20 February 2018

The TV Report

Executive Summary

A televised news item gives viewers information on current affairs through the use of a short film about the events in question. A TV report can tell viewers about current affairs. It can also give further information on the background of news events and further explanations as well as impart the opinions and experiences of other people in the form of pictures, sounds and words.

By sharing experts views, the opinions of affected people, facts and figures and making a connection to the bigger picture news features enable readers to better form their own opinion about a sanitation or water related event.

The following sections inform you about the structure and possible elements as well as the style of a TV report.

What are the different varieties of TV reports?

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News bulletin / Breaking news: Where the item covers current events as they happen, some of which may be spontaneous events. For example, accidents, political affairs, war zones, and disasters such as droughts or the pollution of a lake.

Magazine style item: Tends towards more background information and towards lighter subject matter; also allows reporters and presenters more freedom and creativity.

Backgrounder: Reveals the background to an event.

Documentary/ Reportage: This item is more detailed based on more than just the facts, it also focuses on observations and experiences. The reporter is on site but may not be seen on camera.

Pre-planned report: Where the reporter goes to cover something that is known to be happening – such as elections, government meetings or press conferences.

What does a TV report contain?

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Each of the different forms follows different rules.

Breaking news, current events and pre-planned reports present the most important information first, on film. Backgrounders, magazine-style pieces and documentaries present the information in a more creative way.

How long is a TV report?

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The length of a TV report is dependent on the form, content and format of the broadcast. But some general guidelines follow:

  • Pre-planned report: 1 to 3 minutes.
  • Backgrounder: 1:30 to 3:30 minutes.
  • Breaking news: 1 to 3 minutes.
  • Magazine-style: 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Documentary/Reportage: 4 to 45 minutes.

What sort of language do TV reports use?

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Again it depends on the kind of TV report. Generally, the pre-planned report, the backgrounder and breaking news use clear and simple speech and present the facts.

Magazine-style reports and documentaries can be more creative – although of course, it is important to ensure that the viewer will still be able to grasp the themes of the latter easily.


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  • Which form best suits the subject matter?
  • Be careful not to mix the various different styles of TV report haphazardly.
  • Is the TV report complete – or should there be opening or closing remarks made to update the item?
  • Has the topic been thoroughly researched?
  • Are there enough water or sanitation-related images available to visualise the actual topic of the story?
Library References

Shortcuts to Journalism: The Basics of Print, Online and Broadcast Reporting

When basic questions about journalism come up, this handbook, written and produced by Media in Cooperation and Transition (MICT), provides clear, brief and precise answers. Shortcuts to Journalism isn’t just for journalists – it’s also helpful for non-journalists. Download the English version here or the Arabic version here.

Schmidt, E., Tirok, M. and Bösch, M. (2016): Shortcuts to Journalism: The Basics of Print, Online and Broadcast Reporting. Berlin, Germany: Media in Cooperation and Transition gGmbH PDF

Alternative Versions to