Archive for the ‘ITV’ tag
We knew it was going to happen. Even OFCOM knew it was going to happen. Back in June the media regulator wrote that:
“Economic circumstances make it much less likely that commercial broadcasters would choose to carry news for the UK nations and regions at anything like its current level, in the absence of effective regulatory intervention“.
And so it came to pass. ITV announced today that it was going to make swingeing cuts to regional TV news. Michael Grade told his staff that 17 regional news services would be cut to 9 in 2009.
So far, so predictable, so painful.
But why aren’t ITV, or most of the other broadcasters for that matter, doing more to nurture local citizen news gathering?
ITV’s new ‘news’ service for the public – Uploaded - doesn’t encourage the public to gather news or report, it encourages them to emote. It asks people to upload videos of themselves giving opinionated rants about subjects in the news. Five News’ partnership with Friction TV encourages the same thing.
But the news is there and the public is willing. Indeed the BBC just announced that its ‘user generated content hub’ – i.e. the place where the public send their photos, videos etc. – is going 24/7 from October. Scoopt, a company which sells on news photos and videos from the public, has a successful and growing business.
So not only are commercial broadcasters reducing professional local news gathering, they aren’t even developing any (free) amateur citizen journalism.
Have news broadcasters really thought about the implications of using ‘user-generated-content’ (UGC)?
Richard Ayre, in his July report for OFCOM about the use of premium rate services (PRS), said that “It was striking that even when I repeatedly prompted them [the broadcasters] to say whether the transactional nature of PRS pointed to a new sort of relationship with those who take part, most of the broadcasters made no reference to customers or consumers”.
In other words, once the audience starts to participate in the programme, whether by voting or competing, their relationship with that programme changes in a fundamental way. Many of the subsequent problems with PRS happened because broadcasters did not recognise that change.
A similar point could be made about news broadcasters’ use of their ‘audiences’ content. Appealing to people to send in photos, videos, stories – paying them for it (or not), and screening it, changes the relationship that news organisation has with its viewers.
How, for example, does it establish that the material submitted is authentic? Does it have a process for doing this? How does it explain to whoever is submitting the content how it will be used, and what rights they have over it? How does the broadcaster know the person submitting the content has gained consent from those contained within it? How does the broadcaster label UGC for the rest of the audience?
ITV’s new ‘Uploaded’ citizen journalist project will try and square this by cordoning off UGC into its own segment (a little bit like, as Paul Bradshaw writes, the old “And finally…” section). Five news does something similar with its ‘Your Views’ slot – for which it’s partnered with Friction TV to source videos. The BBC has ‘Your galleries’, ‘your portfolio’, monthly competitions, etc.
But these are only temporary fixes. As the material – inevitably – becomes more integrated with other journalistic content, broadcasters will have to think very carefully about how this alters their relationship with the ‘audience’, or they’ll end up with the same problems as they have with premium rate services.
Those interested in the future of broadcast news should take a look at the Human Capital report ‘The Future of News on Commercial PSB’s‘, a summary of which is written up in today’s Media Guardian (statement of interest – I used to work at Human Capital). The report attempts to ‘move forward’ debate about the value of news to commercial public service broadcasting channels (ITV, Channel 4 & Channel 5).
It questions the prevailing consensus that if only these channels were allowed to cut news they could be more competitive and make more money.
It does this by questioning three of the key assumptions about psb news – that it costs more, earns less, and attracts fewer eyeballs. Instead, it suggests that the programmes you replace it with are likely to cost as much, be less attractive to advertisers, and diminish your channel brand. News, as Sky knows, gives you a status that other genres don’t. It gives you an entree to people, to policy discussions, and to political circles you wouldn’t otherwise gain access to. More than that, it pulls in that demographic advertisers drool over, better off men in their 30s and older. Oh, and in a world where people are watching less and less live TV, news is one of the only programmes people really don’t want to record and watch later (surprise surprise).
This is a thoughtful and helpful contribution to the debate, especially since it’s contrary to the standard – and unhealthy – view which is seriously damaging TV news.
But it still leaves a bunch of questions unanswered. When do you have to stop cutting costs before news loses its public service value? ITN is already cut to the bone and by 2012 may be a shadow of its former self. How does this argument translate to the online world? And, what about regional news (outside the remit of this study)? At the Westminster Media Forum last year Martin Fewell, assistant editor of Channel 4 news, said how anxious he was about the future of regional news on TV. Concerns which have been echoed since elsewhere.
Arguments about the value of news – backed by statistical analysis – have been pretty scarce recently. Let’s hope this is the first of many.
OFCOM has upheld its ruling that ITV did not show due accuracy in its reports about Blair’s decision to go to war (OFCOM’s Broadcast Bulletin No.179, 26-2-07). In an analysis worth reading in full, OFCOM takes apart the interview between Michael Parkinson and Tony Blair and, though it finds some ambiguity in the language, concludes that ITV misrepresented what Blair said. Blair did raise the issue of his faith in the interview, and that he would eventually be judged for his actions (the implication being by God). But what he did not say was whether he’d asked God if Britain should go to war in Iraq.
Yet the headlines emblazoned over the 1830 and 2230 ITV news said just this: “Tony Blair says his belief in God played a part in deciding to go to war in Iraq”, and “Tony Blair’s belief in God played a crucial role in his decision to send British troops to a war in Iraq”.
Whether or not you agree with ITV’s argument that it made a fair interpretation of the gist of the interview if not the exact words spoken, it is refreshing to see such an intense examination of a news story – imagine the same sort of scrutiny being applied to newspapers.