Reflecting

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The challenge should be that the world out there has never beenmore important, we have never lived in a smaller planet. Thechallenge for producers and directors is to find new ways of gettingaudiences to watch. There’s a democratisation of news gatheringgoing on in which viewers are beginning to sense that they can playa part. Talking about quality in new and old media is a weird thingbecause it’s like comparing the quality of going to see a film withthe quality of a night down the pub. Let’s give Africans a chance. Letthem tell their own stories. All the things that are happening on theweb are very transactional now. That’s a much broader definitionof what used to be called broadcasting. There is an appetite forthe unfamiliar. I think commissioning editors are afraid to takerisks now with international programmes, because the chancesare they won’t get the ratings. I don’t think there is a genuine effortto find out what is good about Africa, what people are doing at anordinary level, even where there are repressive governments, whatordinary people are doing to cope. There is a general philosophyhere of doing stories that no one else will do and hearing voiceswhich have not been heard. I think we’re pretty damn lazy aboutthe way we make films about the rest of the world and I don’tthink that directors, producers, commissioners have addressedthe problem of the rest of the world in the same way as they’veaddressed the issue of how you renew documentary at home.Television needs to move on and everyone’s grappling with how todo that. There is an appetite for the unfamiliar but the interestingthing is that broadcasters tend to mediate that in familiar waysbecause it’s safe. My views of the Iraq war were fundamentallychanged by YouTube. What concerns me about the foreignaffairs reporting industry is that it becomes an industry very muchlike tourism. When can the foreign correspondents be foreign?Reflecting theReal World 2How we connect with the wider worldA report looking at how UK television and new media portray developing countries.Sameer Padania, Stephen Coleman and Myria Georgiou


ContentsFOREWoRD 1executive summary 2background 6introduction 7chapter 1 television 10chapter 2 new media 18chapter 3 young people 22The introduction and chapters 1 and 2 were written by Sameer Padania. Chapter 3 was written byMyria Georgiou and Stephen Coleman from the Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds


forewordAs broadcasters we’ve reached the point where itseems pointless to keep referring to how the worldwe are meant to reflect is an ever-shrinking one. Weuse phrases like “global village”, “interdependency”and “globalisation” to refer to a world that has neverseemed smaller to journalists. As true as this is, Isuspect all of us feel that in terms of outlooks, viewsand beliefs, people and societies have also neverseemed more divided, polarised and further away. It’sa contradiction that is going to re-define the world ofinternational news reporting, and as this report makesclear, it’s also one of the biggest challenges facingbroadcasters and journalists.There is still a belief that media reporting of globalissues and events are about quantity; how manyhours, programmes and reports appear on television,radio and newspapers. It’s a system aimed atmeasuring how committed journalistic organisationsare to the developing world. But one issue whichcannot be quantified, but which I believe is critical atthis time, is why reporting of the developing world is inour national interest. Why should reflecting the worldbe at the very heart of our public service commitmentas broadcasters; whether in news and current affairs,drama or features?Since 9/11, there can no longer be a faraway war ina distant land of which we know nothing. The effectsand consequences of trends and events in every cornerof the world have a direct bearing on all of us. Is Darfursimply another horrible story of bloodshed in a remotecorner of Africa…or is it also one of the first civil conflictsof our age borne out of conflict over scarce resourcesas a result of environmental degradation and the effectsof global warming? Is Zimbabwe simply another Africanexample of the tyrannical rule of a despot driving hiseconomy and people into the ground in order to remainin power? Or is it about good governance, the failure ofregional organisations like the African Union to criticiseone of their own, and why the West threatens tyrants insome countries but not in others?Media organisations, whether traditionalbroadcasters or new media platforms have showninnovation in how they deliver news and views of theworld, pioneering different formats and remaking oldones. But what this report highlights is how all of ushave to think about why it’s what we deliver that reallymatters – the content. It’s hard to pretend that what ishappening in a country like Iraq does not directly affectus. It does. It affects our security, our global reputationand the relevance of international legal organisationslike the UN. In the future, reflecting the world will beas much about recognising it as a central part of ourraison d’etre as broadcasters and part of the nationalinterest, rather than just quantifying how much of it wedo each year.Rageeh OmaarBroadcaster1


EXECUTIVE SUMMARYIn Reflecting the Real World we examined howUK broadcasters and audiences had respondedto a heightened news and political focus on thedeveloping world, particularly Africa, during 2005.The report concluded that broadcasting had shownsome important examples of both leadership andcreativity in its representations of the developingworld. But, the authors asked, could this besustained?Since 2005 the UK broadcast landscape hascontinued to evolve and change at a rapid pace.The BBC has secured a smaller than expectedlicence fee settlement and, as digital switchoverapproaches, Channel 4 says it will not be able todeliver its public service commitment without somekind of subsidy. Meanwhile, the proliferation ofdigital television channels continues to squeeze andfragment audiences for all mainstream channels.But the evolution of new media technologiesoutstrips even the pace of change in the broadcastworld and new routes to information about the widerworld are opened to audiences daily. The uptake ofbroadband internet access continues to increasewhilst digital cameras, camcorders and cameraphones enable citizens to produce their own media.Through social media sites such as MySpace, BeBo,and FaceBook, millions of people create, discussand share content on a wide variety of topics.For decades it was television that provided awindow on the world for UK citizens but the debateis no longer restricted to whether one broadcasteror another provides more or better informationabout the wider world. Audiences can now findtheir own routes to making sense of the world. Buthave passive audiences already deserted televisionto become curious and self-motivated globalcitizens or in an age of information overload do weunderestimate the potential for television to remainthe key source of information about the wider worldfor the UK public?TelevisionAll the broadcasters we interviewed agree thatUK citizens live in an increasingly globalised,interdependent world, and it’s the duty ofprogramme-makers and commissioners to informthe public about how that interdependence impactson their lives.News broadcasters remain strongly committedto covering international stories but growingcompetition means that each has to find its owndistinctive approach. However, there’s a consensusthat most stories still need a UK angle to engage aUK audience.Peter Barron of Newsnight is concerned that‘the foreign affairs reporting industry’ means thatinternational journalists don’t always get to the realstories. And Sorious Samura from Channel 4 callsfor a wider range of voices: ‘When can the foreigncorrespondents actually be foreign?’From Newsnight and Channel 4 News, there’sa sense that their audiences relish the rangeand complexity of international stories and thataudience participation through email and the web isbroadening the range of stories they air.However, all our interviewees agree thatdocumentaries are going through a disappointingphase – there’s a lack of ambition and risk-taking.2


In the words of Angus Macqueen, Channel 4’sHead of Documentaries: ‘I think we’re pretty damnlazy about the way we make films about the rest ofthe world.’Some of our interviewees feel that the wayforward is to develop more formatted shows, tobring large audiences to international topics.But Jo Clinton-Davis, now at ITV, calls on fellowcommissioners to show more courage andimagination: ‘We serve audiences up more and moremediation, because it’s safe, but at the same timeyou can see that there’s an appetite for authenticity. ’Many of our interviewees say there’s little effortmade or space given to unmediated representationsof everyday life in the developing world. ‘I don’tthink there’s a genuine effort to find out what isgood about Africa’ is the view of Dali Mpofu, ChiefExecutive Officer of the South African BroadcastingCorporation.Dramas and feature films like Blood Diamond,The Constant Gardener and The Last King ofScotland are regularly cited by interviewees lookingto illustrate the potential to present complex ideasand stories from outside the UK, to mainstreamaudiences.New mediaAs pressure on the mainstream broadcastersgrows, they are turning increasingly to the internetto maintain their audiences. Both the BBC andChannel 4 also believe online content needs tobe linked to existing broadcast content. AnthonyLilley, from Magic Lantern Productions, rejects thismodel, arguing that many broadcasters have not yetunderstood that the structure, culture and languageof content on the internet are fundamentallydifferent, and can’t simply be bent to the will oftelevision.It is partly the unfiltered nature of theinternet which Lilley says appeals to many –including himself: ‘My views of the Iraq war werefundamentally changed by YouTube. I was broadlynegative but not that engaged until I went andlooked at what was actually going on for real andwhat these guys were dealing with every day.’The bottom-up nature of the web means thatgroups traditionally kept out of the heavily-regulatedplatforms such as television and radio have beenable to embrace the internet with enthusiasm andsuccess: alternative media, civil society, personalpublishers, even extremist groups.In contrast to traditional broadcasting, newmedia also offers a different way of connecting UKaudiences with international stories and people inother countries. In the words of Peter Armstrong,Director of OneWorld.net: ‘Broadcasting, if youthink about it too narrowly, you think about it asinformation. You’re telling the public something.All the things that are happening on the web arevery transactional now, you’re meeting people,you’re buying, you’re selling, you’re building thingstogether, you’re making new relationships, you’reliving, essentially. That’s a much broader definitionof what used to be called broadcasting, or what themedia is about.’Participation is central to new media. But,with the proliferation of available media, someof our interviewees worry that society threatensTribe, BBC23


to lose its coherent civic discourse, by dilutingcollective and shared experiences which havetraditionally characterized broadcast media.There’s also a concern that the more choice yougive viewers and listeners the more they’re going tococoon themselves in their existing opinions andpreferences.Focus groups with young people – where do theygo to find out about the wider world?The television is usually switched on whenthey’re at home and it’s their main source ofnews about the wider world. The young peoplewe spoke to are media-savvy, but when it comesto news and current affairs, their informationcomes primarily from television, not the internet.They tend to be more interested in local andnational news, but international stories do attracttheir attention when significant events take placein distant places, like the tsunami or Iraq, orwhen they have a family or personal connectionwith a foreign country.They use the internet regularly, but usually forsocial networking. It becomes a supplementarymedium for news when, for example, images andevents are controversial, like the scenes of tortureby soldiers in Iraq. Then, they choose sites withlinks to offline media, like BBC Online or GuardianUnlimited. YouTube is also popular, but it serves adifferent role – it’s not regarded as a trusted sourceof information, but seen as somewhere to go to findmaterial that isn’t available elsewhere. They trusttelevision more than they trust newer online sourcesof information.Feature films like Blood Diamond emerge assurprisingly influential amongst the young peoplewe interviewed. Although they did not show a naturalinterest in international stories, their discussionstold more of frustration in trying to make sense ofthe wider world than indifference. We were left witha strong impression that they want more from themedia than fleeting images, spectacular stories,stereotypical depictions and narrow visions ofglobal reality.RECOMMENDATIONS• Television needs to raise its game, think morestrategically and show a willingness to experimentand take risks to continue to engage audienceswith stories from the wider world.• News and current affairs programmes havedemonstrated imagination, and an appetitefor innovation. Other genres – especiallydocumentary and drama – need to be bolder andmore ambitious and seek out new ways of tellinginternational stories.• In our daily lives, the division between domesticand international is increasingly breaking down.Television could lead the way in reflecting thisand exploring ways in which stories aboutcontemporary Britain are often already storiesabout the wider world.• Programmes which feature the wider world shouldcater for a range of audiences, not just those whoalready have a strong interest in global themes.Special attention needs to be paid to new formatsand to populist drama – both have the potential toreach big mainstream audiences.4


• The BBC has a new remit to ‘bring the world tothe UK’ – it should develop a more ‘joined-up’approach to international coverage, using theresources of the World Service and BBC Worldto help inform the UK audience, and build onexisting links between UK communities and thewider world via its Nations and Regions output.• Creativity is the key to maintaining the interest ofestablished audiences and reaching new ones.Viewers are looking for depth and authenticity. Toachieve this, broadcasters need to seek out a widerrange of voices both on and behind the camera.• Specialists – including NGOs – need to build trustwith broadcasters and help them to tell stories andexplain complex issues. NGOs have a valuablerole to play in helping to inform broadcastersabout emerging and urgent stories in the widerworld and in enabling them to access and reflecta broader range of perspectives.• More opportunities for pollination of ideasand collaboration across genres and withoutside experts need to be found. If risk-takingand experimentation is to be encouraged,broadcasters need to devote more resources tothe development process. Individuals who feelpassionately – champions – also play a key role inpromoting difficult or ambitious projects.• UK broadcasters should continue to develop andimprove their relationships with broadcastersand producers in the wider world, facilitating andencouraging direct commissions, co-productionsand partnerships in order to increase the diversityand range of international programming availableto UK audiences.• The changing media landscape offers newopportunities to engage audiences withinternational stories, but genuine interactionshould be at the heart of online content. Inparticular, it offers a unique opportunity for UKcitizens to hear from and communicate with adiverse range of people from around the world.• Television remains the main source of informationfor audiences – including young people – aboutthe wider world. Broadcasters and NGOs shouldresist the temptation to direct disproportionateresources to online media.Once Upon A Time in Iran,Channel 4Television needs to moveon and everyone’s grapplingwith how to do that.Jo Clinton-Davis, Controller, Popular Factual, ITV15


BackgroundThis report forms part of a long-term researchproject led by the International Broadcasting Trustin partnership with the CBA, Concern UK and theOne World Broadcasting Trust. This new researchreviews how public service television in the UK reflectsinternational stories and topics, with a particular focuson coverage of the developing world. It also hears fromyoung people about which media they use to find outabout the wider world.In our last report Reflecting the Real World?leading broadcasters and development expertsquestioned long held assumptions about mediacoverage of the developing world. Apparently asa response to a wider political focus in 2005 (G8,20th anniversary of Live Aid etc.) there had been aperceptible shift in UK television coverage of Africain particular. News reports had returned to disasterstories to track progress, complex issues such astrade, aid and debt were tackled in a popular wayand ‘major primetime slots were given over to diverse,more rounded and often celebratory coverage of thedeveloping world’. Certainly the audience research inthat report applauded programming which took morerisks or felt more authentic.Reflecting the Real World? acknowledged thatbroadcasting showed some important examples ofboth leadership and creativity in its representations ofthe developing world during 2005 but concluded byasking if this would be sustained.Our aim in publishing this report is to considerwhether television has continued to break new groundfollowing the successes of 2005 and, in addition,to explore the impact that the changing medialandscape is having on coverage of the developingworld. This report asks if new media genuinely offersfresh opportunities for UK citizens to connect withthe wider world and if so, are audiences using theseopportunities?MethodologyIntervieweesPeter Armstrong, Director, OneWorld.netGeorgia Arnold, Vice President, Public Affairs, MTVPeter Barron, Editor, Newsnight, BBC2Andy Bell, Director, Mint DigitalJo Clinton-Davis, Controller of popular factualcommissioning, ITVDiane Coyle, BBC TrusteeMaggie Cunningham, Head of Programmes,BBC ScotlandJames Deane, Head of Policy Development, BBCWorld Service TrustAndy Duncan, Chief Executive, Channel 4Flora Gregory, Editor, Witness, Al Jazeera EnglishAnthony Lilley, Chief Executive, Magic LanternProductionsAngus Macqueen, Head of Documentaries, Channel 4David Mannion, Editor-in-Chief, ITV NewsIsabel Morgan, Executive Producer, Christian AidDali Mpofu, Chief Executive Officer, South AfricanBroadcasting CorporationMaggie O’Kane, Editorial Director, Guardian FilmsPeter Salmon, Chief Creative Officer, BBC VisionSorious Samura, Reporter, Channel 4 and InsightNews TelevisionJon Snow, Presenter, Channel 4 NewsNick Wilson, Director of Children’s Programmes,Five TVThis report is based on in-depth interviews with seniorexecutives from UK television, digital media, andinternational development.It also features a chapter based on focus groupswith 18-25-year-olds in London and Leeds, carriedout by the Institute of Communication Studies at theUniversity of Leeds.6


INTRODUCTIONPublic service broadcasting (PSB) in the UK hasreached a crossroads. Several processes and eventswithin broadcasting have led us to this point. TheBBC has secured a smaller than expected licence feesettlement through to 2012, and is governed by a newbody, the BBC Trust. Under its new charter, one ofthe core missions of the BBC is to ‘bring the world tothe UK’. As digital switchover approaches, Channel 4is delivering increasingly stark statements about thecontinued viability of its public service commitmentwithout some kind of subsidy, whilst ITV and Five havein recent years appeared to be shedding their alreadyminimal commitments to public service content.Ofcom, the industry regulator, has rolled out twoinitiatives in particular that signal its intent to open anew debate on how to maintain and strengthen PSB:the PSB Review, an assessment of how public servicebroadcasters are delivering on their commitments,and a discussion about a potential new public servicemedia entity for the digital age – the Public ServicePublisher, or PSP.The PSB Review, published in early 2007,and the first review of its kind, reported that: ‘Theprovision of programmes which help inform people’sunderstanding of the world is the most importantelement of PSB amongst viewers, and is also the areaperceived to be best delivered.’But there’s no room for complacency as the reviewalso finds that, while news and current affairs areseen by audiences to be delivering on this remit, othergenres are felt to be weaker.CHANGES IN THE MEDIA LANDSCAPEThere are major changes occurring within the broadermedia and communications landscape whichprofoundly affect the relationship of public servicebroadcasting to the audiences it serves, and of thosecitizens in their relationship to the wider world.In recent months, the issue of audience ‘trust’in television has been jeopardised as incidents ofdeception by some TV programmes have becomeapparent. In terms of international coverage, this mayheighten the demand for more ‘authentic voices’ fromthe developing world to be seen on our screens.Digital consumer devices are converging. Thismeans that a range of previously separate functions iscombined within one device. As these devices becomemore powerful and ubiquitous, it becomes easier forconsumers to access, create and exchange mediacontent.Broadband internet penetration in the UK has nowreached 69%. There are now more mobile phonesthan there are people, and 74% of the population nowhas access to multi channel television (all according tothe latest government figures).The proliferation of digital television is increasingcompetition between broadcasters for audiences.The massive explosion of channels, from dedicatedchannels for documentaries, wildlife, cars and NGOs,to ones aimed at specific audience segments, suchas ethnic minority communities, religious minoritiesand teachers, is continuing to squeeze audiences formainstream channels.MONEY’S TOO TIGHT TO MENTIONAdvertising income is shrinking, and broadcasterssay this inevitably impacts on the range and qualityof programmes they are able to make: ‘Let’s be veryrealistic, it is very, very tough financially at the moment.The advertising market was down 6% last year.Tsunami – The Aftermath,BBC27


I think we’re pretty damn lazy about the waywe make films about the rest of the worldbut I don’t think that directors, producers orcommissioners have addressed the problemof the rest of the world in the same wayas they’ve addressed the issue of how yourenew documentary at home.Angus Macqueen, Head of Documentaries, Channel 4All of us that are funded commercially are underenormous pressure. My real worry is it is going to getworse, not better.’ Andy Duncan, Chief Executive,Channel 4The BBC is under pressure too: ‘How can weafford to be in all those places, do all those things on alicence fee settlement which is a lot less than we wouldhave hoped?’ Peter Salmon, Chief Creative Officer,BBC VisionAnd at the BBC, there’s an additional factorwhich, for the moment, is something of an unknownquantity – the new BBC Trust. It will undoubtedlyhave its own views on what should be prioritised:‘There are great things about a well-funded publicsector broadcaster, but the argument against it hasalways been that it inhibits the development of a richercommercial centre, and the trick is trying to figure outwhat it is public service broadcasters can do in termsof expanding markets and stimulating innovationelsewhere without actually being so dominant that theyact as a barrier to other people coming along.’ DianeCoyle, BBC TrusteeCHANGING AUDIENCE VIEWING PATTERNSAs access has increased, audiences have undergonesignificant changes in when, where and how theychoose to consume their media. The BBC, Channel 4and ITV have all introduced video on demand servicesin 2007 so that viewers can catch up on programmesthey may have missed. Technologies such as PVRs(personal video recorders), which in their currentform can store 80 hours of broadcast television, haveliberated audiences from the tyranny of the schedule.As one independent producer says: ‘I just can’tbe bothered to remember I have got to watch TheApprentice at 10 o’clock on WednesdayYou know, I have grown up with it, but suddenly itseems absolutely archaic that I can’t go and clickit on whenever my girlfriend and I have finishedsupper.’ Andy Bell, Director, Mint DigitalA GENERATIONAL SHIFT?There’s a common perception that youngconsumers are turning away from TV to the web.(In chapter 3 of this report we talk to a group ofyoung people about where they go for informationabout the wider world).And it’s not just the web – mobile phonespresent another platform for communication andconsuming media, using a combination of SMS(text, photo and video), FM radio, internet access,and mobile TV. Increasingly, users in technologyrichsocieties will expect to be able to access thecontent they choose anytime, any place, any how.CONTENT CREATIONDigital formats for media content, such as MP3,have made it easier for consumers to store andshare media content. Digital cameras, camcordersand camera phones have enabled people toproduce their own media. Until the advent ofsocial media, however, it was quite difficultfor ordinary people to publish their own films,photographs and other media on the internet.Social media such as blogs – initiallycharacterised as online diaries – combine thetools to create and upload content to the internetand the ability to publish it in a reasonablyprofessional-looking form. Publishing tools suchas Blogger, Flickr and YouTube have unleashed1 This World – The TeaBoy Of Gaza, BBC22 Rooted, Five8


1a torrent of self-expression in many societies – someof which reaches larger audiences than traditionalbroadcast media can access. Social media alsoencourage audiences to tag or classify content, tointeract with the content – and with the content creator– by leaving comments, or responses, and to sharethe content by ‘bookmarking’ it on social bookmarkingsites such as ‘digg’ or ‘delicious’, where users shareand comment on web pages they have seen.This type of technology, known as Web 2.0,democratises the tools of publishing content online,and allows its users to organise into social networks.Through social networking sites such as MySpace,BeBo, and FaceBook, millions of young people basedpredominantly in the USA, UK, Australia and Europechat online, discuss a wide variety of topics andshare content.Georgia Arnold from MTV injects a sense ofperspective, saying that according to their latestresearch the vast majority of young people using socialmedia in different parts of the world tend to watch anddownload rather than create and upload content.The changes and forces described above allimpact on television’s ability to ensure that it remainsthe key source of information about the wider worldfor UK citizens.29


TELEVISIONHow are leading figures within the UK televisionindustry responding to the challenges outlined in theIntroduction? All the broadcasters we interviewedthis year agree on one thing: UK citizens live in anincreasingly globalised, interdependent world, andit’s the duty of programme-makers, commissionersand broadcasters to inform the public about howthat interdependence impacts on their lives:‘The world out there has never been moreimportant. We have never lived on a smaller planet.The challenge for producers and directors is to findways of getting audiences to watch because it’simportant that they watch it. It’s important that thewider public understands the way they plug into theworld.’ Angus Macqueen, Head of Documentaries,Channel 4We intersect more and more in our daily lives withother countries through global networks of media,travel, migration, commerce, communication,language, and sport, but most of our televisionindustry interviewees agree that there is not enoughcontent on UK television that interrogates what thisinterdependence means not only for the UK, but forsocieties everywhere.THE NEWSHigh quality news has long been at the heart ofpublic service broadcasting and central to PSB hasbeen a strong commitment to covering internationalstories:‘It tells us so much about the world in whichwe live and who we are and why we’re wherewe are and why we relate the way we do. Andit’s a completely vital aspect of a kind of holisticconnecting up of human beings. And if we’re talkingabout a globalising age, if we don’t know what it iswe’re globalising with, it seems to me we ain’t gotmuch chance of making it in this new globalisedworld.’ Jon Snow, Presenter, Channel 4 NewsAll the news broadcasters we spoke to are clearthat they do not prescribe a quota for internationalnews.‘I’ve stopped pretty much making that divisionin my head between so-called ‘foreign news’ andUK-based news because, more often than not,one has a direct influence on the other so it’sjust international news, it’s a globalisation in thenewsroom if you like.’ David Mannion, Editor-in-Chief, ITV NewsNewsnight is trying to move away frominternational politics and focus more on trendsand processes: ‘When we’ve gone abroad, we’veconcentrated too much on the politics of othercountries, when actually the forces that are goingon in the world are far more powerful than theforces involved in government.’ Peter Barron, Editor,Newsnight.Barron feels Newsnight can add value by ‘justshowing how things are done elsewhere’. ‘Last yearwe did a series of programmes called The BestPublic Services in the World, which obviouslyhad a domestic focus in that we’re all concernedabout the performance of public services in thiscountry. But we thought, “Why don’t we lookaround the world to see what things are done wellor interestingly and can we learn anything fromwhat’s being done there?” So we did films in Cuba,in Qatar, in Denmark and in Portland, Oregon,10


about different aspects of public services, and thenbrought all those films together and showed themto professionals involved in those sectors in Britain,and had a big debate about it.’But, according to the news broadcasters, moststories need a UK angle to engage a UK audience.Speaking at the time of the Ethiopian kidnappingcrisis, Jon Snow says: ‘I was in Ethiopia only threeweeks ago for the African Union summit and now weare there again, not really out of interest in Ethiopia,but because five of our nationals are involved. AndI’m not sure that even counts really as internationalcoverage.’The growing proliferation of news sources in themarket is welcomed by David Mannion: ‘Differentnews organisations are covering the world fromdifferent perspectives and I think that’s a goodthing.’And Peter Barron feels that Newsnight’sdistinctive approach will ensure its continuedrelevance: ‘We do take a perverse interest infollowing stories that maybe other people aren’t orhave ignored or feel that they can’t get the pictures.’David Mannion says he is proud of the work ITVNews did on climate change – although he admitsthat broadcasters were generally behind the curveon the issue: ‘We felt that there was a necessity toshow the physicality of what’s happening and thatmeant actually going to places where you can seewhat’s happening. We’ve witnessed it ourselves andwe’re therefore able to tell the story from a first-handperspective. None the less I think the news mediadidn’t wake up to it as quickly as it might have done– but then neither did the rest of the world.’THE IMPACT OF THE INTERNET ON TELEVISION NEWSAll three news organisations are experiencing theimpact of the internet, especially in terms of how theyinteract with their audience.Channel 4 News’ audience, both in the UKand abroad, is becoming part of the apparatus ofnewsgathering, although it doesn’t mean abandoningthe processes of journalism: ‘There’s far more reactiononline, than there ever was before. Now you gettips, very often contacts, very often it ends up on thescreen. There is a democratisation of news gatheringgoing on, in which the viewer is beginning to sensethat they can play a part.’ Jon Snow, Channel 4 NewsThe relationship of trust with viewers works bettersays Snow, when you genuinely engage. Newsnighthas gone a step further by asking viewers to make twominute films in a competition called OhMyNewsnight,named after a pioneering participatory journalismwebsite from South Korea called OhMyNews. Barron’sfavourite was a film about cocaine productionin Colombia: ‘It was genuinely a revelatory andfascinating film.’Perhaps the most important shift that Newsnightand Channel 4 News in particular have undergoneis summed up by Peter Barron: ‘Newsnight is not aprogramme that’s on at 10.30 at night. Newsnight isa journalistic brand which can put material out at anytime of the day or night.’With some stories, Newsnight has gone “webfirst”,publishing its reports and films online beforebroadcast. One web first film, Paul Mason’s report onmobile phones in Kenya, part of Newsnight’s GeekWeek 2.0, looking at trends in technology, was firstreleased online.Saira Khan’s PakistanAdventure, BBC211


But Barron, Mannion and Snow all believe thatthe internet does not call the business model andexistence of news outlets into question. Crucially, newsvalues persist, whatever the platform – TV, the internet,a phone, an iPod – and international news is morecentral than ever to these values.If anything, the internet reaffirms the positionof high quality news and the new relationship withthe audience should reinvigorate the practice andrelevance of news.FROM THEIR OWN CORRESPONDENT?Now that audiences can potentially access newsdirectly from developing countries, is it still relevant forUK news programmes to report foreign stories usingUK journalists rather than local journalists? A numberof interviewees express robust views on this longrunningdebate.Sorious Samura, the documentary maker andwinner of a One World Media award for his programmeLiving With AIDS, makes a plea: ‘When can theforeign correspondents actually be foreign?’ – aquestion we put to Snow, Mannion and Barron. PeterBarron’s not convinced it would work for Newsnight:‘It’s tough, isn’t it, because most people don’t makevery good TV programmes. And to try to expect peoplearound the world to get our style, or what it is we’relooking for, what we find entertaining or engaging,is extremely tough. On the other hand, we definitelyshould be looking for opportunities like that.’Jon Snow feels that ‘there is a case for saying thatto send a British pair of eyes to look and express it ina British vernacular may make more connections witha British audience’. David Mannion takes a pragmaticapproach: ‘I’m playing to a British audience, so whatI need are reporters of a high standard who could beindigenous to the country that we’re in or need notbe, it doesn’t matter as long as they are of a certainstandard and can do the job correctly.’But Barron is concerned that internationaljournalists don’t always get to the real stories: ‘Whatconcerns me a lot about the whole foreign affairsreporting industry is that it becomes an industry verymuch like tourism. You turn up in Rwanda and thefixer says, “I thought tomorrow we’d go and see theskulls or the mass burial.” There’s a sort of checklist ofplaces on every international story that the journalistsare taken to.’ Peter Barron, Editor, NewsnightBBC Trustee Diane Coyle suggests thatdemographic and social changes in the UK audiencemight create a demand for change: ’It’s a really goodidea for people who run these news organisationsto keep challenging themselves about these sorts ofissues, and it probably will change over time, not leastbecause the home audience is getting more diversein many ways, not just in terms of their origin buttheir interests and their experiences and what kind ofbackground information they have.’From Newsnight and Channel 4 News, there’sa sense that their audiences relish the range andcomplexity of international stories, which gives newsprogrammes latitude to experiment and to access arange of different stories from other countries. Butdoes this hold true for other genres on UK television?FACTUAL AND DOCUMENTARYIf there is one sentiment that sums up the generalassessment our interviewees make of factual anddocumentary content on UK television today, it’sthis: ‘I think we’re pretty damn lazy about the wayThe Girls from Belarus, ITV112


we make films about the rest of the world and I don’tthink that directors, producers or commissioners haveaddressed the problem of the rest of the world in thesame way as they’ve addressed the issue of how yourenew documentary at home.’ Angus Macqueen, Headof Documentaries, Channel 4.Many of our interviewees express a frustration withwhat they consider a lack of interesting and creativecontent about international themes on UK television atthe moment. When asked to name a programme thathad particularly stood out for them over the previousyear, most interviewees were unable to name evenone programme without prompting. Some choseprogrammes from 2005 such as African School,or Sorious Samura’s Living With AIDS. Many citedfeature films such as Blood Diamond, The Last Kingof Scotland and The Constant Gardener.The broadcasters we interviewed all say they arecommitted to international content on television,but there are differing views on whether audiencesare intrinsically interested in the wider world: ‘Thechallenge is getting people to understand why itmatters, why they should be more interested in thedeveloping world, why globalisation actually doesmean that they ought to have an interest in not justChina and India but all kinds of smaller and poorercountries as well.’ Diane Coyle, BBC TrusteeMacqueen detects a certain complacency at alllevels in television, and suggests that commissionersshould be saying: ‘Listen, that world out there isf***ing important to people sitting on their sofas athome. “How do we get the people on the sofas towatch it?” instead of going, “Oh, the world out there isreally important – we’ll go and make a film” and theyshould watch it.’Macqueen’s boss at Channel 4 is equallyforthright: ‘I think it is more important than everthat people do have a good understanding of whatis happening internationally. I just think having abetter understanding of different cultures, howpeople live together in a more tolerant way ultimatelyis quite important and if people don’t have someunderstanding or some exposure to what is goingon in the rest of the world or different cultures, thatis potentially quite dangerous.’ Andy Duncan, ChiefExecutive, Channel 4Africa 05 represented the high-water mark for thiskind of focus, and broadcasters were able for the firsttime to point to a reverse in the decline in content fromdeveloping countries, with more diverse voices andmore coverage. Talking to key figures at the start of2007, this seems to have been the television versionof the dot-com bubble. Can they envisage ever seeinga creative resurgence that enables internationalcoverage to surpass that of 2005?SHOWING THE EVERYDAYThe frustration seems to stem from one key failing,says Dali Mpofu: ‘I don’t think there’s a genuine effortto find out what is good about Africa, what people aredoing at an ordinary level. Even in places where thereare oppressive governments, what ordinary people aredoing to cope with this.’ Dali Mpofu, Chief ExecutiveOfficer, South African Broadcasting CorporationMany of our interviewees say much the samething – that there is little effort made or space givento unmediated representations of everyday life in thedeveloping world.‘It’s always about figures, about numbers. It’s neverabout individuals. It’s never about people with theirWhat concerns me a lot about the whole foreignaffairs reporting industry is that it becomes anindustry very much like tourism.Peter Barron, Editor, NewsnightThere is a democratisation of news gatheringgoing on, in which the viewer is beginning tosense that they can play a part.Jon Snow, Presenter, Channel 4 News13


When can the foreigncorrespondents be foreign?Sorious Samura, Reporter, Channel 4I don’t think there is a genuineeffort to find out what is goodabout Africa, what people aredoing at an ordinary level.Dali Mpofu, South African Broadcasting Corporationown experiences, with their own individual situations.’Sorious Samura, Reporter, Channel 4This also affects coverage of natural disasters:‘Viewers don’t have that three dimensional senseof what life is like in the developing world, so whenthere’s an emergency like the tsunami, they won’t geta proper picture of the impact on the lives of peoplecaught up in that sort of situation.’ Isabel Morgan,Executive Producer, Christian AidWHERE IS THE INNOVATION, RISK AND AMBITION?Angus Macqueen believes documentary wentthrough a creative reinvention that never made it intointernational programming: ‘I sense we are at theend of a commissioning cycle – but it’s easy to forgetquite how at the beginning of the cycle some of thesethings were deeply original. Faking It was a reallyoriginal format and told us something about classin Britain. Equally we forget quite how original WifeSwap felt when it started. And I don’t feel that that’sparticularly happened about abroad. We still tend tosend a reporter out – “go and do an ob doc film”’It’s pressure to gain and maintain audiences saysMaggie O’Kane: ‘Commissioning editors are afraid totake risks now because the chances are they won’tget the ratings, everybody’s under huge pressure toget the ratings.’Nick Wilson from Five agrees that there is adefinite pressure to deliver audiences. ’The firstquestion that I have to ask about a programmeis “What kind of audience is there for it?” andto be blunt there are programmes – the kind ofprogrammes we may be talking about now – forwhich there is no audience, therefore you’ve gotto find them and somehow you have to trick theminto watching and then hope that once they startwatching they’ll get interested and they’ll come to it.’RATINGSCommissioners have a double-edged role: tastemakersfor the nation’s TV stations, they are alsolooking for emergent trends and movements bubblingup from within society.Peter Salmon notes the changes in UK society,in terms of racial diversity, social mobility andtechnological change, and asks: ‘Does the BBC reflectenough of those cultures and is the BBC caught upenough in some of those new trends? There is the BBCstaff. Who are we? What kinds of backgrounds havewe got? Who are the people sitting around the tablediscussing the ideas that go into making programmes?How do you change the mix of attitudes, backgrounds,approaches, the kind of influences in the BBC?’Jo Clinton-Davis speculates that the problemlies both in the audience, and in commissionersthemselves: ’People take refuge in the familiar. Itmay be a retrenchment because there’s so muchbombardment by the media, and therefore you choosewhat you know. But there is also, I think, a growingappetite for the unfamiliar. The interesting thing is thatbroadcasters tend to mediate that in familiar ways.Somehow television needs to move on. And everyone’sgrappling with how to do that. That’s the Holy Grail.’Jo Clinton-Davis, Controller of popular factualcommissioning, ITVCHAMPIONSThe effectiveness of ‘champions’ with regard tointernational coverage was mentioned by a numberof our interviewees. Such individuals who feel1 This World – The 12-year-old Cocaine Smuggler,BBC22 Sisters in Law, Channel 43 World Without Water,Channel 414


passionately and will persevere with stories or projects,can make a real difference, enabling programmes thatwould not otherwise be made to reach the screen.Many such champions are within organisations,often in senior positions. Some are shaped by theirown personal experiences of life and travel in thedeveloping world. But Maggie Cunningham of BBCScotland makes the point that champions can alsocome from outside of an organisation: ‘Lesley Riddoch,a Scottish campaigning journalist, set up a projectcalled AfricaWoman and we’ve done a lot of workaround that. When there’s a direct connection, and achampion like Lesley, things grow organically.’MEDIATING VIA CELEBRITIES?Many of this year’s interviewees feel that Britishaudiences are more likely to engage with internationalstories through a bridging reporter, presenter or celebrity.But Newsnight’s Peter Barron calls the use ofcelebrities to drive international stories a “cheapstunt”. James Deane, of the BBC World Service Trust,feels that a reliance on celebrity faces and simplisticnarratives to engage audiences runs the risk of abacklash when the realities and complexities of thedevelopment process can’t match expectations.Georgia Arnold, in contrast, feels that using celebritiesstrategically to reinforce MTV’s Staying Alivecampaign messages is legitimate and has impact, butthat her audiences are savvy enough to know whenthey are being patronised.FORMATSSome of our interviewees feel that the way forwardis to develop more formatted shows, to bring largeaudiences to international topics. ‘There is a dangerthat there’s almost a requirement that everything beformatted and we have got to resist that. On the otherhand, exploiting the audience’s appetite and curiosityfor these things in a public service way is also quiteclever and a quite stealthy way of extending the rangeof what people consume and what people enjoy.’ PeterSalmon, Chief Creative Officer, BBC VisionAndy Duncan says that ‘your more traditional filmor documentary, even though it can be incrediblywell made, if it is a bit dry and dusty, frankly youjust don’t get an audience to it.’ He looks forward toa forthcoming Channel 4 show produced by SilverRiver Productions: ‘Entrepreneurs from this countryare going to Uganda and working with communitiesout there to try and improve what is going on.Secret Millionaire which was a very public serviceprogramme and a rather interesting new format,also got extremely good audiences. We are quietlyoptimistic that something like that might be a ratherfresh take on international issues.’Jo Clinton-Davis, formerly Head of Commissioning atUKTV, now at ITV, calls on fellow commissioners to showmore courage and imagination: ‘You can impose a populistidiom on which to explore these parallel universes. They’vetended to be done in a rather clunky, rather worthy way. Weserve audiences up more and more mediation, becauseit’s safe, but at the same time you can see that there’s anappetite for authenticity.’Formats that succeed are seized upon and doneto death, says Peter Salmon. It’s significant then thatthe BBC, having scored a conspicuous success withAfrican School, is now pushing ahead with bothIndian School and Chinese School.Both fit into another tried and trusted modelfor covering other countries – through seasons of12315


programming. This year, Britain’s own place in worldhistory has been a common theme. In this, the 50th yearsince Ghana’s independence, the 60th since India andPakistan’s, and the 200th anniversary of the abolitionof the slave trade, the colonial legacy weighed heavilyon the minds of commissioners and editors – how tocommemorate these events, how to relate them to ourcontemporary lives, and how to involve viewers both inthe UK and more widely in marking these anniversaries.Salmon is genuinely excited about the possibilitiesof coverage of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and theWorld Cup in South Africa in 2010 – but fears thatconstraints on the BBC’s expenditure mean makingchoices about what to drop, and concentratingcoverage into “fewer, bigger, better” events or seasons:Andy Duncan offers an alternative perspective, ofusing niche channels to achieve greater depth: ‘TheRussia season we did on More4 was extremely good.Now you couldn’t have done that on the main channel,and dedicated so much time to it.’DOES THE NEWS AGENDA CONTINUE TO DRIVECOMMISSIONING?Although Maggie O’Kane makes it clear that it’s theresponsibility of broadcasters to continue to bringstories out of Iraq, she is aware that a general focus onnews agenda countries such as Iraq and Afghanistanmeans there is less space for equally urgent orinteresting stories from elsewhere: ‘Cuba’s hugelyinteresting now, South America’s interesting but youknow the broadcasters have a limited budget and it’s allbeen blown on Iraq. If you go in and say I’ve got a veryinteresting idea on Venezuela they’ll say “what planet?”’Maggie O’Kane, Editorial Director, Guardian Films.But Angus Macqueen believes there’s also a lackof creative thinking from producers: ‘We’re doing acouple of very big, bold, brave things domestically.I’d love to be doing them abroad but the ideas aren’tthere. Nothing’s coming at the moment. The tendencyis for people to still come in and see ‘abroad’ as beinga report from Afghanistan.’MAKING A DRAMA OUT OF A CRISISDramas and feature films are regularly cited, more sothan ever before, by interviewees looking to illustratethe potential to present complex ideas and storiesfrom outside the UK, Europe and North America, tomainstream audiences. Whether funded by Hollywood,as with Blood Diamond and The Constant Gardener,or by Film Four with The Last King of Scotland.Whether literary adaptations (John Le Carre, andGiles Foden), or starring bankable Hollywoodsuperstars (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in Babel,and Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond), theysucceeded in engaging audiences with contemporarystories rooted in the global South – even if the keyprotagonists were white.Sorious Samura, a consultant on Blood Diamondpraises the film’s exploration of character: ‘When yougo to make a documentary or a current affairs story,you haven’t got that space and time and money.But with a feature film you manage to delve deeperand create a situation where you can work more oncharacters and create sympathy and people will thenengage deeper.’At a time when cinema is managing to fund andturn out mass-market hits of this kind, our intervieweesfeel that television, in comparison, shows a distinctlack of ambition.Docudrama, however, is a genre that has seena resurgence, with Channel 4 in particular pouringresources into several high-profile productions dealingwith global themes – Hamburg Cell, Saddam’s Tribeand Nick Broomfield’s Ghosts, about the Chinesemigrants who drowned in Morecambe Bay whencockle-picking.Indian School, BBC416


case study: Al Jazeera EnglishThe still relatively young channel Al Jazeera English(AJE) presents an interesting case study, and toucheson many of the issues raised in this chapter.Flora Gregory, Editor of the Witness documentarystrand, presented by Rageh Omaar, says that shehas the “extraordinary luxury of a lot of hours”(6 shows a week), and therefore the possibility of“extraordinary freedom in covering little stories”from around the world. ‘I don’t have to focus somuch in the way that UK broadcasters do,’ saysGregory, contrasting her current work with herprevious experience on Channel 4’s UnreportedWorld.‘Unreported World had a brief which was pressurepoints in the world, and to make those pressurepoints relevant to a UK audience. The point aboutWitness is it’s about ordinary people’s lives, and howthey’re affected by the bigger scheme of things.’Sorious Samura’s worry that broadcasters aren’tinterested in going back to previous stories doesn’tapply to Witness: ‘Over a period of time we willrevisit some stories, because the luxury of thenumber of hours we do is that we can go back to seewhat has happened to either characters or particularstories, to see if anything’s changed.’Gregory gives diverse examples of films her teamhas acquired and produced, from Being Osama,about men in Canada with the name Osama, to a filmfollowing two Bolivian boys over the course of theirday’s work in a tin mine.Flora Gregory speaks of her long-term goal tomove from sending reporters and film-makers fromEurope to cover the rest of the world, to using localreporters and film-makers: ‘There are film makerswho are established and working to an old model,where somebody who’s a specialist in Africa goesto Africa and makes a story. Then we’re working onanother model which is somebody who may havebeen born in, for example, Africa but is acting asa bridge. And then there’s the next stage, which iswhat we’re working towards, which is locals makingtheir own stories.’The channel has a commissioning website,ajicommissioning.net, where producers across theworld, large and small, are encouraged to registerand submit programme ideas. Gregory says it hasbroadened out AJE’s commissioning reach, and hasgiven a focus and outlet to many talented filmmakersacross the world.‘No one likes using pitching websites so youhave to encourage them, but all broadcasters do itnow and there’s a very good reason – just to createorder out of chaos really, and have some processby which you can receive proposals, and make surethat they’re not neglected. And also because we’reinternational, if they’re all in one place we candiscuss them. Proposals are coming from all over theworld onto the website.’This also allows her team to develop longer-termrelationships with talented and passionate filmmakersfrom around the world. She says that oftenAJE will acquire a documentary for Witness, andthen will commission the film-maker to make filmswith more of a Witness ethos.‘You’re trying to get to know filmmakers, andthat’s a long process. We watch their work, we viewwhat they have done, and if they haven’t doneanything you have to help them. Most people havedone something, and it’s often a campaigning video.’‘We commission half and acquire half. The thingabout the acquisitions is there are an enormousnumber of wonderful films, astounding films, andpassionate film-makers. It just bowls me over.’‘There is a general philosophy here of doingstories that no one else will do, and hearing voicesthat have not been heard. But it’s a long-term goal tobring voices alive. So where there are many countriesthat don’t have free speech, there’s an interim wayof dealing with it, and then a long-term way, and youdon’t know how long it’s going to take.’Budgets are tight, however, at $20,000-$30,000for a 20-minute film.‘I just think people’s lives are quite interestingreally. And seeing other people’s lives and whatsimilarities and differences there are. But in the endWitness is just all about traditional story telling withcharacters, beginning, middle and end. The recipe’svery straightforward.’1 Witness – BeirutUnder Siege2 Witness – Child Miners1 217


NEW MEDIAIn the previous chapter, we have seen thatbroadcasters are failing to find new ways ofengaging audiences with international stories.Does the internet genuinely offer a different way ofconnecting audiences to global topics?‘When the web arrived it immediately struckus that here was a medium with none of thedisadvantages of television, in other words therewas no gatekeeper, there was no high cost ofentry, there was no national audience – it wasa global audience. Whereas broadcast mediatraditionally have been moderately elitist andquite a small number of gatekeepers decidingwhat is broadcast, this felt like a people’s mediumand therefore was particularly appropriate tocivil society and particularly appropriate to thekind of global issues that we cared about.’ PeterArmstrong, Director, OneWorld.netAs platforms and devices converge, and asaudiences grow used to content on the internet,mass use of internet platforms to watch andinteract with content is growing.Overall, television viewing is falling, particularlytowards the younger end of the age spectrum.Viewing of video content online or on mobilephones is increasing. Pressure on the mainstreambroadcasters is growing, and they too have turnedto the internet to maintain their audiences.But Anthony Lilley, from Magic LanternProductions, and co-author of Ofcom’s discussionpaper on the Public Service Publisher or PSP,asks this fundamental question of broadcasters,faced with the different culture and structure ofthe internet: ‘Do they need to change at all orshould they simply become better at what they’regood at?’BBC AND CHANNEL 4 ONLINEPeter Salmon sees the BBC’s expanding new mediapresence as a way for users of the BBC to climb inthrough ‘the windows and the doors of the BBC sothat people can come in and either commune withsome of the services they love, exchange storieswith us as broadcasters or with each other.’‘Those of us that are now making programmesare thinking much more about ourselves asthe content makers than we are as people whoare obsessed with making a 9 o’clock BBC2documentary. There was almost a kind of fetishabout a slot and that first transmission. So muchgreat content that we make is never seen again –it is crazy.’ Peter Salmon, Chief Creative Officer,BBC VisionAndy Duncan from Channel 4 also believesonline content needs to be linked to existingbroadcast content. ‘You need strong crosspromotion between mass market platforms, liketraditional TV channels, otherwise these things existin a vacuum.’THE INTERNET IS SPATIAL, STRUCTUREDAND UNFILTEREDBut Anthony Lilley rejects this model, arguing thatmany broadcasters have not yet understood thatthe structure, culture and language of the internetare fundamentally different, and can’t simply bebent to the will of television. It’s not just a questionof TV being able to put on the clothing of the18


internet, and remain fundamentally TV. ‘We finda lot of our metaphors come out of architecture,much more than they come out of television.You talk about maps, you talk about site mapsand you talk about architectures, you talkabout routes, the way you might walk through.It genuinely is a virtual space vocabulary that weuse. Broadcasters don’t get any of that, they justdon’t understand that notion.’Broadcasters are struggling to make thecultural shift that enables them to participate andprosper in the online world. The key shift is thegiving up of control – handing it to individual usersand communities of users.‘When the BBC talks about opening up to thenext wave of digital revolution it talks about anempowered audience, but actually I don’t thinkit’s really got in mind to pass over much of thepower to the audience. It’s happy to have someinput from the audience but it’s always had that,people have always written letters or had phoneins,there’s nothing terribly new because they’renow writing blogs or emailing instead of writingletters. The actual people deciding which emailsare read and what programmes are made arestill pretty tightly within the BBC commissioningprocess, so there isn’t actually any empowermentof the audience.’ Peter Armstrong, Director,OneWorld.netBut there are other models according toArmstrong. The Al Gore-backed internet TV site,Current TV, began transmitting in the UK in early2007 via digital cable and satellite. One third of itsoutput is voted for and scheduled by its audience:‘The audience actually decides which programmes areshown – they have what they call a studio and then allthe programme people who submit indy films are onthere, you can watch them and you decide to greenlightthis one and not that one, and then it’s voted on,and certain ones are green-lighted more and thenthey’re shown in a transmission, in a linear way – that’sthe real sharing of power.’Georgia Arnold of MTV’s Staying Alive describes asimilar process of user-generated scheduling in 2006:‘The MD of MTV UK gave me MTV Flux for WorldAIDS Day and Flux actually is a perfect channel to usebecause it is about user generated content and so webrought in eight young kids from across the UK. Mostof them actually knew very little about AIDS and wespent the day with them asking them to choose whatmaterial they thought was appropriate for World AIDSDay looking through our library. They chose videos,they did some new pieces and some vox pops.’It is the unfiltered nature of the internet which Lilleysays appeals to many – including himself: ‘My views ofthe Iraq war were fundamentally changed by YouTube.I was broadly negative but not that engaged until Iwent and looked at what was actually going on for realand what these guys were dealing with every day.’Anthony Lilley, Magic Lantern ProductionsIt’s not difficult to understand why groupstraditionally kept out of the heavily-regulated platformssuch as television and radio have embraced theinternet with such enthusiasm and success: alternativemedia, civil society, personal publishers, extremistgroups.As Andy Bell, MD of digital production house MintDigital, says: ‘The web is really ground up, it is soThe Mark of Cain, Channel 419


All the things that are happening on the webare very transactional now. That’s a muchbroader definition of what used to be calledbroadcasting or what the media is about.Peter Armstrong, Director, OneWorld.netdemocratic that anyone can hook a server up to theweb, you can get a web account for 10 quid a monththat lets you host a domain and serve content. If youhave got a good idea I don’t think money should bewhat stops you.’PUBLISHERS, NOT BROADCASTERSPeter Armstrong believes that, ultimately, the internetwill fundamentally change broadcasting: ‘Increasingly,broadcast media are going to become more andmore like publishing. In terms of book publishingthere’s always been a perfectly good model where thespecialist biography is worth doing for an audience ofa few thousand. And I think if we have a few millionpeople in the world who want to know in more depth,to hear from, exchange views with, interact with, feelsolidarity with the rest of the world, then that’s a veryworthwhile service.’This idea is one that resonates with other industrythinkers – and provides opportunities not only forcontent owners to reach wider audiences with theirexisting content, but also to generate revenue fromthose audiences, and potentially to circumvent thetraditional broadcast and commissioning model in theproduction of new content. Sorious Samura is lookingat this model to fund future documentaries.The economics of new media certainly providesthreats but also immense possibilities for broadcasters,production companies, and rights holders moregenerally, to exploit their considerable archives, oncethey are digitised. Storage is cheap, bandwidth ischeap, so it makes sense for content owners to makeavailable and searchable as much of the content theyown as possible, in order that it can be found, usedand paid for.In contrast to traditional broadcasting, new mediaalso offers a different way of connecting UK audienceswith international stories and people in other countries.‘Broadcasting, if you think about it too narrowly,you think about it as information. You’re telling thepublic something, you’re educating or entertainingor informing. But if you come right away from that tothe other extreme, you see that it’s communication,it’s a transaction. All the things that are happening onthe web are very transactional now, you’re meetingpeople, you’re buying, you’re selling, you’re buildingthings together, you’re making new relationships,you’re living, essentially. That’s a much broaderdefinition of what used to be called broadcasting, orwhat the media is about. It’s a kind of a living space.And if you think about a living space, in which peoplein developing countries are living alongside peoplein so-called developed countries, then all kinds ofinteresting things happen.’ Peter Armstrong, Director,OneWorld.netPUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA DEBATES ABROADAnthony Lilley’s question about whether public servicebroadcasters need to reinvent themselves in line withthe digital age, or whether they should keep doingwhat they are good at, is one being asked by publicservice media elsewhere in the world.In South Africa, SABC’s Chief Executive Dali Mpofusays he is concerned that competition in the marketis not serving the poorest and most marginalised. Hesees new media as central in giving poor people avoice – especially in a country like South Africa whichhas more mobile phones than television sets.In common with other interviewees for thereport, Mpofu sees traditional forms of participationthrough phone-in and email-ins as formulaic andunsatisfactory. He wants SABC, and other African stateand public service broadcasters to rally under a sloganof “broadcasting for total citizen empowerment”:‘It’s a whole big debate which we need to confrontglobally to ensure that the focus on the citizen isbrought back. It’s the people who have no othermeans of affecting change in their own lives that needbroadcasting to air their grievances, so they are asvocal as possible.’NEW MEDIA: GOOD OR BAD FOR ENGAGEMENT WITHINTERNATIONAL ISSUES?Participation is central to new media. But, with theproliferation of available media, some worry thatsociety threatens to lose its coherent civic discourse,mass moments, and shared experiences which havetraditionally characterized broadcast media.‘There’s now a billion things that are making upthe public sphere including a lot online, but theseare also private spaces as well. Only some of theseare leading into public conversations and some ofthem are leading into very fractured and fragmentedconversations so the degree to which they are actuallyenlivening a democracy becomes much morequestionable.’ James Deane, BBC World Service TrustAudience behaviour and the exercise of choicemight bring negative effects too. Peter Armstrongvoices a worry raised by many of our interviewees:‘The more choice you give viewers and listeners themore they’re going to cocoon themselves in theirexisting opinions and preferences.’Will we go home after work and find a documentaryabout northern Uzbekistan, as Angus Macqueen20


speculates, or will we be content to be served upcurated menus of programming via an EPG (ElectronicProgramme Guide)? Peter Armstrong thinks there willbe online filters, curators, recommenders of content,and that this might lead to an entire cottage industry ofpeople earning small amounts of income by sourcingcontent for audiences large and small.Both media and civil society are trying tounderstand how ordinary people can becomeengaged, through online media, and take action,whether around a human rights issue, climatechange, a local governance issue, a national politicalissue, or self-empowerment.The assumption from many of our intervieweesis that the internet, being perceived as a grassrootsspace, is where organic organizing happens. JamesDeane offers an opinion on why citizens have taken tothis kind of connecting and self-expression in westerndemocracies and also in less democratic developingcountries: ‘In the west, a large part of it is becauseof the reaction to concentration of ownership and aperception that fundamentally the media is controlledby very narrow sets of interests and it’s very difficultto gain spaces within them. In a lot of developingcountries, it’s a reaction to the opportunity to gainpublic spaces independent of government.’But he sounds a note of caution about relying onnew media as an alternative space to the mainstreammedia: ‘If we are getting ourselves into the positionwhere we think that new media is the place wherepeople make their voices heard we need to questionthat because I think there are real limits. It’s not thesame as a radio or television station being able toreach large numbers of people in terms of a publicspace – it’s setting up specific communities.’Unreported World, Channel 4Case study: Four DocsFourDocs is Channel 4’s participatorydocumentary site, and provides a microcosm ofthe challenges for producers wanting to creatework rooted in the values of new media, buthaving to work with traditional broadcasters.Anthony Lilley’s company, Magic LanternProductions, developed Channel 4’s FourDocssite. The story of FourDocs, says Lilley, ‘was avery general question about what is the futureof documentary plus the internet? And theanswer that had been given was, “what we’lldo is we’ll put television documentaries onthe internet”, to which my answer was, “Well,yeah and what else?” Then we started tryingto locate FourDocs in the tradition of the massobservation movement of documentary. It’s justa dilution of the notion of mass observation toget more and more people to contribute stuffabout everyday life.’The first major challenge was to convinceChannel 4 that the system had to be open, notclosed – and that the online space is different,and different rules apply: ‘There’s a softening ofeditorial stance for a broadcaster that says weare not going to block out, we’re going to let in,and one of the processes that had to be reallythought through with FourDocs was how you geta broadcaster that is used to basically filteringdown to a 1 hour slot to understand that itsstandards can be applied in this new context.’FourDocs includes an extensive set oftraining modules on film making, available free.Lilley identifies this as the broader reason whyhe regards FourDocs as a success in new mediaterms: ‘We felt that it was really important thatyou give something back into the community,that you didn’t just ask for their stuff, and thisis why a lot of these broadcaster-led usergeneratedprojects are not working becausethe broadcaster mindset is so exploitative. Itis one-way, it’s not exploitative in a nasty sortof way, it’s just they don’t perceive that there’sany two-way relationship. So, if you look at theBBC’s 1minute film site, they take the rights.With FourDocs, you keep the rights, we publishunder a Creative Commons Licence.’Angus Macqueen, Head of Documentariesat Channel 4, also sees FourDocs as somethingof a stepping stone into the televisiondocumentary industry: ‘Commissioners mustfind ways to turn the talent that technologyhas unleashed – relishing the sheer lunacy andsubversion of some of it – into programmes thatlarge audiences still want to watch. We mustthen lure those 20-second computer consumersinto our world.’21


YOUNG PEOPLEWHERE DO YOUNG PEOPLE GO TO FIND OUT ABOUTTHE WIDER WORLD?The television is usually switched on when they’reat home and – surprisingly perhaps – it’s theirmain source of news about the wider world. Theyoung people we spoke to in the south and northof England are media savvy, but when it comes tonews and current affairs, their information comesprimarily from television, not the internet. They tendto be more interested in local and national news, butinternational stories do attract their attention whensignificant events take place in distant places, likethe tsunami or Iraq, or when they have a family orpersonal connection with a foreign country.Which media do young people consume?TelevisionAll the young people we spoke to have access to arich selection of media, but when they’re at home,especially in the morning and the evening, thetelevision dominates. The radio plays a complementaryrole, especially in the mornings or on car journeys.‘I tend to have GMTV on in the morning when Iam getting ready so it’s just on in the background.’(Female, Barnet, north London)‘I watch TV for news. When I’m getting ready forwork in the morning, I watch Breakfast 24 andsometimes I will flick over to GMTV.’ (Female, Leeds)‘When I’m at home I would watch TV. So I wouldn’tgo out of my way to look for news on the internet.’(Male, Barnet, north London)When they want to find out what’s going on in theworld, the young people we spoke to watch thenews on the main terrestrial channels: BBC, ITVand Channel 4. In general, they favour mainstreamrather than niche channels:‘All terrestrial TV, particularly Channel 4.’ (Male,Barnet, north London)‘For news, BBC or BBC Online, but for sports news Igo to Sky Sports.’ (Male, West Yorkshire)‘BBC 24 is alright – although they start repeating thenews. But you can usually get what you want after awhile.’ (Female, West Yorkshire)The internetEveryone we spoke to uses the internet regularly,though most do so primarily for interpersonalcommunication, especially email (and sometimesfor MSN, Instant Messenger, Facebook and othersocial networking sites). The internet is only asupplementary medium when it comes to accessingnews and current affairs. When they use the internetfor news, they choose sites with links to offlinemedia.‘When I want to see the headlines, I just check BBCOnline.’ (Male, Leeds)‘I go to the Guardian; it publishes information onlinebefore it goes in print.’ (Male, Lewisham, southLondon)22


‘Newspapers online are easy to access, they arefree…and you don’t have to get dressed either.’(Female, Leeds)The internet becomes a primary source of news andreplaces television under certain circumstances:firstly, when they want to know what’s going on andthere’s no news on television or the radio at thattime.‘If I was going to look for specific news, I would go onmy laptop, because it’s on all the time.‘ (Male, WestYorkshire)Secondly, when images and events are controversial– for example the scenes of torture by soldiers inIraq:‘I think these clips can make you more aware. WhenI see images of the war in Iraq all the time, I justforget it’s still going on because I’m absorbed in myown world. So, sometimes those scenes are a realityshock. It brings me back down to earth.’ (Male, WestYorkshire)Such images are widely circulated online but noteveryone approves.‘My friends send me emails with torture clips. It’slike saying: it’s ok that these things happen bywatching them.’ (Female, West Yorkshire)Thirdly, the internet provides young people with thechance to find out more about stories which interestthem or ones which don’t feature in the televisionnews bulletins.‘When Britney shaved her hair, I went online lookingfor photos.’ (Female, West Yorkshire)‘You go online to look for stuff, but with TV and radio,it’s things you don’t really care about. You just listento them.’ (Male, Barnet, north London)BBC Online is the most popular news source.YouTube is also popular, but it serves a different role– it’s not regarded as a trusted source of information,but seen as somewhere to go to find material whichisn’t available on television or websites likeBBC Online.‘YouTube is sometimes good, you could watchSaddam getting hanged on YouTube. I didn’t watchit, but you can if you want to.’ (Male, Islington, northLondon)‘You can look at graphic things – people putthings on and you can really see what is going onsometimes.’ (Male, Lewisham, south London)A small minority of the young people we spoke toparticipate in online forums.‘I go on them for the conspiracy theories. It makesyou think about events such as Diana’s deathor 9/11 or even the Titanic from a different light.You get access to material you would never seeotherwise.’ (Male, Leeds)Hotel Rwanda, courtesy ofEntertainment in Video23


‘I do go on forums. It’s just about backing up what youthink and getting support.’ (Male, Leeds).‘I think that what blogs are for is to get a good feel forwhat is going on and what other people are thinking.That’s it. I wouldn’t read a blog and take it seriously.’(Male, Leeds)Probably the most popular online location is Google.Its extensive use reflects the desire to navigate thevast, and sometimes chaotic, online space. As someyoung people told us, they don’t have time to wasteonline, so search engines like Google take themstraight to where they want to go.‘I usually go to the first sites that come up on Google.Or if I see a trusted website I recognise, I go for that.’(Female, West Yorkshire)For young people with cultural and family connectionsto other parts of the world, the internet is a way ofaccessing viewpoints and information not available onUK sites, television and radio.‘I was born in Israel so I always look up Israeli newspages because I don’t trust the BBC when it comes tothat.’ (Male, Barnet, north London)‘I use the internet to find out about things relatingto church and religion. There are ministry sites,especially in America. You have a lot of people typingtheir views in there, so I go on the internet a lot for thisstuff.’ (Female, Lewisham, south London)Feature filmsTelevision and the internet are the most regularlyused media, but feature films emerge as surprisinglyinfluential amongst the young people we interviewed.The discussions we witnessed around filmsrepresenting Africa –like The Last King of Scotland,Blood Diamond and Tsotsi – were long and intense,and they provoked heavy criticism of traditional mediaimages of Africa.‘Coverage of Africa in the media has always been bad.You never hear anything good.’ (Female, Leeds)‘I think with Africa a lot of your education comes fromthe media. You see a lot of poverty out there. Forexample, on Family Fortunes, if the first question was“What do you associate with Africa”, I could guaranteethe top two answers would be something to do withpoverty.’ (Male, West Yorkshire)Although they found the feature films dominatedby violence, most young people could see theirinformative value.‘Hotel Rwanda – I saw it in college. It’s good…quiteshocking.’ (Female, Barnet, north London)‘Hotel Rwanda is a really strong film. A lot of peoplewho watched it were crying their eyes out. It’s reallygood. You get the facts as well.’ (Male, Barnet, northLondon).What kind of news stories are young people areinterested in? Films on Africa and other parts of theworld might occasionally be part of young people’smedia diet, but their interest in information and newsis primarily grounded within the UK, their locality, andAnglo-American celebrity culture. We asked themwhich stories interested them the most.‘When I heard there were tornadoes in London,I think what blogs are good foris to get a good feel for whatis going on and for what otherpeople are thinking.Male, LeedsI trust tv the most because youget the images and see wherestories are reported from.Female, Leeds24


I was immediately interested.’ (Female, Barnet, northLondon)‘I remember reading a story about an octopus theyfound close to London, which was 36 metres long –it was disgusting.’ (Female, Barnet, north London)Although the young people we spoke to did not show anatural interest in international stories, the accounts weheard told more of frustration in trying to make senseof the wider world rather than indifference. A numberof them exhibited embarrassed confusion about worldevents – they felt they ought to know more.On certain occasions, however, international newsdoes attract their attention – for example when a majorworld event takes place like 9/11, the South Asiantsunami or Hurricane Katrina, or when there’s an eventwith particular significance for Britain, such as the warin Iraq.These events remain vivid, especially the tsunami,but at the same time they feel remote from youngpeople’s lives:‘Obviously it’s going to tug at your heart strings, but it’shard to put yourself in that situation really.’ (Female,West Yorkshire)‘You’re not really connected to South Asia. You mightsee it on a postcard or something but you’re notconnected, whereas with America, it’s such a biginfluence, you feel close to it. So, when New Orleanshappened, I thought: this is happening and they aren’tdoing anything. This is a major thing.’ (Female, Leeds)For the South London group, both Hurricane Katrinaand the tsunami reflect major global problems:‘It was sad, all those people killed for nothing.‘‘The Atlantic has an alarm system but because thosepeople in South Asia were poorer, they didn’t get anywarning signs that would have saved their lives.’‘If that happened on a Miami beach it would be different.‘‘It’s the inequality in the world… it brings it home on alarge scale.’‘It’s like what happened with Hurricane Katrina – someof the black and white people were just left there andall the rich people were taken away.’The war in Iraq also initiated a political debate:The Last King of Scotland,20th Century Fox‘It didn’t have a personal element, whereas with theLondon bombings it was different. A lot of peopleknow someone who knows someone, whereas withthe tsunami, it was so far away.’ (Male, Barnet, northLondon)Many participants made comparisons between thetsunami and Hurricane Katrina.‘Blair and Bush were told not to go to war and they did,how come they are not being punished – what doesthat say?’ (Female, Lewisham, south London)‘It would be nice to see Iraqis not getting the brunt ofthis war – people settling in and it actually working.Nothing is working in Iraq. I don’t know how Blair cansit there and say ‘I’ve done alright’.’ (Female, Leeds)25


Al Jazeera doesn’t only cover wars, theycover places, and events, say in Congo.They will take you in a village and show youhow people live.Male,Islington, north LondonHowever, whilst young people felt sympathy for theIraqi people, they also revealed their fatigue with astory which is constantly on the news.‘ It’s hard to distinguish what you can and can’t believebecause sources are anywhere and everywhere really.’(Male, Leeds)‘It’s being going on for years.’ (Female, Leeds)‘There is that much kicking off all the time, it’s hard toknow what is going on.’ (Male, Leeds)Trust/mistrust in the mediaFor the young people we spoke to, television is farmore trusted as a source of information, than theinternet.‘I trust TV the most because you get the images andsee where stories are reported from.’ (Female, Leeds)‘Lots of stuff on the internet is doctored.’ (Female,Islington, north London)‘I personally don’t care about what some guy inAlabama says online about global warming. I wouldrather have someone half intelligent who knows all theissues and can speak for five minutes about what theythink it’s about. TV filters more out than the internet.’(Male, Barnet, north London)Although television is more trusted, young people arenot uncritical.‘You can trust the BBC to an extent but you need to beaware.’ (Female, Lewisham, south London)‘I think the media censor themselves – they have to.If they didn’t someone else would anyway.’ (Female,Leeds)Knowing what you can and cannot trust is a big issuefor the young people we spoke to and points to theimportance of promoting critical media literacy.Al Jazeera: a different perspective?A medium which emerged as a surprisingly commonreference point was Al Jazeera. About half of the youngpeople we spoke to are aware of Al Jazeera, and whilstonly a small minority actually watch it, many use it todraw comparisons with mainstream media.‘I watch Al Jazeera – they show everything on the spot.If there is a murder taking place in Iraq or something,it is there on tv and then it’s exclusive. That’s what Ilike about it. With the BBC, they tend to cut out someviolent scenes – obviously because they’re consideredas unsuitable.’ (Male, Barnet, north London)‘Al Jazeera shows that the Government blocksinformation. So everything you get on the BBC mightnot be how it seems.’ (Male, Lewisham, south London)A proliferation of media seems to be leading to a morecritical approach:‘I don’t like Al Jazeera. It’s a bit like CNN but worse. It’sthe little screen with bits all around. There’s too muchgoing on. I like to deal with one story and then go to thenext one.’ (Female, Leeds)‘My dad watches Al Jazeera a lot, but I can’t stomach26


1it. It’s gruesome. It’s not that I don’t trust it, I do. I justdon’t like watching it. You don’t see kids getting shoton BBC news, do you?’ (Male, Islington, north London)Talking to young people, left us with a strongimpression that they want more from the media thanfleeting images, spectacular stories, stereotypicaldepictions and narrow visions of global reality:‘Media go on about different issues, but they don’tprovide any solution.’‘They make it all sound like you’ll just walk out andget shot. ‘‘Yes, they like to make you panic.’METHODOLOGYThis research was conducted with six focus groupsconsisting of young people (aged 18 -25) who haveaccess to a wide variety of media including theinternet.The groups took place in greater London, Leedsand West Yorkshire, and included young people infull time education, in work, and from various culturalbackgrounds.In each location, three groups were recruited,representing an urban affluent location, a culturallydiverse urban location and a semi-urban location.1 Storyville, The Liberace ofBaghdad, BBC42 Blood Diamond,Warner BrosAt the same time, the media are seen as having thepotential power and influence to make a difference:‘Al Jazeera doesn’t only cover wars. They cover placesand events, say in Congo. They will take you in avillage and show you how people live. People shouldbe shown that sort of thing. Maybe more people wouldthen want to help if they saw others’ lives. It mightmake the world a better place.’ (Male, Islington, northLondon)227


Reflecting theReal World?The first report in this series looking at UK televisioncoverage of the developing world was published in June2006. Copies can be downloaded at www.ibt.org.uk orwww.cba.org.ukHard copies are also available from the IBT office.AcknowledgementsThis report was written by Sameer Padania, StephenColeman and Myria Georgiou.It was commissioned and edited by Mark Galloway andSophie Chalk (IBT), Sally-Ann Wilson (CBA), NynkeBrett (OWBT) and Sarah Molloy (Concern WorldwideUK). Thanks to Dee Briston for the transcripts andbirdy for the design.28


Commonwealth broadcasting association17 Fleet StreetLondon EC4Y 1AAwww.cba.org.ukConcern worldwide (UK)Alpha House100 Borough High StreetLondon SE1 1LBwww.concern.netInternational Broadcasting Trust2nd floor143-5 Farringdon RoadLondon EC1R 3ABwww.ibt.org.ukOne World broadcasting trust2nd floor143-5 Farringdon RoadLondon EC1R 3ABwww.owbt.org£5 ISBN 0-9525050-7-XPrinted on Revive paper; guaranteed minimum 80% de-inked postconsumer waste by Park Lane Press, an ISO 14001 certified printer

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