Nothing lost in translation

Liliet Heredero and David Cuen BJ Liliet Heredero revoices a video report, with BBC Mundo's David Cuen in the background

As pilots go, there's a lot riding on the Global Video unit, newly installed in the Television Centre newsroom.

Amid cuts of 16% to the World Service budget, this is a promised ring-fenced reinvestment by Global News, and all eyes are on a 14-strong team whose culture-busting brief for year one is to make high quality video, in multiple languages, for every global and domestic news outlet that's interested.

With economy of scale and full-on exploitation of World Service expertise, it will be what languages controller Liliane Landor calls the 'litmus test' of Peter Horrocks's multi-media, multi-lingual ambition for an integrated BBC Global News.

A year or so from now, the unit, under former BBC World News editor Marek Pruszewicz, could be relocated into the heart of the combined newsroom at Broadcasting House.

And Pruszewicz envisages a time when bulletin-quality video reports from around the world - produced, translated and voiced over by language service journalists from the region in which the story is happening - are a feature of the Ten and the Six, as well as News Online, World News and the internationally facing sites.

Start Quote

It's not a word I like, but the aim is to leverage as much out of every piece of video as possible”

End Quote Marek Pruszewicz BBC World News editor

'Two years ago there was no easy sharing of video from Bush House to News. When I suggested that if we had a big South American story BBC Mundo could do it for the Ten, people looked at me as if I were mad. Now with DQF in mind, everyone can see the possibilities,' he says.

His unit has bilingual producers seconded from the language services to work in Russian, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish and English. They are all experienced video makers.

Going global with the Champions League Final

The newcomers are already getting noticed. Innovations producer Tom Hannen used 'data visualisation' to make a curtain raiser for the Champions League final which was then translated, reversioned, and shown on BBC World News, BBC Arabic TV, Sport Online and the BBC's Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Brazilian, Chinese and Turkish websites. It was the most-viewed video on a number of sites.

'Each language reversion was turned around in a couple of hours, by feeding a pro-forma into the software and language service producers translating the content. The joy is that there are no rights issues,' Pruszewicz says.

More multi-lingual 'video franchises' like that are planned on a weekly basis, including on Chinese domination of rare earth materials production for a Global News season on Asian business. 'We're also making a series called Three of a Kind, with first person stories from around the world about people who do the same thing - for instance, three musicians in World Music Week - which we'll craft into a single video for distribution.

'It's not a word I like, but the aim is to leverage as much out of every piece of video as possible - to translate, share, distribute and reduce repetition of effort.'

The week in Britain

Pilots are under way to produce weekly summaries on international arts, technology and 'The Week in Britain', he says. Day to day, 'bread and butter' video reports and vox pops from the language services are also being reversioned for a bigger audience. All the unit's videos are published on the internal journalism portal's Global Content Exchange.

It's already clear that video shot in remote places or with limited access will get a wider airing. Rare footage and reportage on the dangers of deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, shot and voiced in English by French for Africa reporter Thomas Hubert, was running on the News website last week.

Physically sitting in the TVC newsroom is another plus, Pruszewicz feels, not least because it gives the unit visibility. 'And, for instance, we get to see early graphics prospects, so we can ask for a clean version, without the English on it, that we can reversion quickly.'

Monitoring and mining

For BBC Mundo's David Cuen, one of Global Video's two SBJs, constant monitoring of what the language services are producing is key: 'So are the different cultural and regional perspectives we can all bring to a story.'

BBC Persian reporter Karen Zarindast is already mining hidden gems, like last week's Persian TV report on how Iranian traffic police now have the powers to fine drivers for being inappropriately dressed. She translated that, voiced it in English and published it on the News website. World News also carried her piece.

And the unit's Russian producer Kirill Skorodelol is enjoying the speed with which reports can now be revoiced - in 20 minutes, instead of an hour for re-cutting: 'Most of all, it's great to be in on a start-up,' he says.


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