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Teachers: Citizenship: Media and society

Last Updated: Thursday March 17 2005 14:46 GMT

Media standards

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Media and society


Marmite advert

Adverts for Marmite have been banned from kids' television because some children were left "terrified" by them.

This activity looks at how and why we regulate media standards.

Learning aims

  • Learn about the bodies that monitor media standards

  • Meaning of the watershed

  • How to complain about media coverage


    Read out the news story:

    Explain that broadcasters in the UK are not allowed to show anything which offends against good taste or decency or is likely to encourage crime or lead to disorder.

    Before 9pm all programmes should also be suitable for a general audience, and that includes children.

    This policy is called the Watershed, as 9pm is taken to be the point when evening television starts.

    Ask the class:

    • If you've seen this ad, what did you think of it?

    • The advert has been very popular, why do students think that is?

    • Do they agree that the scenario (people being consumed by a blob) could frighten younger kids?

    • Are they surprised that the ad has been rescheduled?

    • Has anything on TV or radio upset them recently?

    • Would they know who to complain to if they thought something on TV was unfair or offensive?

    In pairs design their idea of a fair and effective body to deal with complaints about TV. They can include:

    1.What should people be allowed to complain about.
    2. How the public would send complaints.
    3. What sort of people would decide if the complaints were justified.
    4. What would happen to broadcasters who caused offence.

    When they have some ideas, get them to compare their plans with the information in our guide. Does the reality match their expectations?

    Main activity

    Give out copies of kids' comments on the following topic:

    With UK television there is a well-established policy of making 9pm the pivotal point of the evening's television.

    All programmes on UK channels are usually suitable for a general audience including children before 9pm.

    Divide the class into small groups and get them to agree on the types of programmes and programme content that should be allowed to be shown before the 9pm Watershed.

    Useful categories could include:

  • Sex
  • Violence
  • Language
  • Nudity
  • Religion

    Get the class to cut out each comment and have them rank the comments in order of how much they agree with them. Then they should stick them on a sheet of labelled A3 paper.

    Extension activity

    Film ratings

    Students working in small groups could produce a poster that explains film ratings:

    Use this page of our guide.

    And this very useful description of how the Harry Potter film 'Prisoner of Azkaban' got it's rating.


    Recap on the main teaching points and see if students can reach a consensus over the importance of viewing ratings and a Watershed.

    Teachers' Background

  • The Watershed reminds broadcasters that particular care should be taken over inclusion of explicit scenes of sex and violence, and the use of strong language.

  • However, seventy per cent of homes do not contain children and many viewers expect a full range of subject matter throughout the day.

  • On the other hand, many children may still be watching after 9pm, particularly at holiday times or weekends or if a programme of special appeal to young people has been scheduled. This is particularly true at Christmas, when family audiences may be watching after the Watershed.

  • Producers should be aware that dates of school holidays differ across the United Kingdom.

  • The post Watershed period runs from 9.00pm until 5.30am the following morning.

    For hundreds more news-based lessons, click on Teachers on the left hand side.

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