A global commodity
A new report by the International Broadcasting Trust suggests the quality of British TV coverage of the wider world has dipped significantly over the last past two years. Its conclusion is that TV needs to raise its game. The criticism is less about daily news programmes, but more focused on factual programmes. Indeed, the report says news programmes have demonstrated imagination and an appetite for innovation – it warns “other genres – especially documentary and drama – need to be bolder and more ambitious, and seek out new ways of telling international stories”.
Yesterday – as the report was being published in London – BBC News was on both sides of the Turkish/Iraqi border reporting on the tension between Ankara and the PKK – the only UK broadcaster to have both perspectives.
We were in Beijing reporting on the selection of the Politburo and the anointing of the man likely to be China’s next president. And two years after the IBT’s last report criticised the coverage of the developing world, former Africa correspondent Fergal Keane reported on the $5m “good governance” prize awarded to the former president of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano – providing a different perspective on a continent where much of the reporting is characterised by despair and a lack of hope.
News is now a global commodity – the traditional distinction between “domestic” and “international” news is probably less than at any time in the past. The report correctly identifies the globalisation of information – the connections between the tribal areas of Pakistan and the radical Islam, the rise of China driving up costs in the world economy, the impact of human behaviour on climate change. Only by understanding what’s happening in another part of the planet, can you really make sense of what’s going on round the corner.
The BBC has a specific remit in the new Royal Charter to “bring the world to the UK” - the report recommends a more “joined-up” approach to our international coverage using the resources of the World Service and BBC World to help inform the UK audience, and build on existing links between UK communities and the wider world via its Nations and Regions output. We’re already doing some of this. Audiences with digital TV in the UK can already see BBC World at 7pm on BBC Four, and the World Service has plans to improve its multi-media operations in languages relevant to ethnic communities in the UK.
The IBT report is welcome – but read beyond the headlines. International news has a vital place in understanding what’s going on, not just in the UK but around the world.