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Go on, make TV history

Peter Barron | 11:46 UK time, Friday, 10 November 2006

It may have an ugly acronym but UGC is the current media darling. It's not hard to see why user generated content is so attractive. With millions of potential newsgatherers wielding mobile phones and cameras, it means they can capture anything newsworthy or entertaining that moves. If, as a media organisation, you can get it to come your way - kerr-ching.

Newsnight logoBut in the related field of current affairs, UGC hasn't roared yet. Al Gore's Current TV has led the way in broadcasting films made by the public, but while 7/7 and the Buncefield fire have been the obvious big UGC hits in news, and whacky "You've been framed" type pictures do the rounds from YouTube, there hasn't yet been a really memorable and arresting bit of current affairs. Indeed, the first wave of TV democratisation - Video Nation - has had much more impact than anything from the new wave.

We're aiming to change that by launching the more smoothly titled Oh My Newsnight (homage to the Korean pioneers in this area. Newsnight already receives loads of high quality UGC in the form of text - check out for example Vikingar's almost nightly essays complete with sources and footnotes - but very little in a form we could put on TV.

So early next year we're offering slots on the programme for short films and pieces of video made by viewers. It doesn't have to be high quality (see Jeremy's effort ) but it does have to say something interesting about the world we live in. Given that large numbers of you tell us on a nightly basis how we should be tackling the war in Iraq, climate change, Madonna etc, it would be disappointing not to see and hear what you would like to say on the programme.

What do you get out of it? A chance to speak to a million viewers. A chance to make TV history. And, I hope, a warm glow.

For details of how to take part click here.


  • 1.
  • At 03:33 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Themos Tsikas wrote:

Two problems straight away with how "democratising" this initiative is

1) You need money to produce it and our society is unequal in this respect. That means the submissions will be skewed, not democratic

2) Submitting it to a vote is not "democratic". Democratic would be to make no shortlist and no vote but to pick a few at random.

Finally, "very little in a form we could put on TV". Perhaps you need to reflect on how TV was turned into a medium where serious debate and exposition of facts is not possible and your own personal role in bringing this about.

  • 2.
  • At 04:16 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Henry Breitrose wrote: (as we say in California.)
For this you pay a license fee?

I understand that the Beeb is under pressure to make programs on the cheap, but this UGC fever, while trendy, is silly. Fads in the "Yoof Culture" are famously transient.

A better idea: Cut Executive salaries and put the money into programme making. Alternatively, how about choosing a nightly man-in-the-street to replace your presenters...for free?

  • 3.
  • At 04:17 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • disraelite wrote:

"For reasons which are somewhat vague"

"Who's stupid idea was this?"

Sounds to me like good ol' Mr Paxman is not convinced by the worth of your latest idea, Peter?

  • 4.
  • At 08:29 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Robert wrote:

I have earned part of my living as a freelance photographer since 1989. In the past I have been approached by people from the BBC asking to use my photography. Most recently a producer on a children's show. It is clear they have no intention of paying for use. I hear no more from them as soon as they discover a small fee is required.

Shouldn't the BBC help to support individual journalists, photographers and video makers by enabling them to earn some money from their creativity?

Isn't this just a way to fill screen-time with free material?

Also, the BBC has some of the worst terms and conditions for user-submitted content. It demands the right to use that content, and give it to partners, for free, forever.

Other services, YouTube for example, stop using content and the licence lapses once content is removed.

I imagine you don't work for free. Why should anyone else? I do think the public want to be rewarded for what they do and the novelty of seeing your footage on broadcast TV gets old fast. So I think this policy will backfire in the future.

If I had news footage, I'm sorry to say that, considering my past experience, the BBC is the last place I would call. And Sky and ITV have made it clear they will pay for material.

  • 5.
  • At 09:39 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Brian J Dickenson wrote:

Mr Paxman is well advised to stick to presenting. A film maker he is not.

  • 6.
  • At 10:49 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • AKBER A. KASSAM. wrote:

I am a proud New Yorker American, but I love BBC WORLD NEWS, I watch every night from Monday to Friday at 11.00 PM New York time, I think some how BBC is far beter then our CNN, NBC, ABC, etc.

  • 7.
  • At 01:36 AM on 11 Nov 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

I would be a lot more interested to see what people say about a programme that what they say in a programme.
What an opportunity to produce facts that have been conveniently overlooked.
What a discipline for those who indulge in sloppy or sensational journalism.

Paxypoos has the right idea in his mobile outpouring, dears. Most of the country's spiflicated by the time Newsnight's on anway. "TV history", indeed...

  • 9.
  • At 07:51 AM on 11 Nov 2006,
  • dagmar bernstorff wrote:

what makes you think that everybody in the world knows what UGC stands for? In India it means UNiversity Grants Commission.
Otherwise I do like your programmes.
Dagmar Bernstorff

  • 10.
  • At 04:12 PM on 11 Nov 2006,
  • Dave Parker wrote:

"In India it means University Grants Commission."

Hereabouts it seems to have previously referred to some dull cinema chain.

But I think it's the user-generated content of line 2. Whatever happened to hyphenation in compond adjectives?

  • 11.
  • At 11:28 PM on 12 Nov 2006,
  • Chris Brennen wrote:

I thought it was the (now-defunct / re-branded) cinema chain to be honest. It's only when I read the article I understood it meant User Generated Content :)

Let one old lag on the block say a few sobering words.

I detect from the utterances of some of the presenters themselves that they think that all these desperate technological fixes and "extras" are risible.

Whichever of the three real political parties of today's Britain you support, you need a programme to counter Newspeak, spin-doctoring and lies. National and international news deserve more than glib technofixes.

Newsnight should indeed be accessible to all, and there's no harm in its being available round the clock for a week or so into the future.

But I am afraid that those that exert power over Newsnight, whether overt or covert, have put all their eggs in the basket of podcasts, video reruns, and similar. In other words: it's all gimmicks and no substance. If the programme itself is reduced to dust, no audience will want it endlessly recycled.

The dire pieces of chit-chat produced by Stephen Smith, and the recent tacking-on of singers at the end of the programme seem to reflect a leadership that has lost direction and is dithering in desperation.

I watched Panorama tonight. That programme, and This World, are in the lead when it comes to investigative reportage. Newsnight is limping behind, strewing technological gimmicks to maintain audiences.

It is time for Peter Barron to rescue the programme, before the petty piranhas of the BBC nibble off another limb from news background coverage.

  • 13.
  • At 03:01 PM on 13 Nov 2006,
  • gregor aitken wrote:

Can't help having a laugh at your notion that the bbc like citizen journalists.

As an organisation you seem hellbent on preventing the real opinions of the common man coming to the fore.

What you want is citizens who will help the bbc with the official line.

Or is the refusal to look into 7/7 & 911 for another reason

Please do tell


Thinking of doing some citizen journalism about the bbc

Would you do an interview?

To respond to a few points:

Henry (2) and others, we're not doing this as a cheap way to fill airtime. Our commitment to high quality, professional film-making is as strong as ever. We're doing it as an experiment, to see if views or journalism bubbling up from our viewers could provide good TV. The reason we're doing it now is that the technology allows it.

Robert (4), on Newsnight we commission a fair bit of work from independent film-makers and photographers, and we always pay for that. The purpose of this is to give the opportunity of free airtime to non-professionals - we're not offering payment at the moment, but if the experiment throws up interesting stuff and we decided to show material like this regularly we would be happy to pay for it.

Gregor (13)
"What you want is citizens who will help the bbc with the official line." No, that's really not what we want - try us.

Edna (8) and others. Well, at least Paxo delivered a little user-generated (sorry Dave (10)) content.


  • 15.
  • At 08:48 PM on 13 Nov 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

I'm 100% behind paxo on this. If you want to know where this sort of nonsense is going to lead, have a look at 18 Doughty Street any night of the week.

There is a reason why paxo gets paid a lot of money - people actually want to watch him.

This isn't just an experiment in UGC though. I've been very inspired by the Digg website, where the prominence of news items isn't dictated by some editor (sorry boss) but determined entirely by the votes of the readers. Now that's my idea of interactivity, and that's also what this experiment is about.

Anyone who believes that the era of one-way megaphone broadcasting should be hastened to a welcome death should be getting involved in this....

  • 17.
  • At 09:56 AM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • elizabeth o'hare wrote:

Please just us hard news.

I pay my licence fee for a professional service. I am not interested in watching members of the publics homemade reports.

What do your own team think of the rubbish you are now generating on Newsnight. The struggle to stay wake is no longer worth it. Why don't you go off and edit yoof tv.

  • 18.
  • At 10:50 AM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • gregor aitken wrote:

Peter, You say i should 'try us'

Does this meaning you would be willing to be interviewed as i do my bit as a citizen journalist

just say where and when and i will be there with my camera

  • 19.
  • At 11:58 AM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • Themos Tsikas wrote:

But, adamliv, the Digg "interactivity" does nothing that a better editor couldn't do. The problem is not, however, bad editors, as I see it. The problem is our inability to create a political equality culture that is uncontaminated by commercial imperatives and other power relations.

Themos - for me it's not about good or bad editors. If I went to the pub with you and spent the whole evening talking at you, picked all the subjects of conversation and barely allowed you a word in edgeways, you wouldn't judge me on whether I was a good conversationalist. And if I did somehow pick all the subjects you were interested in, would that really be enough to forgive my bad manners?

  • 21.
  • At 02:25 PM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • Themos Tsikas wrote:

I agree with your latest, adamliv. I was pointing out, however, that Digg, and Digg-like things, do not seem to me to be the answer to the problem you pose. There is very little to be gained by analogies of this kind for the simple reason that you, a person, are a completely different kind of thing from the BBC, an institution. If you wanted to change how you, as a person, relate to others, you'd probably talk to friends and experts, perhaps an analyst. The BBC would need to submit to an institutional analysis of the kind described, say, here:

But we have talked to an analyst. This is what he told us to do 8-)

Gregor (18) - sure. Email me at to arrange

  • 24.
  • At 09:15 AM on 15 Nov 2006,
  • Themos Tsikas wrote:

OK, I'll bite. What kind of analysis was this? Can we see the documentation?

Just kidding. We made it up on our own.

But you might deduce from the various utterances of our Director-General that the BBC thinks the future is digital and interactive. That's what (we think) the younger license payers want, so that's what we offer. If we're wrong, or if we get the pitch wrong, we'll soon find out.

But if we're not trying to innovate and explore new ways of thinking, what's the point of having a Newsnight at all?

  • 26.
  • At 11:58 PM on 15 Nov 2006,
  • Rikki wrote:

This all sounds great to me. People can be so cynical.

I hope Gregor takes up Peters offer after slating the idea - I suspect he didn't expect the response of 'OK, email me' ;)

I have to share some of the same concerns that first poster Themos Tsikas has.

Where there is any form of shortlist, agendas come into play, making both the process and the result immediately open to... 'concerns'.

Even with no editing, what stays in and what is kept out shapes the story.

Look at the fun on the Ethical Man blog about posts that are, are not, are, so there... ‘Missing in Moderation’... It’s a hoot.

  • 28.
  • At 05:07 PM on 16 Nov 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

Again I agree with the initial point of it not being entirely democratic. But at least it gives Citizens/Public
a wider platform for a voice rather then a grumble on a message board.

I do hope myself though, as a broadcasting undergraduate don’t see this as a cheap replacement for news as its initial hype I feel is unsustainable.

  • 29.
  • At 06:59 PM on 16 Nov 2006,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

This is an excellent initiative. People who complain need only spend a short time watching Fox News channel to appreciate what a wonderful asset the BBC is and what a valuable impartial and critical programme Newsnight is. I am pleased that this is not a "youve been framed" stunt.

Most of today's top journalists and presenters are not graduates with "media studies" and "journalism" certificates, diplomas and degrees. Biographies of people like the BBC's John Simpson reveal that personal qualities; a committment to impartiality objectivity and integrity and capacity for hard work are the valuable add-one to almost any educational background. Plus of course a genuine interest in the world and some passion and understanding of the impact and importance of a good news story.

You gotta love the public:

"This - "Public trust blogs over marketing" is astounding:

I use blogs (perhaps too much for my RSI and sanity) both ways, and love what they can do to round out what’s out there.

But... trust them more than ’newspapers, TV advertisements or email marketing campaigns’???!!

These are tightly constrained, monitored and controlled media, subject to censure and fines.

Blogs are the wildest, woolliest West.

It’s a sorry commentary on our faith in media these days.

“Where there is any form of shortlist*, agendas come into play, making both the process and the result immediately open to... 'concerns'. Even with no editing, what stays in and what is kept out shapes the story.’

*Substitute selection, moderation or any other similar word you fancy here."

But maybe blogs are not having it all their own way; just look on these pages.

Some of mine appear. Some do not. And it's not because I use naughty words. If not, why?

At least they always end up on my, totally trustworthy, blog:)

  • 31.
  • At 12:23 PM on 17 Nov 2006,
  • gregor aitken wrote:


i have taken peter up on his offer, and i didn't slate the idea of citizen journalist, i merely commented that i thought they were used to back up an already existing news agenda/editorial line, rather than being something that would truley shape the directoin of a story

And your right i didn't expect him to agree to an interview, and i am both thankful and impressed that he has.

Please Rikki don't think i am some sort of bbc hater, its just that i worry that they are not fulfilling there role as the fourth estate and have instead almost become an agent of the state rather than being an antagonist to it.

Gregor wrote

i worry that ...become an agent of the state rather than being an antagonist to it.

Tell that to Lord Hutton

  • 33.
  • At 06:28 PM on 17 Nov 2006,
  • Paul Anderson wrote:

In my humble opinion folks are getting mighty steamed over the status of 'News'.

News on all major UK websites is 'opinionated' and constrained by its editorial nature, author, cultural taboos and design. See what news is broadcast on Middle East news programmes!

To be smug or ill-informed enough to pooh-pooh all blogs, video clips et al as being worth less than mainstream news' is banal. Consider the parallels between say 'the Daily Mail' and 'Private Eye' - each has its own style and depth of news content both are 'informatve' yet one is palatable and censored the other is investigative and can influence positive social change.

My personal wish is that rather than 21st century news being an armchair 'sport' it can be an interactive and proactive social re-engineering system to provide (perhaps) a new wave of social inclusion with immediate debate and impact - rather than our slow political system. It may even influence our use of the Vote!!

Consider too this may be an interim step between 3 yearly voting and immediate voting for policy and decision making.. but maybe not for another 20 years - technology willing!

As an aside - I note also the 'rebirth' of - now touting its TV and Radio slots heavily on its Frontpage unlike it did 3-4 yrs ago. I too am not a lover of this as I see 'dumbing down'... just my 3-penneth.

  • 34.
  • At 10:52 AM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • gregor aitken wrote:

Can't believe you brought up the hutton Inquirey as an example of the bbc being an antagonist of the state.

As i remember it the bbc rolled over and did just as the govt wanted.

The whole country knew the report was 'sexed up' yet the end result was mr dyke and a few others stepping down rather than fighting it out.

The result is- we are still at war.

So i am afraid i will stick with my belief that the bbc is an agent of the sate.

Democratising? I can't even see Jeremys video because its in the proprietary Real or WMP format which the BBC continutes to persist in using. So unlucky for you if your either a Linux or Mac user because the BBC's charter of accessibility for all doesn't extend that far.

Well Peter,
I must say I'm finding this page fascinating. Despite the scepticism of one of your correspondents who makes a sideswipe at Media Studies I'm due to teach about 'broadcast'News in the next few weeks.

The last time I did it instead of dealing with local news the Iraq War popped up and we were able to analyse Al Jazeera and its coverage compared with the BBC / C4 etc.

I'm just researching how Web 2 is challenging conventional models of broadcasting and having just heard of Digg via the Economist 'The World in 2007' I then happened upon this page.

Firstly I hope that you keep this page live for the next few months. The possibilities of citizen journalism are very interesting. I shall have my Media students follow the debate.

Clearly the possibilities of reporting a vast number of things is possible but unquestionably these have to be prioritised and are already relativised. Who is to do this? Is democracy just going to be push button reponse? There is certainly a danger of that. Just as dangerous as a society run totally by 'experts' and professionals.

The whole point of media is that it mediates i.e. comes between. It can create thinking space and introduce a range of perspectives in a rational way. How it does that is an issue of institutions and standards of accountability.

For example I followed your link to 'Vikingar' who is clearly a right winger obsessed with "race". Just because he has a load of sources doesn't make it an objective account of what is being said. S/he is trying to construct an argument that there is always going to be racism (despite the fact that race is largely a social construction) and takes a very unanalytical approach to the British crime survey to draw out conclusions that the police are worried about doing anything when there is a racially aggravated murder of a 'white' person. S/he cites the Observer as an important source with a link which I have followed:

"The British Crime Survey, which uses a sample of more than 40,000 people, records that fewer than 1 per cent of the white population believe they have been victims of racist crime. By contrast, three or four times that proportion of the black and Asian population say they have suffered at the hands of racists."

In other words it completely defeats her / his argument. Clearly the vast majority of racially motivated crimes are committed by the 'ethnic' majority.

The point is then, that I would certainly not trust this person as a citizen correspondent, his/her ideology comes before the facts.

At the end of the day we have to trust the professional to do the reverse. There must be a system of accountability just as there must be an adherence to rigorous academic standards when dealing with "facts". Of course it may be possible to query the methods of the British Crime Survey but isn't that the job of a professional team? Your correspondents in this debate shouldn't forget Jeremy Paxman / John Snow and others have research teams and facilities. Individual citizens can only achieve so much!

It is the perceived rigour and research which both BBC & Channel Four News maintain which gains respect and retains audience. The possibility of comparisons of coverage of stories are the key to democratic coverage. The fact that I have an al Jazeera RSS feed on my blog as well as BBC / C4 / the Economist means I want diversity combined with quality standards. This should be possible with citizenship jounalism but we will have to see how models develop.

Now having broadband I find I am now consuming the news channels via computer rather than TV. I find the ability to recover archived news stories very useful and make a lot of use of this in my teaching as I move towards Web2 based resources. I'm fully expecting to be listening to News podcasts on the train to work trying to catch up so more of these please.

Write your comments here, please.

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The CEO of believes that this time they are going to market the asian countries; like upcoming economies china,india and some other countries. He says that after investing good amount of money and time in research, they have come with a new model which is gonna work in this region.

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