Television viewing is Britain's most popular leisure pastime: 95 per cent of households have a colour television set. The British also call it "watching the box" or "the telly". The average viewing time per person is over 25 hours a week.
Britain is one of the world's foremost exporters of TV productions, which continue to win large numbers of international awards, especially for documentaries, nature programmes and drama serials.
There are four TV channels in Britain: BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4. BBC1 and BBC2, the two state channels, do not show adverts. ITV and Channel 4, the two independent channels, do show adverts. They get most of their money from advertising. Advertisements are shown every 15—30 minutes.
BBC1 and ITV tend to broadcast popular programmes. They specialize in general interest programmes, sports programmes, recent films, current affairs, game shows, children's programmes and soaps. Soaps are broadcast either three or four times a week and each episode lasts about half an hour. The most popular soaps are Coronation Street, which is set in a working-class area near Manchester, and East Enders, which is set in a working-class area of London. They depict ordinary lives in relatively ordinary circumstances. So the viewers can see themselves and other people they know in the characters and in the things that happen to these characters.
The two Australian soaps, Neighbours and Home and Away, are shown five days a week and children watch them when they come in from school. They are the favourite programmes ofboth 12- and 15-year-olds.
BBC2 and Channel 4 show programmes that usually attract much smaller audiences: TV plays, classical concerts, foreign films, travel and educational programmes. BBC2 is used by the Open University to broadcast educational programmes. These programmes are shown early in the morning or late at night and they allow many thousands of students to study at home.
These are the channels, which all viewers in the country receive. British people can also connect to cable or satellite TV. These channels are fee-paying, and so only about a fifth of households receive satellite and/or cable TV.
In general, British people think that the programmes shown on British TV are of a very high standard. However, many people are worried about the amount of violence on TV, and the effect this may have on young people.