By Kate Fallis
Three speakers from three mainstream UK broadcasters, all with a view on how the broadcast news landscape is changing. First up was Alex Chandler, Senior Programme Editor at ITV News.
Absolutely anyone can produce news these days, and it’s all thanks to social media and the new technologies that allow us to share everything we see. But it begs the question for broadcasters – how does this impact our industry, and furthermore how can we adapt? Alex Chandler, Senior Programme Editor at ITV News, had some interesting thoughts on the subject when he spoke at today’s ‘Big Talk’ for Shout! Communications. Alex is particularly involved in the ITV News at Ten programme and started off acknowledging there’s been a lot of change in recent years. He believes the development of social media is a ‘double-edged sword’, bringing both opportunities and challenges, so he was a perfect speaker for the event which was all about the changing landscape of broadcast news.
Firstly, let’s start off with the positives. Years ago, a story would take hours to develop and it could be problematic for journalists to get to the scene of a breaking news story instantly. Now, we can see a story quite literally unfolding before our eyes, with smart phones able to capture video, audio and still images in an instant. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube seem to be the go to places for breaking news, and a primary source for journalists who can easily access information using certain hashtags. It’s meant that news teams have really slimmed down in recent years, seeing as a small group of reporters can work from their office through social media platforms, rather than having to rush to the scene of an incident. Alex noted that “everyone is a content generator these days, but how you deal with that content is key”. It’s one thing to ‘share’ or ‘retweet’ content, but another to get the owner’s approval and use it as your own. Something that remains important for the broadcast world is checking sources, which can sometimes be complicated by social media as it can take time to verify a story.
Another plus to the changing landscape of broadcast news is that the audience can be more involved than ever before. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have a Facebook account, or even Twitter, and those users can view, share or engage with news stories 24 hours a day from their mobile devices. This has made it easier for news outlets to gauge what people love reading or viewing most online, which in turn can influence what they broadcast on-air. It’s also changed who’s interested in the news and in many ways attracted a much younger audience because it’s being created in a more modern way.
While there are many positives to having social media in the broadcast world, it’s not without its challenges. The main issue for radio and television broadcasters is that the audience doesn’t necessarily need to wait for their news anymore. People can access updates or new information at any point of their day, rather than waiting for the 6 o’clock evening news to get a full wrap up. Alex spoke quite candidly about this, and emphasised the need for ITV in his case to not just read the news but provide context and further explanation. For today’s news programmes, that has to be their point of difference if they are to survive. The way they want the audience to see it is that yes, you can go to an online source to find your news, but if you tune in to our programme, we’ll spin it in a different way and help you understand what exactly is going on. TV and radio organisations have also really had to step up their game when it comes to the online side of things. Alex said “our online offering is just as important as our on-air offering”, which is completely true. Every outlet and programme needs to have its own website, Facebook and Twitter for starters, and users will expect each of those to provide the most up to date content 24 hours a day. It’s full on, but that’s the demanding 24-hour world we live in.
While Alex was hesitant to predict how broadcast will change in the future, he did mention that he believes there will be further fracturing of the market and audience criticism. Interestingly, he brought up the possibility of virtual reality news programmes where the audience could feel as though they were in Syria for instance while a story is unfolding. He finished off by saying that social media isn’t going anywhere, so we better get used to our broadcast world changing even more!
A summary of our other two speakers, Roger Sawyer, Editor of Radio 4’s PM programme and Jonathan Levy, Head of News Gathering at Sky News, coming soon!
To watch our three Big Talk speakers in full, head to our YouTube playlist here.