Gender diversity, attracting younger audiences and making news a conversation… news is modernising to keep up with the audiences, according to our prestigious panel of speakers: BBC Breakfast Editor Adam Bullimore; Head of Specialists at ITV Andrew Dagnell; Editor of BBC Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show Gill Farrington and Deputy Editor at Good Morning Britain, Sally Watson.
Sally Watson kicked the event off with positivity about the growth of Good Morning Britain and breakfast audiences in general. She said ten million people tune in to live TV news every morning, and they rely on it for big news events such as the Grenfell fire.
Social media can be often seen as causing the demise of some forms of news media, however Sally said it has influenced the programme for the better. Their news isn’t set by the old-fashioned traditional news agenda “from the leading story to the funny animal story,” but is challenged by the audience’s heated debates and opinions on social media.
She says people communicating their opinions and feelings online makes it “much less us telling them news, and increasingly about having that two-way conversation.”
ITV News’ Andrew Dagnell explained how he and his colleagues are doing their bit to improve gender diversity. He said that the morning meetings try to address gender imbalances by going through each story and questioning where they can get more women on-screen as experts, contributors and journalists.
The PR industry, he claims, can support their initiatives by offering more female case studies and spokespeople when pitching their stories. He says the broadcaster coverage shouldn’t be engineered, but “unless you take that kind of action, change isn’t going to happen and you’re not going to reflect that we need more women in our coverage.”
The importance of young people – that’s people under 45 to you and me – was highlighted by BBC Radio 5 Live’s Gill Farrington. Gill said broadcasters really need to take this audience more seriously and try to engage the next generation of consumers to “safeguard the future of broadcasting and radio.”
The challenge is to get “young people to come to us, listen to us, like us, and stay.” She spoke about the importance of tone to make news relatable. She says she wants her programme to be fun and relevant; too much news is boring!
Gill also spoke of her love of podcasts; she played some examples, including ‘You, Me and The Big C’ by her friend and BBC Radio 5 Live colleague Rachael Bland who recently passed away from cancer. It struck home Gill’s message that podcasts are so important because they allow the station to better connect to the audience.
Adam Bullimore, Editor of the UK’s most-watched morning programme, BBC Breakfast, maintained that breakfast is still king! He said the programme’s audience is loyal and made up of what they call ‘unique viewers,’ because they tend to get all their news from them alone.
He said their audience is older and watch for longer than other channels, but even they are changing the way they consume news like the rest of the population. With the ability to consume news from your phone, traditional TV news is becoming more of a “companion piece to technology.”
Adam said that news programmes used to compete against people walking their dogs or getting their kids ready, but now they compete against people checking technology instead of reaching for the remote.
He said that Breakfast is still part of people’s routines compared to later news bulletins. That said, only 12% of the audience are watching the programme and doing nothing else, so they are “looking for that material and output which is going to catch the eye and draw them in and make them wait that little bit longer before they have to leave or do their thing.”
Adam also brought up Breakfast’s move to Salford’s MediaCity and how connected to the region and the ‘Manc-hattan skyline.’ He says they’re proud they’re based there and putting new ideas and new voices onto the show; “quite often news is where your kit and your people are,” he said, and being away from Westminster has changed their perspective on events.
So, news has certainly changed in terms of representation. Instead of just having white middle-aged men in London on our screens, there is a drive for gender representation, diverse voices and an emphasis on the audience themselves influencing the news agenda, and our Big Talk speakers are leading forces behind changing for the better.
The focus is on giving the audiences what they want, and that means keeping up with and adapting to the ever-growing presence social media has on their news consumption.
You can watch our coverage of the whole event here.