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Choosing video

Richard Porter | 10:56 UK time, Friday, 9 February 2007

The lines are blurring. Once upon a time it was very simple - television channels made programmes and newspapers printed stories. Now, thanks to the internet, broadcasters like the BBC publish stories in text as well as all our traditional activities. And newspapers are increasingly getting involved in video.

BBC World logoThis week there was a very clear example of how the world is changing. The Sun newspaper obtained the cockpit video from an American aircraft involved in a "Friendly Fire" incident in which a British soldier in Iraq was killed. Every media organisation picked up on the story, and The Sun was very happy for us to use their video - which had the newspaper's logo "burned" on to it throughout.

However, the Sun also insisted that no other organisation could use the video on their website. They knew their online traffic would increase massively since it was the only place web users could (officially) see the video. A newspaper which clearly understands the power of news video.

So where does that leave us? Already the BBC has taken big strides forward in its provision of news video on its websites - so far the domestic offering is far more advanced, but we'll be further expanding our international offering this year. But as an editor, I'm wondering more about the consequences for our agenda.

We can see from the daily stats the kinds of stories that online viewers like to watch - and they're not always the same as the ones we've give most prominence to in our televison bulletins. Here are Wednesday's most viewed videos from the international pages of BBC News:

1. Airbus A380 campaign takes off
2. Airbus shows off the A380
3. Astronaut's murder plot charge
4. Hydrogen motorcycle launched
5. Annual Empire State stair race

All of which were stories we'd covered (with the possible exception of the stair race) on BBC World, but not with the kind of prominence that web users apparently gave them.

So how should that inform the decisions we take about running orders for our television news bulletins? Obviously we'll continue to make judgements about the significance and relevance of stories to our audiences, but how much should we be taking into account the trends we see from the web stats?


  • 1.
  • At 12:58 PM on 09 Feb 2007,
  • PeeVeeAh wrote:

"So how should that (the multimedia/multi-platform newscasting environment,) inform the decisions we take about running orders for our television news bulletins?"

Not a lot?....

Your historical strength is not in 'instant messaging' audiovideo bites for all occasions! Timely presentation of facts and their cogent analysis, yes! But that's not a 'time now' co-attribute, is it? There is still the basic question, "what will the audience do with the breaking news?" Will they worry because the bare facts as will stream - unreasoned - from the mics and ENG lenses of the all-important 'sharp end'? Or will they become so saturated by the incessant spooling of unexpurgated horrors that 'hearts and minds' are no longer influenced by good and bad - news...and reporting!

I'm probably not the one with my head-in-the Reality? -sand, by this viewpoint. However, instant messaging of international mass violence is very much the stuff of 'BB' - albeit the latter being in a less blood-letting arena - at the moment.

Who remembers the 70s movie Rollerball? There are awful parallels in the audience motivation and participation when compared with the unmitigated, desensitising, lessening impact of successive newsgathering sorties.

BBC News must not try to compete with the camera phone culture, but stay anchored to editorial prerogatives that will present more of the jigsaw and fewer of the ill-fitting bits!

  • 2.
  • At 03:07 PM on 09 Feb 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

You're spot on with your mainline comment, but be wary of stats. As a journalist you should know how they can be warped.

  • 3.
  • At 03:15 PM on 09 Feb 2007,
  • Alex Swanson wrote:

I think that looking at news on the web is different from watching it on TV. If you watch somehitng on TV you are prepared to pay attention for maybe ten, twenty minutes, or - in the case of News 24 - have it on in the background while you're doing something else eg cooking. On the web, you briefly scan for a few seconds to pick up a story, quite possibly actually choosing stories which you *haven't* heard on TV in order to fill in the gaps.

Also, of course, many people are on the web during quiet times at work, and might tend to read lighter stories for obvious reasons.

So I wouldn't try to align the two. Regard them as complementary, providing for different audiences in spirit even if not in fact.

Surely the online stuff is accessible to anyone around the world (I assume it is). Most of the videos in your list have an international dimension. Thus, the Airbus stories would be of interest to many across Europe (because it’s Airbus) and quite a few in the U.S. (home of the nearest rival to Airbus). Domestic tv is confined to the UK so I reckon you are comparing apples and pears.

My concern would be that video starts to be at the expense of text (and pictures) in the news.

I'm sure I'm not alone in that my workplace firewall disables video and audio feeds, and in any case it's hardly fair to my colleagues to disturb them with the soundtrack.

I'm still hoping that the BBC (and other organisations) will wake up to the potential of web pages designed to look as much as possible like word processor documents and spreadsheets, but I guess at the end of the day you will be on the side of the Man. ;-)

  • 6.
  • At 10:29 PM on 09 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I agree with the PeeVeeAh: the BBC should not attempt to compete with the Suns or CNNs of the world. Online video comes across very much as I imagine televised news might have once upon a time. Exciting and instantaneous, surely; of high quality and great meaning, very rarely. What this form of journalism doesn't replace, and never will, is quality, thoughtful weighty content. These are not attributes tied exclusively by some intrinsic nature to printed journalism; it just happens to be the case that that is where it has historically happened.

  • 7.
  • At 07:43 AM on 10 Feb 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

Couldn't a extract from The Sun video be presented on the BBC website under the 'fair dealing' defence for news?

This is referred to in the BBC's editorial guidelines:

  • 8.
  • At 12:17 AM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Jeremy wrote:

Personally, I'll only watch video from the web that I haven't seen on the TV - the A380 story was a good example of this.

One thing that the BBC should do a little more of on TV is "News in brief", though - both BBC World and News 24 often seem to concentrate on the big stories to the extent that smaller, but interesting bits of news go unmentioned.

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