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A snapshot of age portrayal in the industry

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Amanda Rice Amanda Rice | 08:11 UK time, Tuesday, 31 January 2012

When the BBC took over the chair of the Creative Diversity Network (CDN) in 2011 we made a firm commitment to investigate audiences' attitudes to Age in the media. Our partners in the CDN were enthusiastic and supportive of a cross-media approach and worked closely with us to ensure we delivered on our promise to research this area and share the results widely across the industry.

Today, the findings of 'Serving All Ages' have been published, and follow a public commitment by the CDN to do more to serve all audiences, and understand better attitudes towards portrayal of age in the media.

This kind of research offers insight into an area that really matter to the people who really matter to broadcasters - the audience. And, as the UK population ages - nearly half the British workforce will be aged 50 plus by 2030 - it's just as pertinent as ever.

What we found

The main finding showed that people are less concerned about age portrayal on radio and the internet than they are on television and whilst age was not immediately an issue of concern for most of the participants, once raised it did reveal areas of discussion and areas of concern. When discussing age portrayal on television, a number of areas were identified as opportunities to develop. These were:

  • Young people, aged 16-24, are most concerned about how they are portrayed. Many feel they are shown negatively as taking undue risks, being promiscuous, drunk, taking drugs and being very materialistic.
  • Concern at negative portrayal of young people was also shared by older audiences.
  • Younger people think this image can make older people frightened of them, and also make it more difficult to get on in life and start a career.
  • The apparent 'invisibility' of older people, and particularly middle aged (women 40-55) and older women (55 plus) was raised. It was felt there were just not enough of them on screen compared to older men.
  • For older people generally, there was a feeling, and largely an acceptance, that TV is a 'younger medium'.
  • Older people welcomed more visibility and expressed a desire for portrayal to move away from older people being the 'butt of a joke', infirm or grumpy. There was a desire be portrayed as 'young at heart' and open to new challenges.


What are the next steps?

We've shared the findings with some of the top people at the CDN, as well the BBC and the BBC Trust. In order for broadcasters to deliver high quality programming, a sophisticated understanding of what drives audience judgements is essential and this is what the findings of the CDN's Serving All Ages will provide broadcasters. Both audiences and experts told us they want the media they consume to be both entertaining and of high quality first and foremost. Ensuring accurate and authentic portrayal, including age, will help ensure this quality in output.

TV: Protecting Our Children

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 15:56 UK time, Monday, 30 January 2012

Shaun - one of the contributors in Protecting Our Children - with his baby.

Shaun - one of the contributors in Protecting Our Children - with his baby.



Over on the BBC TV Blog series producer Sacha Mirzoeff tells how the new series of Protecting the Children came about and highlights some of the difficulties programme makers face when working in intensely sensitive subject areas:

It took months of hard work to try and persuade people to take part to show the real nitty gritty of the actual cases with families.

In the meantime all we could do was film the more straightforward parts that we knew would provide the 'glue' to make all the programmes piece together, like shots of the city, simple meetings amongst the social workers.

What was key was that everyone got used to us being around with our cameras, so when real action happened later we could film it, unhindered.

How do you even ask a family who are probably in the worst place of their lives whether they would like to consider taking part in a television programme?


Read the rest of Sacha's post on the BBC TV Blog



Whose job is it anyway?

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Peter Salmon Peter Salmon | 14:09 UK time, Friday, 27 January 2012

Performers from the BBC Philharmonic Presents...Salford Tales, based on the real life stories of people living and working in Salford (a collaboration between the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the Salford Symphony Orchestra).

Performers from the BBC Philharmonic Presents...Salford Tales, based on the real life stories of people living and working in Salford (a collaboration between the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the Salford Symphony Orchestra).

There's no denying the facts - in the eight months since we opened for business at MediaCityUK in May 2011, BBC North has so far directly employed an additional 24 residents from Salford. We have also recruited an additional 209 people from Greater Manchester, and a further 127 from across the North of England.

In the current economic climate, any talk of jobs will strike a nerve and some people and the media have criticised us for not doing enough to recruit Salford residents.

Any single job at the BBC routinely attracts scores of applications for every appointment. We also receive 180,000 CVs every year and 70,000 enquiries for work experience.

For BBC North alone, 68,000 people successfully registered via our dedicated job website for 680 vacancies. A hundred people for every job.

Like other major national organisations, and even more so because we are funded by the UK public, the BBC cannot recruit by postcode. We would be doing a disservice to our audience if our recruitment process was geographically selective rather than based on the skills and experience of the applicants themselves. The quality of our output must remain paramount.

Nevertheless, more than half the jobs we advertised at BBC North went to people from across the North. Additionally our partners on the site are recruiting local residents directly as a result of the BBC. Balfour Beatty for example, who help run our buildings, employ 90 people from the Salford area alone and even more from across the North West. So that means - including existing staff who moved from Oxford Road - we now have over 200 Salfordians in our buildings.

But to make a bigger, longer-term difference, we knew we would have to adopt a 'slow-but-grow' approach to training and developing the local workforce. In Salford, with its high levels of unemployment sometimes across generations of families, we knew the challenge would be substantial.

So, in the past year we have launched two schemes for Salfordians and people from across Greater Manchester to work for and train with us at MediaCityUK and build a workforce of the future.

Our BBC North Young Ambassador and Apprenticeship schemes have been developed specifically for people with little or no job experience or formal qualifications and who might never have otherwise considered the BBC as somewhere to work.

Building the skills base is the reason we launched the BBC North Apprenticeship scheme. The principle of apprenticeships isn't new - it stretches back to the Middle Ages in England, and there is resurgence in apprenticeships today because they can address current concerns about skills shortages in specific areas.

At a time when unemployment is a serious and growing issue they offer a route into skilled jobs. For that reason we have based our scheme on the traditional model - salaried jobs with training. Our apprentices train in specific roles for between 12 and 18 months with on-the-job training in areas such as production or technology, receive mentoring and study for a qualification. And at the end of their apprenticeship, there is a job for them at the BBC. Our ambition is to offer 100 apprenticeships at MediaCityUK in the first four years. Sixteen have already started working on-site and we are about to start a second wave of recruitment.

For local 16 to 18 year olds, when even getting first job experience can prove almost impossible these days, we have launched the Young Ambassadors. At any one time we expect to have eight ambassadors employed at BBC North. During their six months with us they will work across a variety of departments, receive mentoring by a member of staff and study towards an external qualification. I believe that as many of them come to us with no experience whatsoever, these six months provide invaluable training, build their confidence and hopefully helps them on the road to either another job with us, if the opportunity arises, or elsewhere in further education and training.

And let's not forget the impact our investment in programming, training and development can have outside our own buildings. We have made hundreds of hours of drama, comedy, entertainment, factual and news for television and radio, spending millions of pounds with production companies across the North of England. And we have encouraged production partners - from Sheffield to Liverpool - to offer trainee placements wherever possible.

But it isn't just about employment. I am proud that we are in Salford and we are here for the long-term. So it's as important that we become part of the local community through projects that bring people into our buildings or take us out to them. Thousands of school children have taken part in projects with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Learning and BBC News Schools Report. From producing the first live broadcast from MediaCityUK to writing new music, it is as important to engage and inspire as it is to develop bespoke employment opportunities.

And our own staff are increasingly getting involved through volunteering and are taking a more active role with local schools and colleges directly. For example we are already working with The Oasis Academy which will be the closest secondary school to MediaCityUK when it opens later this year.

So those 24 from Salford might only be a start but, I would argue, a promising start.

Earlier this week one of the newspapers asked "Can the BBC save Salford?". Well, Salford doesn't need saving. Salford needs companies to invest in its residents for the long term. Alongside the BBC, others including The Salford Foundation, University of Salford, ITV, Peel Media and a plethora of smaller companies, not only in MediaCityUK, but across the area, are making a difference.

At the moment that difference might seem small to some people but remember we are eight months into a twenty year-project and we are just building the foundations for a sustainable and successful future. For BBC North but also for our neighbours here too.

The next generation of BBC journalists

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Helen Boaden | 14:14 UK time, Thursday, 19 January 2012

Helen Boaden welcomes the new journalism trainees to the BBC.

Helen Boaden welcomes the new journalism trainees to the BBC.

Last night I welcomed the latest intake of trainees onto our Journalism Trainee Scheme. This is the fifth course we've run and, once again, we're both impressed and very proud of the people we've met and selected for this year's scheme.

The 12 trainees will now embark on the year-long course, taking up placements all around the UK. They will work across a broad range of BBC services to gain the widest experience possible to equip them for employment when the scheme ends. This will involve finding and researching news stories, writing and presenting bulletins, and reporting for TV, radio and online. They will also be assigned a mentor, to support and guide them throughout the year. In turn, we expect lots of hard work and for them to maintain the high professional standards expected of BBC journalists.

The 2012 intake of journalism trainees are pictured with Ruth Akins (far left), Claire Prosser(far right) and Helen Boaden (centre).

The 2012 intake of journalism trainees are pictured with Ruth Akins (far left), Claire Prosser(far right) and Helen Boaden (centre).

It's been a rigorous selection process and we've looked for the best of each individual. In recruiting for the course, we are more concerned with talent, potential and passion to achieve great things than academic background and this is reflected in the diversity of candidates accepted each year.

Our new trainees should feel very proud. They're going to receive impeccable training to be the best, impartial journalists who care about delivering the very best for their audiences. We wish them well !

Looking at the stars on a BBC Big Screen

Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 16:04 UK time, Monday, 16 January 2012

Editor's Note: Stephen Morgan, Screen Manager for BBC Big Screens in Swansea and Cardiff, wrote for the About the BBC blog in December 2011. In this post he reports on the first BBC Big Screen event for 2012 in Swansea ahead of Stargazing Live.


Thousands of people across the UK braved the cold conditions and joined us at selected BBC Big Screen sites on Saturday for a sparkling BBC Stargazing experience - encouraging everyone to make the most of the night sky.

I look after the BBC Big Screen in Swansea and what a relief to see that the recent blanket of thick cloud cover finally gave way to crisp, clear, starry nights - the perfect setting, you could say, for a new series of Stargazing on BBC Two, tonight.

BBC Big Screens host hundreds of family-friendly events every year and it's always a treat to work with colleagues, to bring out-of-this-world content from the BBC, to the heart of our city centres.

People expect something special from our BBC events and there was a real appetite for building knowledge and discovering more about the mystery and majesty of the stars. As one man put it to me, "It's mind blowing. You can't get your head around the distances and the size of these objects".

It may have been daytime at our events, but on the BBC Big Screens, there was a rare opportunity to see deep space images, live from the Faulkes Telescope, Hawaii, with expert commentary from Dr Paul Roche and Fran Scott.

One of my favourites was this picture of the Sunflower Galaxy (below).

What a sight. And as you can see, everyone else was also in awe of its beauty. A young woman told me, "The screen stuff is brilliant. To see it live is something I didn't think I'd get to see". Some images were digitally enhanced.

A selection of the most intriguing questions was answered in an interactive Big Screen application. Why are stars different colours?

It may have been bitterly cold, but the weather was the last thing on people's minds. In Swansea, we had a heated marquee, equipped with its very own planetarium, where people could see the galaxy and the planets in detail. There were activities at every event.

A picture of a queue of people waiting to gain entry to watch Stargazing Live on a big screen in Swansea.

Thousands of BBC Stargazing guides were distributed to audiences and people had an opportunity to look at the latest apps available on tablet devices. At some sites, we were able to beam pictures straight from a tablet computer onto the Big Screen and identified the stars above our heads! Here's an app demonstration at Big Screen Plymouth.

A BBC Big Screen in Plymouth during the Stargazing event.

Fascinating stuff, for everyone to see and a great start for what we're hoping will be an amazing year for BBC Big Screens this year.

  • Stargazing Live presented by Dara O'Briain and Professor Brian Cox is broadcast live from the control room of Jodrell Bank University on BBC Two at 8.30pm 16 - 19 January 2012. Programme details, star maps and how-to guides are available via the programme website.
  • Details about free Stargazing Live related events can be found via the BBC Things to Do website.
  • The programme's astronomer Mark Thomson blogs about the plan to get all the lights of a town in Somerset simultaneously turned off live on air during the programme.
  • Details on about forthcoming BBC Big Screen events are available here. An interactive map of all of the UK locations can be found here.

Round-Up from Across the BBC

Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 13:14 UK time, Monday, 16 January 2012

Richard Baker reading the news in 1964

Richard Baker reading over his script before the BBC TV News at 7.30pm on 5th July 1954.

In the first of a regular series of posts on About the BBC, here's a collection - a summary, if you like - of some of the blogs written by colleagues across the organisation over the past seven days.

Director Diarmuid Lawrence writes on the TV blog about the production of the Mystery of Edwin Drood:

... I like to think that the governor himself, the extraordinary Charles Dickens, would approve even if, as seems highly likely, it wasn't what he intended at all. We all had great fun second-guessing him and the finished films are agreeably recognisable as true to our original vision.

Comments on the TV blog responded well to Diarmuid's hope, many commenting on great performances, with one calling for a TV adaptation of Dickens' Hard Times.

There's an honest if dispiriting assessment of Thinking Aloud presenter Laurie Taylor's experience at the gym, Ben Motley's post for the Radio 4 Extra blog on recording 'Dickens on Location' includes details of forthcoming radio adaptations of some of Dickens' works aired on BBC Radio 4 Extra including Hard Times (beginning 16 January), Barnaby Rudge (beginning 25 January), Little Dorrit (beginning 30 January), Our Mutual Friend (beginning 6 February).

The BBC Audio Drama Awards shortlist appears on the BBC Radio blog.

Former Channel 4 Hollyoaks actress Sasha Valentine describes what she discovered while working on the BBC Three documentary Websex - What's the harm?

I hooked up with Professor Andy Phippen who was running a study on what 16-24 years olds were doing online and what he discovered shocked me. An amazing 80% of those asked have used either a smartphone or the web for some kind of sexual contact.* This is the first time anyone's ever had any kind of figures about how widespread websex is.

The programme is available on BBC iPlayer for seven days.

Composer Michael Zev Gordon continues his series of posts about the process of composing a new piece for the BBC Symphony Orchestra on the BBC Radio 3 blog.

PRS for Music Foundation Executive Producer Vanessa Reid also posts on the Radio 3 blog launching a UK tour of performances of twenty specially commissioned twelve minute works. The music will be performed in venues across the UK, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and be part of a weekend celebration at London's Southbank Centre from July 13-15.

Over at the BBC Academy, the BBC College of Journalism website celebrates its fifth birthday with a post written by the College Director Jonathan Baker pointing to a forthcoming website redesign.

Finally, a big hand to the Writers Room for being the first blog to have been moved on to a new publishing system with a new page design (BBC blogs network product manager Jessica Shiel explains the work involved in implementing a new blogging platform at the BBC on the BBC Internet Blog).

The Writers Room have marked their 'move' with "an advisory list of potential delights and horrors when writing Doctors scripts". Point number nine raised a smile,

Don't begin an episode with someone making an appointment to see a doctor.

Dragons, we've moved your chairs ...

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 13:36 UK time, Thursday, 5 January 2012

Editor's Note: Sam Lewens is Executive Producer of Dragons' Den. Here he writes about the programme's move to Salford.

Well no one said it would be easy! We've been talking about trying to bring the Den up to the North West for well over a year now.

The thing is, that of the nine month production period, only 18 (very long) days are spent each year filming down at Pinewood Studios. So to be able to announce that we will be making the whole programme from up here feels like closure for a process that started many years ago, after we first took over the series in 2006.


The chairs sat on by the Dragons in Dragons Den.


Of course big thanks need to go to all the Dragons who were very generous and flexible with their diaries to try and make the logistics work for everyone. When one of the dailies printed a story about two of the Dragons threatening to pull out if filming was moved up here, it was obviously not the best of mornings! But it was a rumour quickly dispelled, and I¹m pleased to say that all five are raring to go, and keen to build on the success of the latest series.

The Den is truly a magical place, as anyone who has passed through it will testify. From the outside, it may sometimes feel like the Willy Wonka Factory of the business world.

But witness the excitement and nerves of budding entrepreneurs, desperate to convince the multi-millionaires that theirs is the business plan most deserving of investment, and all skepticism is set aside. I know it sounds misty eyed, but I really do like the idea of knowing that the Den will be nearby. It is the heart of the production, and yet for years it has been 200 miles away. Dozens of entrepreneurs from all over the country will now be travelling to Salford. And for a lucky few, this is the place where their business dreams will come true.

I personally won't miss the 80s-style hotel in Beaconsfield where we camped out during our weeks down south. I did go to one of their fortnightly Friday night discos but it was way too surreal an experience for me. In my head, I was transported back to being my awkward fourteen year old former self, but my actual 40-odd year old current self was now in a room full of grown ups all still desperately trying to make sure they had someone to dance with when Careless Whisper was played at the end of the night!

A sad goodbye though to Pinewood, who have been brilliant partners for us for the last five years, and an even sadder goodbye to those showbiz moments where we would accidently bump into Johnny Depp or Daniel Craig.

But then an exciting hello to the chance to have pre-production, production and post-production in one space, and where of course we can always look forward to accidently bumping into Misters Tumble and Bloom (my kids will be much more impressed!).

And 2012, among other things, is the Year of the Dragon. And it feels good to say for definite, that it will be the year of the Dragons here in Salford.

  • Find out more about the Dragon's Den on the show website where you'll find clips and information about the Dragons.
  • Dragon's Den also has a Twitter account. You can follow it here.

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