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Our world of words.

Four things that TV shows can teach us about communication…

From the end of ‘text speak’ to the beginning of a boxset-crazy culture – 44’s Emily New finds out how TV shows can teach us a lot about modern language and communication…

I know what you’re all thinking.

A blog about TV shows – it’s just a clever excuse for a TV binge. And yes, a small amount of TV ‘research’ was required for this blog. But, after a new app showed that people are losing their regional dialects – arguably due to the higher numbers of south-eastern and American accents we hear in the media[1] – it’s  clear that TV has a great deal of influence when it comes to communication. Surely the content we watch must affect how we speak, what we say and, as a result, the ways in which we create and process communication?

So, what can TV shows teach us? From the assimilation of new words and phrases, to a new multi-channel viewer experience – there’s much to be gleaned from switching on. Tune in for my four-channel (TV) guide…


Countdown, the first programme ever to air on Channel 4, has been embracing an evolving language. The printed Oxford English dictionary has now gone. Instead, Susie Dent operates a tablet that links directly with Oxford Dictionary Online. New words are being added to the English language all the time and using an online version is a more up-to-date way of making sure they are constantly being captured.


Text messages are regularly displayed on screen as part of the BBC drama Sherlock.

But will fans have deduced the lack of ‘text’ speak in these texts? Surely – if Sherlock Holmes did have a mobile – he would always use full English. And just like the texts used in Sherlock, it seems text-related acronyms and phrases are disappearing in real life too. The original reason we removed vowels and shortened words was because of the limited characters available on older mobile phones. Now, with new phones, we can use lots of characters, and also embed pictures, emojis and videos into texts more easily.

Just think – emojis could offer a whole new dimension to the BBC programme: ‘Watson, this was not done by accident, but by design *angry face*’.


Just as Countdown is embracing new online platforms to stay up-to-date, TV as a whole is changing too. In February, Gavin and Stacey was the last programme to be aired on BBC 3, and the channel is now broadcast solely online. In 2015, Channel 4 created a series of programmes – Banana, Cucumber, Tofu – that were all interlinked but shown on different platforms, driving viewers between each channel. With a new range of online platforms available, programme makers are telling their stories in engaging ways, overlapping more traditional broadcasting methods with new opportunities for digital content.


Whether or not you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you may have noticed that quite a few people are tuning in to the HBO series. And they’re not just talking about it – they’re making parodies, videos, memes, buying merchandise, and so on. There’s even an app that will point out the best times for tea/toilet breaks in each episode.

So let’s switch over to employee engagement. While an employee TV channel may be a stretch for most internal communicators’ budgets, perhaps we can take a glimpse into our IC future by looking at what’s happening on the box. You just have to watch Countdown or Sherlock to witness the importance of staying up to date with an ever-changing language. We can look to GoT and other TV shows for new ways to engage viewers with content, while turning over to Channel 4 can testify to the effectiveness of a multi-channel approach.

Blog spoiler: if television’s now entering a second – or even third – golden age[2], then perhaps staying up to date with TV-related developments could present a golden opportunity for internal communicators.

Now, where’s that remote?




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