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Michael Reeder

Television

Unit 27

Factual Programme Production for

Understanding Issues Relating to Factual Programming


for Television
In this essay I will be looking at many different factors that come together to
produce a good documentary, these will not be whether it consists of good shots
but will be the issues behind the scenes of all documentarys. Within this essay I
will be looking at nine different issues that relate to this topic, they are;
Accuracy, Balance, Impartiality and Objectivity, Bias and Subjectivity, Opinion,
Representation, Access, Privacy and Contract with Viewer. I will divulge into the
depths of each issue explaining the flaws each may entail while consistently
working to explain how these issues may be avoided or lessened.
Accuracy is where I will start this essay, this may mean to most that you have to
have your facts right and once that is achieved so is accuracy but for factual
programming it is not that simple. To gain true accuracy throughout factual
programming there is a certain element of getting your facts right but you also
have to consider opinions and if they are included within the programme, these
will have to correct, truthful and well represented to gain the accuracy needed.
The levels of accuracy required will always change depending on if it is for
example a news programme, a wildlife documentary, a history documentary or
factual entertainment. News of course has to have the highest accuracy as so
many people view and believe what they see on the news whereas a factual
entertainment piece would require less accuracy as people wont take it is as
seriously and expect things to not be quite right. To ensure that accuracy is
upheld within a factual programme there are things to consider when producing
the programme, first of all the most reliable source of information is first hand.
First-hand information is gathered when speaking to the person who was for
example there when it happened or wrote the document that you have gathered
information from, this is gathered from the original source. When using second
hand data or data that is not from the original source it is crucial to check
authenticity as it may be false, this would be done not to hurt the reputation of
the production company by using false data and so not to miss lead viewers.
Overall accuracy has to be upheld to not hurt the trust and reputation of the
production company, once that is lost so is the viewers. The BBC takes accuracy
seriously, they ensure all programmes they produce have a high level of
accuracy by doing what Ive previously explained and this allows them to keep
their reputation. A prime example of where accuracy is key is the news, news
presenters rely on accurate data to give and accurate representation of the
recent news to the public and in this example its shown how sky news use
accurate information to inform its viewers.
Terror in Paris 25/02/16 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9M4zormWsJA
Balance is another key issue that is crucial when relating to factual programing.
Put into the context of factual programming, balance relates to the weighing up
different views on a topic and making them equal, if not equal both sides have to
be represented to gain a lesser level of balance. Especially when the topic may
be controversial balance is crucial, balance allows both sides or both views to be
shown by the production company and allows the viewers to see the topic in all
lights. Without balance a topic can be shown to be biased, it is in the best
interests of a production company to work to keep each topic balanced so not to

Michael Reeder
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Factual Programme Production for

offend or incriminate views on the topic. Recently Jonathan Dimbleby, a BBC


presenter, has faced accusations relating to his biased comments of urging his
studio audience to write to their MPs to protect it from budget cuts. This has both
offended the studio audience and showed the BBC is a biased light which can call
into question the whole company, events like these are avoided at great deal by
using balance as they cause offence and unnecessary allegations. The meaning
of balance is close to and almost mirrored in the meaning of impartiality and
objectivity, these have very similar meanings as they both represent the need to
make all views apparent to the audience while acting against bias.
Jonathan Dimbleby 25/02/16 - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article3447369/Biased-Dimbleby-blasts-BBC-critics-Presenter-turns-fire-questionedcorporation-funded.html
Impartiality and Objectivity have very similar meaning to each other as well as
being very similar to balance, to be impartial is to be fair and not weighted
heavily on one view compared to another. Impartiality allows you to face a topic
with an open mind and allows a presenter to represent both views equally
without giving their own opinion or showing dominance towards one specific
view. Again similarly to balance, impartiality allows you to not be biased, the goal
of any factual programme is to not to be biased as that sheds a bad light on any
programme and could lead to allegations against the programme. Objectivity is
the principle to be objective and being objective means that you are external to
any situation and allows you to keep an open mind. It also allows you to not be
influenced by personal opinions or feelings when presenting a factual
programme. Both principles lead to not being influence by the topic and allowing
it to be presented fairly without bias to one view, opinion or feeling therefor
allowing the audience to formulate their own opinion. Within any form of
presenting it is key to keep impartial and objective, within this example of sky
news covering the EU debate both the presenter and expert show these two
shills and how they should be used.
Sky News The EU Debate 25/02/16 - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article3447369/Biased-Dimbleby-blasts-BBC-critics-Presenter-turns-fire-questionedcorporation-funded.html
Bias and Subjectivity, as previously explained are the polar opposite to Balance,
Impartiality and Objectivity. These two values both focus on one opinion without
showing other opinions or disregard other opinions, these are usually influenced
by personal opinion and within factual programming this is controversial as the
viewer should form their own opinion of a topic from accurate, balanced,
impartial and objective facts. Bias is promoting one person, group, topic, view or
opinion over another. This often stems from a preconceived prejudice opinion of
the presenter or production company against a person, group or topic which
leads to controversy which should not be included within a factual programme.
When facing a risky topic controversy may find its way into a factual programme
but when included the production company and presenter should stay unbiased
and be fair to all views represented. In recent news as previously mention
Jonathan Dimbleby has been proven to be politically biased and the BBC has
faced allegations as the audience of Jonathan Dimblebys show Any Questions
are admittedly politically biased also. A bad light has therefore been shed on the
BBC and now their long term reputation has to be questioned. Subjectivity is

Michael Reeder
Television

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Factual Programme Production for

often referred to as someones judgement or someones personal opinion and


therefor being influenced by that, this will cloud the facts that should be
represented as a personal opinion is being shown in more of a light.
Jonathan Dimbleby 25/02/16 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11889234/BBC-presenter-admits-some-ofits-audiences-are-politically-bias.html
Opinion can be explained in many ways but each as powerful as each other, an
opinion is a belief, a judgement, a personal view and an attitude. They can
structure how others think as well so for an opinion to be perceived in a factual
programme can influence others to think the same way, many programmes will
feature peoples opinions but it is the role of the production company to ensure
they are equally balanced with opinions contrasting the first. Controversy can be
caused and issues will be raised when the opinion of the production company or
presenters work their way into the programme, this then leads the programme to
follow the lines of bias and starts it being subjective because one opinion is being
represented to be better than another. Viewers of any programme can be very
influential or very strong willed so its in the best interests of the production
company to keep everything equal so not to offend and to allows viewers to form
their own opinion on the topic. Opinions will differ slightly from person to person
but there are group opinions, views or beliefs which are often adopted by many
people. This is again a reason to keep everything equal with a programme as it
would not just offend one person, it would offend an entire group consisting of
many individuals. Opinion will have represented within news shows of course but
not by the presenter. It is the presenters role to is to stay away from personal
opinion. Even though the presenter will stay away from opinions but experts and
guest will give opinions on the current topics as the example shows.
Sky News Shia-Sunni Unity 25/02/16 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11889234/BBC-presenter-admits-some-ofits-audiences-are-politically-bias.html
Representation can be a leading issue when involved with factual programming,
this is because representation doesnt just involve a person, it can be a place,
object, belief or group. The portrayal or description of someone or something in a
particular way is how representation is often described, this can be either a good
or bad portrayal as representation doesnt just have to be bad. Even when
representing something in a good light it may cause controversy as in doing so it
may represent the opposing group/ belief in the wrong way. The aim of a
production company is to use representation to help them and to represent
everything equally so not to cause issues. Stereotypes are often included when
producing a factual programme and described to be a set idea that is held by an
individual about someone or something, these can be both re-enforced or
challenged by the production company. Stereotypes may have been seen to be
factual and truthful by certain individuals but when shown in a lesser light than
others or in a way that could offend viewers it starts to become unwelcome
within factually programmes but still often used as it will reinforce points made
within the programme. A programme that uses stereotypes and for this instance
the stereotypes relating to people on benefits is Benefit street, this documentary
follows the lives of people on benefits are try to challenge the stereotype

Michael Reeder
Television

Unit 27

Factual Programme Production for

associated with the group. It works to challenge the stereotypes but often falls
into the trap of reinforcing it due to the footage that is shown.
Benefits Street 25/02/16 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WksNx448igM
Access is one of the simpler issues relating to factual programming and therefore
one that is understood by many production companies. Access focuses on the
fact permission should be sought when filming both people and places, it works
on the principle that people have the right to not be filming and the same for
places as they are owned by people. Regarding places people have to provide
permission for you to access land to film on and allow the film maker to film an
actual location. This issue works on the understanding that if people or places
dont want to be filmed then access will not be granted and therefore ethical
concerns will be raised if the filmmaker proceeds to film. Legal action can then
be taken especially when involving places as trespassing is illegal and
trespassing works on the same principle of not gaining access before going onto
someones property. In a BBC documentary called Traffic Cops and in many
others of the same genre access plays a crucial part in the filming of the show,
because it is showing criminals being caught on camera access has to be given
by the people being filmed. Often the criminals being caught dont want the
whole country to see their face on TV for the wrong reason so they do not allow
access, because the catching of the criminal will be appealing and interesting to
audience members the production company still wish to use the footage taken. A
method called pixelating is often used and this distorts the film around the
subjects face but doesnt change any of the other footage allowing the audience
to see everything but the subjects face. This is a method used by many
production companys and is an easy way to navigate ethical issues involved with
factual programmes.
Traffic Cops 25/02/16 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WksNx448igM
Privacy is much like access but it works on the idea that permission should be
gained before any filming could take place no matter what, this is especially
crucial when filming people who are vulnerable or under the age of 18. Again like
access this doesnt just refer to people but it refers to places as well, permission
has to be gained before it is allowed to film on a location or film a location. No
ones privacy should be invaded is the main issue with factual programming
when regarding privacy and it is crucial that this is not broken because it can
lead to ethical concerns of people have the right to not be filmed. Privacy may be
infringed upon when a process described as secret filming is used, the aim of this
technique of filming is to gain 100% realistic and factual footage without the pre
warning that filming will be taken place. This does break ethical barriers and
often after the filming has taken place the permission is then gained but for
hidden camera programmes this type of filming is crucial. These programmes
often revolve around controversial topics so there is a need for hidden cameras.
Recently the Discovery channel has released a hidden camera documentary
name The Secret of North Korea, this is very different compared to most
mainstream documentarys as there is no attempt for a presenting style whether
it be even a voice over. This documentary shows audience members a practically
new experience into one of the most mysterious countries on earth, it could be
argued that ethics were broken but as the channel 4 guidelines say it is okay to

Michael Reeder
Television

Unit 27

Factual Programme Production for

be broadcast as the public interest outweighs the ethics regarding this


programme.
The Secret of North Korea 25/02/16 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=dTGvbRJVmyQ
Channel 4 guidelines 25/02/16 - http://www.channel4.com/producershandbook/c4-guidelines/secret-filming-guidelines
The final issue regarding factual programming is the contract with the viewer,
this is an agreement undertaken by both production company and audience
which states that all that is presented is truthful and filmed in real conditions.
This is seen to be a bond of trust between viewer and filmmaker which is nonverbal, this also proves that the filmmaker has stuck by the issues raised in this
essay and not breached them without proper reasoning. Within this agreement it
is expected that if a programme is set out to be one thing it will be that and not
something else for example, Bear Grylls could be seen to be breaking this
contract as in his shows he is meant to be alone in hostile environments and
living off the environment surviving for as long as he can, but in fact he has a
large camera crew with plenty of food and
equipment there to help him if it is
needed. Shown below is Bear when
filming one of his documentarys enjoying
a well prepared meal with his crew.
Image 25/02/16 http://survinat.com/2012/03/bear-gryllsand-a-fan-of-the-harsh-reality/
To conclude within this essay, I have
highlighted the issues faced when
producing factual programs and the
problem they cause for filmmakers. I have also outlined what can happen if these
issues are broken and the effect it can have on audience members, where
possible I have linked this too factual programmes which involve these issues
that I have raised. Included within references are other sources I used to gain
information on these issues.