Communications and Media

Communications and Media

Ordinary Television


            Frances Bonner argues that the term Ordinary is nowadays used interchangeably with terms like routine, familiar and everyday in sociology, communication studies and cultural studies (Bonner, 2003). Thus, Ordinary Television is used to describe television as an everyday thing which is unavoidable and is part of the daily life. In relation to this context, everyday activities include essential activities, things that people take for granted and boring activities that are part and parcel of everyday living (Bonner, 2003). The ordinariness or everydayness of television is deduced from the everyday activities of watching television (Bonner, 2003). These everyday activities include expected patterns of programmes which are daily, weekly, seasonally or annually. The structuring of time; the length, schedule and flow also come in as part of the ordinariness (Bonner, 2003). Also, the familiar faces on television, the expected formats and patterns and the glancing on television rather than gazing form part of the ordinariness of television (Bonner, 2003).

Kinds of Ordinary Television according to Frances Bonner

            However, the liveness of television content is what majorly defines the ordinariness. The sociability, conversation ability, spontaneity, studio based shows and direct addresses are the forms of television liveness that are defined as ordinary and occurring on a daily basis (Moran, 2004). According to Bonner, ordinary television and its ordinariness can be classified into four categories. Such categories include domestic concerns like holidays and relationships, concerns of basic needs like food and clothing, personal concerns and mundanity (Bonner, 2003). The kinds of ordinary television described by Bonner as ordinary are characterized by liveness and the matter of flow.

Infotainment programs are mundane as they tend to drive viewers of ordinary television away from the mundane environments of everyday life as light entertainment (Bonner, 2003). This is one kind of television which is described as ordinary. The programs majorly deal with domestic issues like cooking, home, garden, food and clothing are ordinary television programs which sometimes incorporate celebrities in chats and talk shows to bring out the ordinariness in them (Bonner, 2003). In mixing the celebrities with ordinary people, a television’s ordinariness is witnessed.

Talk shows as a television category range widely and some can take place as soon as there is a breaking news story (Bonner, 2001). In keeping touch with the ordinary television concept, talks concentrate around personal experiences and psychological explanations which are audience centred and are meant to address certain public agendas (Bonner, 2003). In talk shows, and most specifically confessional talk shows, social based discussions which include topics like family, sex and ethics in the society paint an ordinary picture of an infotainment television.  The everyday talks on ordinary television are part of ordinary television and should be made as ordinary as possible. Thus, celebrities can be mixed with ordinary people in such shows to create an ordinary atmosphere and draw ordinary audiences (Ellis, 2001). Reality shows and game shows are also part of the infotainment programmes in ordinary television.

Documentaries address a vast category of social problems and social attitudes (Moran, 2004). The content of a documentary is extracted from everyday living and they present a different picture from that presented in news stories or fictions (Moran, 2004). For a documentary to fit into ordinary television, it has to be based on issues affecting the lives of ordinary television viewers and should contain as much proximity as possible. Since documentary television is ordinary, a new genre of docu-soap is now present and this aspect has added more ordinariness to this kind of television. In docu-soaps, the filming is done on people who are busy with their daily activities and the locations are very special for example airports and cruise ships. Soap operas are also a part of documentaries as their concepts have been instilled on docu-soaps and they employ the concept of working through (Ellis, 2000). In a narrative form, soaps imitate an ordinary viewer’s life and present it on screen in an almost similar format (Williams, 2003). Using this style, they are able to incorporate current concerns of the ordinary viewer (Bonner, 2003).

Commercial television is a form of ordinary television as the relationship between an ad and the target audience is defined by the viewer responding to a commercial on television. The response ends in the viewer purchasing the product. Ordinary television kinds are defined by their relationship and connection to time (Bonner, 2003). Thus, for commercials, they target a certain ordinary audience and for this reason, specific commercials are aired at certain times of the day for example prime time since they are clips shows (Bonner, 2003).

All these television categories of ordinary television are set in a working through concept where the audiences of ordinary television, through experiencing a revelation, realise things that they did not approve of initially (Fiske, 2010). For this reason, ordinary television through its ordinary programmes makes the exceptional things in the minds of viewers gradually to appear unexceptional (Ellis, 2000). A wide variety of viewpoints and lifestyles are generated from the categories of ordinary television (Fiske, 2010).

How Ordinary Television describes the Nature of Broadcast Television

            France Bonner discusses the nature of broadcast television in many forms.  First, according to Bonner, broadcast television is basically concerned with offering mundane programs. These mundane programs discuss domestic issues which affect an ordinary viewer (Bonner, 2003). Through infotainment programs, talk shows, reality shows, talent shows and game shows aim at both informing and entertaining the audience. They are also interactive shows where the talents in such shows get to give accounts of their personal lives and their living conditions (Bonner, 2003). The audience feels part of the show through the interactions and this makes broadcast television satisfied.

Television also adopts the illusions of domesticity in creations and filming of their programmes in what is known as television presentation (Bonner, 2003). Although programs can be filmed in studio, on location or a mixture of both, television programmes always try to mimic a domestic setting in the essence of creating an ordinariness sense of domesticity (Bonner, 2003). The presenters of broadcast television also dress in ordinary ways so as to continue the ordinary mood in program presentation (Bonner, 2003).

Broadcast television also has a nature of its roles, functions and aims. Broadcast television only broadcast programs which educate, inform and entertain (Williams, 2003). Thus Bonner employs the term edinfotainment to describe this nature of broadcast television. However, the entertainment zone has flooded broadcast television whereas educating and informing have been pulled back in the pecking order. Even though this is the case, informing through television is rare but the function of educating has long been forgotten (Bonner, 2003). Thus, programs are professionally and carefully edited so as to instill and maintain an entertaining mood in them.

Broadcast television also takes pride in broadcasting local content to their viewers (Williams, 2003). This is aimed at keeping the television content as natural and near to the people as possible. This is an aspect of broadcast television and a tactic which is aimed at attracting commercials which is a main source of revenue for television. Through these programs too, broadcast television aims at creating new perceptions in people and making them view things in a manner that they did not have before (Williams, 2003).  The programs get fine tuned and tailor made to contain perception in them which will attract sponsors and more commercials for the generation of revenue.

The last attribute of broadcast nature as defined by ordinary television is their omnivorous nature. Television channels never go offline as they operate around the clock (Bonner, 2003). Their omnivorous nature can be attributed from the way they distribute their programs in an all round manner and twenty four hours a day. Program scheduling is given a higher priority and the schedule must be tightly fitted to fit a whole week and run all through day and night (Bonner, 2003).


Ordinary television is in need of ordinary viewers for it to survive. If program creators understand it and its analysis in a much deeper manner, they can understand television categories better and know what exactly the viewers of ordinary television need from them. This is because ordinary television owns a greater percentage of the entire television content and is specifically interested in light entertainment (Bonner, 2003). Such categories need to be simple in their creation so as to be fit for the ordinary television market. A television category also needs to be clear in its initial inception (Bonner, 2003). Observation of these features will be useful in understanding ordinary television kinds and the nature of broadcast television. As from this paper, it can be established that ordinary television is the same as everyday television and its nature can be related to broadcast television.




Bonner, F. (2003). Ordinary television: Analyzing popular TV. Sage.

Ellis, J. (2000). Seeing things: Television in the age of uncertainty. IB Tauris.

Fiske, J. (2010). Television culture. Taylor & Francis US.

Moran, A. J. (2004). Television formats in the world/the world of television formats.

Williams, R. (2003). Television: Technology and cultural form. Routledge.




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