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IBT - Reflecting The Real World

IBT - Reflecting The Real World

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Published by: _sdp on Jul 09, 2012
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sometimes we are not very good at portraying the developingworld in its humanity as opposed to people at the receiving end ofsome awful catastrophewe’ve always been told that people don’twant to watch development stories, so it’s always a risk in terms ofratingsthe world is becoming more interconnected and seizing onthose moments that illustrate that makes for great televisionweare in this togetherthere is a need for us all the time to make surethat we are exposing ourselves to enough influences to be wideranging in our sources of informationwe have to stop shying awayfrom the complicated issueswe saw that girl who was a fewminutes from death 20 years ago and here she was 20 years later,a beautiful womani think the fundamental constraint is that somuch in Africa is still a far off place of which broadcasters knowlittle and very few have much of an infrastructure within thosecountries to do informed reportingpart of our job in public servicebroadcasting is to embrace risk and to say ‘we'll support you whenit goes wrong’ i'm not sure we always live up to thatthe biggestproblem we have is persuading the broadcasters to take financialand creative risks on a project that doesn’t already existthere areso many things happening in the wider world that are on ourdoorstep or coming to our doorstepwe’ve got civilization into the21st century in reasonably good shape i don’t know that we’regoing to get it out of the 21st century in anything like as good ashapewhere has all the money actually gone?when people seeAfricans on television it’s usually when they are broken but mostAfricans don’t live broken livesthe world is becoming moreinterconnected and seizing on those moments that illustrate thatmakes for great televisionwe’re all pandering to an existingstereotype about the developing world, particularly Africa, whichis why all these negative stories are considered newsworthyyoufelt that he could maybe relate to the situation better, and that thekids might actually listen to himit feels so much more powerfulthan just some English white bloke trying to engage with thesekidsi don’t want to feel depressed after a long day at work, i justwant to be entertained
 R E F L E C T I N G  T H E  R EA L  W O R L D ? 
 H O W  B R I T I S H  T V  P O R T RA Y E D  D E V E L O P I N G  C O U N T R I E S  I N  2 0 0 5
 J o e  S m i t h,  L u c y  Ed g e  a nd  V a n e s s a  M o r r i s
The horror of 7 July 2005 is etched in all ourmemories; similarly, the Tsunami, the Pakistanearthquake or the wars and famines in Africa.But while we know that the London suicidebombings do not define the UK, we are prone tosuppose that Asian and African disasters tell usall we know, and all we need to know, about thedeveloping world. Even the Make Poverty Historycampaign and the Live 8 concerts, which enthusedmillions of people, inadvertently contrived toconfirm a stereotype of Africa as a continent onits knees.So, despite the fact that last year we saw moreof the developing world on our TV screens thanever before, I doubt that we have a much deeperunderstanding of the people who live in Africa andAsia, and with whom we share this fragile planet.This is not to dismiss a significant number ofprogrammes, spanning news and current affairs,entertainment and drama, that brought us a morediverse, rounded and even celebratory view of thedeveloping world. But there is more, much more,to be done.Specifically, broadcasters not only need to putthe developing world far more emphatically andsystematically on their agenda. They should alsoexercise far more imagination to ensure that peopleliving in poor countries are not merely seen asvictims of poverty. I do not expect, or wish, newsand current affairs programmes to become ‘goodnews’ propaganda, but they could offer a wider andmore balanced perspective. Similarly, documentary,drama, and entertainment producers should usetheir range of talents to embrace the people of the‘poor’ world as well as the ‘rich’ world.This report points the way ahead. Throughaudience research and interviews with leadingbroadcasters, programme makers, developmentspecialists and, most important of all, viewers,it explores the impact of British television coverageof the developing world in 2005. It also offers ablueprint for programmes that engage, entertain,educate and, above all, provide British audienceswith richer representations of the world beyond oureveryday lives. I hope it will inspire those who haveit within their power to make it happen.
Jonathan Dimbleby
Broadcaster and VSO President
Foreword by Jonathan Dimbleby
Executive summary and recommendations
What viewers think
What broadcasters and experts think
be more open to pollination from outsideinfluencesinvite risk taking and experimentlook for creative ways of splicing togethergenres and platforms to reach a wide rangeof audiences.Too much of a shopping list? Perhaps this canbest be seen as a recipe for getting goodprogrammes to wide audiences at a momentof uncertainty and change.
Ensure that developing world stories and issuesfeature across genres – not just news and currentaffairs, but also drama and entertainment – toreach a range of audiences. Invest in marketingand scheduling to deliver wider audiences andto deepen impactChallenge the assumption that developing worldprogramming is very difficult to get throughcommissioning processes. Clear statementsand strategies from leading commissioners,with indications of earmarked funds and slots,will unlock creative ideasReward and protect risk taking: ring fencedevelopment funding for innovative work thattakes representations of the developing worldinto new territorySustain commitments to programme makingbeyond the UK, and nurture new work thatexplores common experiences from aroundthe world. Consider international co-productionpartnerships with a more diverse range ofplayersWhite British voices continue to dominateon both sides of the camera and in thecommissioning process. Invest in a morediverse pool of talent to deliver morerepresentations of the developing worldthat people there will recogniseThe professional world of broadcasters andcommissioners is very closed and there needsto be time for pollination from a wider range ofinfluences. Invest more energy in getting to gripswith complex issues, and raising the capacity ofstaff to tell stories about them. Brainstorms withinternational development agencies and policyspecialists can help.
Build trust with broadcasters and help themto tell stories about complex issues by beingclear and authoritative sources of interpretationand analysisBecome storytellers when engaging the media,not issue-sellers. Work harder to uncover andpresent human stories and personalitiesIn assessing broadcaster performance inrepresenting the developing world, recognisethe impact that programmes have may countfor much more than the number of programmesInvest resources in processes that allow richerlinks between broadcasters and specialists.For example, bursaries and fellowships andmedia training within the organisation, whichare not simply focused on news and not onlyfor frontline staffWork to understand the changing medialandscape. Interactivity and on-demand mediawill help create communities of interest. Thereare increasing opportunities for collaborationbetween media and civil society institutionsLook for opportunities to engage mediabeyond news and current affairs: drama andentertainment work differently on audiences,and can reach wider audiences.This report presents two new pieces of researchthat seek to tell the story of how televisionaudiences and broadcasters experienced andresponded to a year of disasters, debates andevents in and about the developing world.The work was inspired by observations fromleading broadcasters who had acknowledgedcriticism of past performance, but feltquantitative measures of broadcasting didlittle to improve understanding of what kindsof programmes made an impact on audiences.Previous published analyses have focused onthe amount of coverage devoted to internationalissues but did not tend to examine the diversityof tastes and expectations among the public.The focus group research has pointed to two verydifferent needs. There is a substantial body ofpeople who are already engaged with developingworld issues and want content that is richer andmore authentic. At the other end of the scale isanother group that resists broadcast materialabout the developing world unless they are drawnto it by familiar faces and formats. Both groupsexpress a desire for programmes that are positiveand transforming, contain human interest storiesand tell them something they do not already know.These findings mesh well with the materialderived from the body of 23 interviews withleading broadcasters and developing worldspecialists. Broadcasters acknowledge past andcurrent weaknesses. But all respondents feel thatrecent experiments have broken new ground withboth engaged and disengaged audiences.The relationship between broadcasters, audiencesand media technologies is entering a period of flux.Multi-channel, internet and on-demand viewingare transforming the broadcasting and viewinglandscape. This moment presents both threatsand opportunities in terms of advancing publicunderstanding and debate of some of the mostcomplex but vitally important issues facingthe world.Making the most of the opportunities andminimising the risks in the new broadcastingenvironment will require an act of commitmentfrom broadcasters with regard to developingworld issues. It will require them to keepquestioning assumptions about what theaudience will and won’t watch, and to questionexisting categories. The clear distinction between‘domestic’ and ‘international’ is melting. Faster,stronger flows of people and ideas are looseningdefinitions of citizenship and identity, andglobalisation and environmental changeissues point to an interdependent world.For NGOs there are also lessons to be learned.Major collaborations such as Make PovertyHistory are effective ways of gaining publicand media attention, but they also carry risks.Celebrity endorsement should be approachedwith care: audiences can respond with cynicismand messages can be distorted or lost.Broadcasting showed some important examplesof both leadership and creativity in 2005 in itsrepresentations of the developing world. Canit sustain this? This research suggests that ifpublic service broadcasting is to mean anythingin the fast-changing media environment, itneeds to:make more space to understand and think aboutcomplex and unfamiliar issues and places
‘We are in this together’
female focus group respondent, Oldham

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