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"Flow" and an hour of television

Updated on May 3, 2017

What is Flow?

It is the material which is broadcast during the breaks in shows that gives a certain television screening its social context and historical significance as an event. Media scholars refer to the combined product of shows which run back to back with each other and the advertisements which are featured during the screening as "flow".

Thins Chips Advertisment posted by armageddonmate september 30 2009

Capturing "flow"

If you tape a show from the television, creating a temporary copy, you capture a piece of "flow", complete with the television station logo.

Depending where you live, you will get:

  • adverts for local business (placing you geographically),
  • news headlines which reflect current events,
  • some hints as to what prices are considered average at the time (economic context),
  • trailers for movies which are coming to the cinema
  • and promotions for other television shows screening that week.

Sydney opera House - picture from
Sydney opera House - picture from

Geographical specificity

In Sydney the advertisements featured local furniture stores, electrical and hardware stores, fast food places and restaurants.

NRL (National Rugby League) sports events and player status are mentioned frequently, and races at Randwick are mentioned.

Public events such as fireworks, visits of ships to the harbour and other public functions are also advertised.

Brands available across Australia are advertised too of course, including tooth paste and the latest model car to be released.

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Picture from

Rural advertisments

A visit to rural Australia brings a change because the advertisements may featured wheat seed, tractors and other products of interest to the agricultural sector.


Who do you support - local footy

In the South Australia and Victoria "Aussie rules" (AFL) football is screened and it can be difficult to find a screening of a National Rugby League (NRL) match.

However, the reverse is true in the Eastern states.


Order of programming

The pairing of certain television shows, especially to fill an hour is also significant. One wonders whether one would have become a fan of both shows if this had not been done.

Classic pairings include:

  • 2 half-hour situation comedies,
  • 2 classic repeats
  • 2 one hour crime dramas.
  • A garden or home show may also be placed just preceding a popular feature show.

Now my interest is aroused, I wish I could remember these orders more clearly.

The News/Simpsons/Neighbours/more Simpsons on Channel Ten format has ran in Australia for many years. The main variations include the substitution of another cartoon such as Futurama for The Simpsons and the restriction of the second (often advertised as "all new" Simpsons) to one or two nights a week.

Neighbours takes a break over the Summer holidays (December-January) and this slot may be filled with the trial of another home grown drama or repeats of a classic show.

How well do you know your Television?

view quiz statistics

Reality television shows have been slotted in after the news and short soap operas. This reflects both their popularity and their content, which can be more mature.

For many years, Channel Seven has had News, then A Current Affair (local doco-commentary for half an hour) followed by Home and Away (a popular Australian teen soap opera) for most of the year. Home and Away also takes a break over the Christmas holidays.

When the shows are current, you know very well which ones lead to the other and possibly tune in early waiting for your fave show, or stay later after your fave show has finished.

Previous weeks television guides seem like rubbish at the time, but they would be great historical research material for this area.

Watching with the world

The social context of viewing is also seen when a new movie is due in the cinema and the TV runs series of related movies.

  • For example, Harry Potter 1-4 may screen before Harry Potter 5 is due to go on show.
  • Or something by the same lead actor: "before you see him/her in ____ see them in ___",
  • Or an offering in the same genre.

While we probably own the DVD, we have been known to watch these screenings on television with adverts and interruptions simply for the friendly sensation of watching it the same time as everybody else.

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Are there any historical tools for research?

A historical record of Australian television programming is available on the net at:

This site contains program times and names, however, it does not contain the pictures or descriptions that would have been published in magazines at the time. Wherever there is an IMDB listing a cross-referencing link appears.

Where can I go for information on my favourite actors and shows?

The Internet Movie Database ( represents a growing repository of episode listings, plot summaries, and bibliographic information regarding television and film productions. Also included are many actor biographies and pictures of cast members.

A check of the bottom of the home-page reveals that IMDB is an Amazon company, however, due to the amount of information it lists the number of people who check it and the number of contributers, it is being consulted even for academic media projects.


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