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Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

As this term draws to a close our last Global Media lecture meant we weren’t learning about new theories or concepts and focused on looking at a number of programmes that discussed ones we’d learned in previous weeks.

The programme titled Hollow State produced in December 1996 looked at the information society developing in China at the time.

An interesting thought process is if the hollowness has increased or decreased over the years. Has culture and society caught up with the information society and developed with it? Or has it become more hollow as the information technology of today develops at such a rate that we are constantly behind the trend or latest revelation.

The programme brought to light some of the academic theorists we have seemingly studied over the past few weeks. This shows that the journalist making the programme will use the theorists when discussing certain developments and the latest news. It’s important to develop contacts with the people I study with currently as these may be the people I’m interviewing in a few years time.

Hollow State was particularly well made due to the different views it offered. It’s a good visual example of how to construct the essay due to be handed in next week. It presented the views opposing the programmes theory and gave examples of why it may be true, as well as the views the programme believed with examples.

 

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The current discussion of phone hacking takes many forms. Everyone is talking about it but no one is doing anything. With respect to Lord Leveson and his phone hacking inquiry, nobody has (yet) come up with a serious solution. The Hacked Offcampaign have one ready to be put in place.

Kevin Marsh spoke at John Mair’s Coventry Conversation about this and he came out of his corner swinging. The sizeable public outrage at the News of the World has left some paper’s cowering in the shadows, worried for their lives but the former Editor at the BBC College of Journalism turned the spotlights on them.

“You will hear tabloid editors take leave of the world of human decency – as Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre did at the Leveson inquiry – trying to defend what they do. Claiming it’s in the public interest. Asserting their freedom of expression. Standing on their right to expose corruption and hold power to account.”

Marsh describes this act as “hypocrisy of the most sniveling sort”.

The average journalist at a local or regional newspaper works incredibly hard to doubly source each story they write. The BBC will not budge until they have two confirmed sources. It may be the biggest story of the year, it may be entirely in the public interest, but they will wait for that second source.

This isn’t how it looked to Kevin Marsh when the Mail was reporting the tragic case of Joanna Yates. “Innocent ‘til proven guilty. Except that the picture the Mail and other tabloids gave us was of a weirdo – subtext “he did it”. After all, he had funny hair. And he once dyed it blue. Must have done it.”

In a post-fight exclusive interview Kevin Marsh accused the Mail of not writing real news “I don’t think anybody would argue that newspapers shouldn’t be perfectly free to report news, to have great opinion pages, to run fantastic editorials, to run fantastic campaigns, but that’s not the same as chasing a 61 year-old woman down the street. That’s not a lot to do with having a view or campaigning, it’s just sheer thuggery”.

Marsh’s anger and impatience is understandable. He has previously been at the heart of a similar, but much smaller saga with the Hutton Inquiry. He was the Editor in 2003 when Andrew Gilligan went off script whilst revealing the story of the ‘sexed-up’ dossier. Since then the Mail and other newspapers have directed many jabs and blows at the former BBC employee but no one has yet handed a knock-out blow and now the momentum of the fight is shifting toward the victim.

Kevin Marsh is still standing

The comeback started with a group called Hacked off. This campaign for a good public inquiry into phone hacking quickly caught the eye of many people in powerful positions. Three days later the Leveson Inquiry was announced.

“I can’t say that was because of us, but it certainly made us look good.”

Back in the ring, the audience at Coventry University are stunned into silence by this descriptive and brutal account from Kevin Marsh, as he prepares to explain the solution to the phone hacking problem.

“If you ask the question – is self-regulation the way ahead? Or is it statutory regulation? – you’re asking the wrong question. It’s this: what do we want our press to do for us? And what do we want it to stop doing in order to become again a civilised player in a civilised society?”

At this point the speaker is merely toying with the audience as they are on the edge of their seat in the final seconds of this round.

“First we need a new legal framework for the media. Second, we need rapid, low-cost resolution of disputes with newspapers. Newspapers would have to decide whether they were in, or out of this system.”

This suggestion is not to be taken lightly, Marsh and Hacked Off do not intend to simply re-do the PCC.

“Inside, there’d also be a much stricter Editors’ Code, enforced with real sanctions and administered by a totally independent, statutorily established regulator with the powers and people to investigate. Outside would be very, very cold hostile place to be. You would have no public interest defence; costs and damages would be unlimited if you lost an action; juries and judges would be invited to take into account your decision not to sign up to the stricter code; and the balance of proof would be against you”

Kevin Marsh isn’t the man behind this idea. He doesn’t deny that there are better brains at work on this than him. He is the media insider who is working with the lawyers to create a Manifesto.

One thing the journalism industry knows is we are only halfway through the fight. It will continue to be a long drawn out sluggish affair, but when Lord Leveson has completed his findings there is already a manifesto and a framework to work from.

The fight isn’t over, but it seems Kevin Marsh and the Hacked Off team have won this round, and this could swing the momentum toward who will win the whole contest.

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Hounslow industrial complex is a collection of s dull, grey buildings on the outskirts of London. Until you step inside.

Beyond the reception area is a giant open plan studio/office. The centre of the room is a gravitational field; all the hard work ends up here at some point. There is a circular desk with multi-dimensional cameras with the ability to pan and orbit around the central subject – Anna Jones. To the left of her desk is a set of couches, polar opposite sits a raised platform where the newsreader can stage interactive video-links on a 20-foot television rig.

The real work of the producers, directors, sound engineers, cameraman, live journalists, silent journalists, researchers, developers, editors, technical advisors and app makers – it all takes place within four walls. The runners pace back and forth between office spaces like comets from planet to planet in a solar system.

To avoid being caught by the 24-hour rolling live cameras there are walkways raised above the studio. These pedestrian zones lead to other filming nooks and editing crannies.  The runner will take one sheet of paper to one writer who will then transfer it on to an editor, forwarded on to the producer and then it will be displayed in front of the newsreader for the world to hear.

Sky News is a smoothly running, efficient operation “if one link in the chain broke the entire thing could fall apart”.

The Head of Foreign News Sarah Whitehead explains to Coventry University students that even the shift changeovers are effortless.

“I haven’t been here long so I’m not best at it yet, but the changeover happens at 6.30. These people have been in since 6.30 this morning and their replacement comes in at 6.20 runs them through the notes and emails and it keeps going.”

For a station that’s online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, creating a seamless transition is essential for the viewers who pay close attention.

“The only complaints we get are at 9 o’clock when some people are going home and there may be background noise, apart from that it’s a fairly quiet work environment. Everyone is aware it’s a live studio.”

Compared to the BBC studios, many of them pokey little buildings that have needed renovating for 20 years, Sky has the edge on style and efficiency – two things that come at a great price.

“It’s definitely a loss-leader, but all news is.”

Despite the ‘effortless’ and smooth exterior of the uninterrupted news network Whitehead acknowledges the level of effort required to complete this job, day-in, day out.

“It’s a big commitment, but this job is the best in the world. You need energy, you need to be passionate about news and you need to know what you want to do.”

Sky is the biggest private news rival to the BBC, and in the world. It is the current epitome of State Vs Private ownership. The Murdoch’s latest scandal has had literally no effect on the BSkyB Company – at least from a 24-hour news perspective. They are still competing.

When asked about the competition that drives the new Head of Foreign News “If it comes down to if we’ve got the story first, or if we’ve got to wait to get it right, we have to wait to get it right”. Unlike the publicly funded broadcaster, they are not afraid to spend money to make it right. “I’ve gone a bit over budget for this week, I’ve probably spent around £60,000” Whitehead said on a Wednesday.

From a personal and individual standpoint no journalist may harbour strong feelings about who gets to reveal a news story first “I’ve worked with Jon Williams (Head of BBC World Service) in the past, and he said how hard it is telling employees family’s that their dead, I’ve been there with him for a lot of it. When Alex Crawford broke the news of the fall of Tripoli she was with a huge convoy and probably safer than if a BBC employee left 20 minutes later.”

Despite ensuring safety above anything else, there’s no doubting the company’s competitive edge. Sky News chose to release an unconfirmed video of Saif Gaddafi being captured simply by noticing the plaster on his hand. It was a bold move but one that paid off.

“There were perhaps 5 stories of Gaddafi being caught before the real one leaked. We had seen a feed from Reuters that Reuters hadn’t even seen, we could only tell it was him because we zoomed in on his hand, he’s got that thing on his hand”

Sky News is the current media giant will the style and grace to rival of the BBC. Will it last as long though?

The BBC is a national institution, one that has the benefit of public funding, whether the public want to or not. It may not always look pretty but it has substance, standards and heart. Sky has the backing of advertisers and investors, just like many other private companies have before. Financial backing can disappear all too quickly with AOL/Time-Warner is an obvious example. Can the swanky smooth attraction of Sky survive? It all depends on whether you think looks can last.

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Today we spent some time pursuing the idea of Contempt of Court. We discussed the previous week’s exam and finished off going through the answers and shortly after this we listened to a special programme, put together to put to bed the problems the BBC faced when they released a not for broadcast recording.

In 2006 there was a series of women murdered all seemingly connected to one gentleman. a BBC journalist recorded an interview with this gentleman just for background research and assured the interviewee that it would not be broadcast on live radio.

A day later the same gentleman did an interview with a national newspaper that seemed to essentially release all the information that the note-purpose recording held. The BBC then decided to release the interview claiming it to be an ‘Exclusive’.

Not only did this gentleman not murder any of the women, but this interview had arguably caused his arrest. Understandably he was not happy.

The BBC made the same mistakes the rest of the media did. Every major newspaper latched on to this story and this same gentleman supposedly being the murderer. The only difference the BBC had was that they had released the interview which they had promised wouldn’t be. Also due to the fact that the BBC is a publicly funded body it obviously causes more outrage to the general public when something goes wrong.

This could be a potential danger to the similarities with the Joanna Yeates trial with regards to her landlord. He was put in a similar position where most of the country started believing he caused the death of Yeates. Obviously more recent findings prove that he had nothing to do with it.

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Our afternoon session with Noakes saw us discussing feature writing and writing for different audiences.

We were told to look at 1 story across 3 different media outlets and I specifically chose the story this week about the Olympic Torch relay around Britain. The outputs I focused on was the BBC website, the Olympic website and the Western Mail online – the Welsh national daily.

Seb Coe holding the torch at St Pancras station - courtesy of guardian.co.uk

The distinctions were obvious in that the London Olympic site gave as much information as possible, it quoted an interview with Seb Coe and despite it being a national event the promotion was on locality and reaching 95% of the UK. It also described some of the transport used. This site is clearly aimed at providing information for a national audience. The writing also keeps in mind business owners and transport authorities and despite being nationally focused it is probably written for businesses.

BBC always aims to give a rounded view and generally looked at this story as a source of information. The interesting note is that despite the story appealing to an nation interested in headlines and important landmarks the torch will pass, there were links imbedded that focused the story to more local areas, and provided the reader with the option of looking at a map of the country with every stop pinpointed.

Western Mail obviously focuses way more on locality and is appealing to the higher brow, lower-middle class. It notes every stop in Wales without mentioning that it will be anywhere else in Britain. The article also quotes Welsh Secretary rather than Seb Coe. It is clearly defined for Welsh audience and aims to involve many areas and audiences, but the usual readership is more pinpointed.

Almost every one of the stories is for an ABC1 audience.

ABC1 is the higher up members of society who are professional, well-educated, earning members of society.

Arguably the Western Mail online could have drifted partially in to the C2DE category.

C2DE is for slightly lower-class readers. Notable publications popular with this market is the Sun and other tabloids.

Readerships are defined by a number of other categories however;

Education                                       Age

Engagement with news               Proximity

Consumation of news                   Sex

Social status (ABC1 C2DE)          Specialists

 

We defined the definitions of Readership and Circulation;

Circulation – How many copies are actually printed

This information is held at abc.org.uk

Readership – How many people read the printed copies altogether

This infortmation is estimated at nrs.co.uk

 

We ended the class by getting into the group in which we were to begin preparing our magazine. The magazine will be completed this term so we can write up an analysis about how it went. Then we will do the same next term in a similar module but print it and write up again an academic analysis of the production.

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To look at journalism in a professional environment, or at least the environment that the BBC works in we went with Marcos to visit his workplace at BBC Oxford. The building itself is probably one of the smaller BBC’s but it had plenty there.

The top floor was where all the ‘real’ work took place. The behind the scenes staff who make the radio productions sound easy and the online product look professional. People were editing programme trails, writing online content and taking and making calls for future news stories. This office also introduced me to one of the major perils of working for the BBC. The cakes. The doughnuts. They were everywhere. Future media contributors beware, you may get fat.

Marcos convinced some of the staff to spend a few moments talking to us, and they were all very kind to do so. One gentleman Andy Gordon gave us a brief outline of online content writing.

  • The first four paragraphs must tell the whole story
  1. This is originally because when stories were uploaded on to CEEFAX you would only be able to read four paragraphs.
  2. It is now useful for mobile internet users as you can usually only see about four paragraphs on the average mobile phone screen.
  3. Even since we’ve moved on from CEEFAX the standard has been set and it works well for news stories across the board.
  • Write 2 Headlines
  1. One headline for the homepage to link you to the main story, and another on the story itself.
  2. It adds more to the story and expands the search engine possibilities.
  • BBC Paragraphs are sentences.
  • Additional Videos and pictures can be added
  1. This helps tell the story
  2. The video clip won’t be taken from the television report, it will often have a more precise report covering just the bullet points of the relevant story.
  3. You will generally never see the presenter, just video footage and a voice-over.

We moved into the main newsroom where the gathering of sources happens, the creation of news stories and some editing takes place. Here we met one of the on-air personalities Phil Mercer who is in fact taking a short break from his morning show currently and one of my colleagues actually became a source for a story he was putting together on bed-bugs for tomorrow.

Following this we went to where the action happens. The radio studios are divided into four different rooms with three surrounding a central booth creating a fishbowl effect. Each room could see one another however through glass panes. We also had the opportunity to see inside the BBC Oxford News studio. MUCH smaller than it looks on screen the cameramen (or lack of) do a great job at making that room look bigger. The cameras are remote controlled from the gallery which was very impressive. It had the makings of a NASA control room only downsized-ever so-slightly.

After a spot of lunch Marcos very kindly took us on a brief tour of Oxford which is nice but definitely not matching up to Cambridge in it’s brashness. There were some beautiful canals, once-illustrious castles, post-graduate colleges, and some nice snippets of history by our wonderful tour guide.

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It wasn’t to Oxford.

After an initial confusion over what was happening for this particular lecture it turned out we were going to be in uni all day doing pop quizes and writing news stories, not going to BBC Oxford.

The pop quiz opened up the day with some of us having absolute no clue what we have meant to have learned in the past few weeks, much studying to do before exam day. In the second half of the lecture we listened to Barry give his presentation on Council housing and the government, quite interesting, hopefully all these lectures will go up on moodle sometime soon to review.

In-between courses Simon was very kind in taking me to the court house to learn how to get in, get stories and where to go etc. Quite fun.

I will be doing my own presentation on Transport and the Environment next week, wish me luck.

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