids, it'd be one of the first things I'd show them.

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Juswuh wrote:I never saw the News Bunny, how did they handle any genuinely serious (i.e. tragic) news?
I never saw much Live TV simply because its distribution was so limited, but from memory, the Bunny would do a sorrowful head-in-hands sort of thing. Although I'm not sure if they ever covered genuinely tragic stories.

I wish I'd been able to see Live while Janet Street-Porter was still in charge. "Car crash TV" doesn't do the descriptions of the output justice. Supposedly Kelvin McKenzie insisted on a Year Zero wiping of all recordings when he took over.

EDIT - just discovered that Live's surviving archive (about 1300 hours of programming) was sold on eBay for the princely sum of £14k last summer. The sellers said that they'd earned almost half a million quid in licensing fees from it over the previous ten years, but I really can't see the new owners having that much luck with it.

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George White wrote:
Juswuh wrote: A few years ago there was a BBC series in which a genuine death was filmed, it got headlines at the time.
Was that the "Terry Pratchett Goes to Dignitas" documentary with this wealthy old cad, a hotelier sitting in the corner, the camera pulled away in the distance. It was all very blurred, but not by purpose in that kind of we don't want to see your face way. It was due to the shaky-cam use. They didn't pixelate him or blur him. You saw him when he was alive, a kind of strong-jawed man, once handsome, and I think with a wife. It was affecting.
No, Mike S was right. I was thinking the final episode in "The Human Body", and the person who died was Herbie Mowes, a 63-year-old man with terminal cancer. Have to admit I never watched it myself...

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GarethR wrote: EDIT - just discovered that Live's surviving archive (about 1300 hours of programming) was sold on eBay for the princely sum of £14k last summer. The sellers said that they'd earned almost half a million quid in licensing fees from it over the previous ten years, but I really can't see the new owners having that much luck with it.
I wonder does the show "Dressing For Pleasure" still exist? I wrote several scripts for that but never actually saw it (and gather that little if any of what I did ever reached the screen). I was paid £15 a script.

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Mike S wrote: Outside the BBC, what are the rules about 'balance' in news programmes? Could you have an explicity biased news programme if you wanted to?
Here are Ofcom's guidelines about "due impartiality" in news programmes:

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/broadc ... artiality/

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Post by Billy »

Regarding Live TV, I was paid £100 by Hat Trick Productions back in 2006 simply after uploading some late-era Live on Youtube. A courier came round to pick up the video tape and the footage was used on an episode of 'Room 101' featuring Cilla Black of all people. Not sure if that still happens.

The News Bunny still existed when Princess Diana was killed. I can't imagine them using it for that particular news broadcast.

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GarethR wrote: I wish I'd been able to see Live while Janet Street-Porter was still in charge. "Car crash TV" doesn't do the descriptions of the output justice. Supposedly Kelvin McKenzie insisted on a Year Zero wiping of all recordings when he took over.
The BBC documentary Nightmare at Canary Wharf probably shows all you need to know.

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GarethR wrote:I didn't know until after I'd stopped working in radio that you can't play a full album on the air from beginning to end. Obviously this is rarely (if ever) an issue, but the rule exists.
How long has that been a rule? Both John Peel and Alan Freeman played Mike Oldfield's Ommadawn in full in 1975.
Andy Hurwitz

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Actually Peel was going to play Ommadawn in full, and Virgin even advertised it in the music press as the album's public premiere, but on the night he couldn't and had to apologise. I don't remember the explanation why - very possibly because of the ads. Remember the BBC could only play songs that began as commercials if they had any product's name removed from the record as released (viz David Dundas' "Jeans On".)

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Juswuh wrote:Actually Peel was going to play Ommadawn in full, and Virgin even advertised it in the music press as the album's public premiere, but on the night he couldn't and had to apologise. I don't remember the explanation why - very possibly because of the ads. Remember the BBC could only play songs that began as commercials if they had any product's name removed from the record as released (viz David Dundas' "Jeans On".)
Yes that is what happened to the planned debut which, if I remember correctly, was to be on the album's release date, and it was the adverts that got it cancelled . Instead its radio debut was on the Saturday Alan Freeman show of the same week. The following week, Peel joked that he was going to be playing the longest 'revived 45' or 'golden oldie' (or something along those lines) and without introducing it by name played the full album again. I recorded both broadcasts and for a long time it was the only version of the album I had.
Andy Hurwitz

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smorodina wrote: How long has that been a rule? Both John Peel and Alan Freeman played Mike Oldfield's Ommadawn in full in 1975.
I've no idea.
Brock wrote:The BBC documentary Nightmare at Canary Wharf probably shows all you need to know
It actually disappointed me when I saw it years ago, because it contains almost nothing of the kind of output I'd read about in the "Tellybrats and Topless Darts" book. It's the JS-P era that I have the morbid interest in, since I saw bits and pieces of Kelvin McKenzie's vision of Live TV after our street finally got cabled in 1997.

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Post by Brock »

GarethR wrote:
Brock wrote:The BBC documentary Nightmare at Canary Wharf probably shows all you need to know
It actually disappointed me when I saw it years ago, because it contains almost nothing of the kind of output I'd read about in the "Tellybrats and Topless Darts" book. It's the JS-P era that I have the morbid interest in, since I saw bits and pieces of Kelvin McKenzie's vision of Live TV after our street finally got cabled in 1997.
Nightmare at Canary Wharf is entirely about the JS-P era; the documentary ends at the point where McKenzie takes over. Most of the documentary concentrates on the preparations for the launch and the backroom arguments, but you see the opening moments of the JS-P incarnation, and a few other bits and pieces like the live broadcasts of dinner parties (one of the strangest ideas I've seen).

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