March 2013 Newsletter

Ritchie Cogan
Ritchie Cogan 1st March 2013

Welcome to IBT’s March newsletter with a brief update on our work and relevant news from the media industry.  (Print this Newsletter – pdf)


Welcome to India master class

This month we are organising our first master class. We’re delighted that the producers of Welcome to India have agreed to come and talk to us. This was the standout documentary series of 2012 and successfully brought issues connected to poverty and development to a mainstream audience. It reinvented a format first established with Welcome to Lagos. In this master class, the series director Tom Beard will show clips and talk about the process of development and shooting, what the brief was from BBC2, how he wanted to challenge popular perceptions about poverty and how he looked for strong human stories which highlighted key issues. This is a great opportunity for media officers and others to gain a better understanding of how documentary producers think about stories/issues and how they attempt to make challenging subjects accessible to mainstream audiences. It will also be a good networking opportunity for anyone who wishes to get to know a leading independent production company. Welcome to India was made by Keo Films which has a track record of innovative approaches to international issues. They’re responsible for a range of peak time shows, including Hugh’s Fish Fight, River Cottage and Meet the Natives. Also attending the workshop will be a member of Keo’s development team who will give us an insight into how indies pitch to broadcasters. The master class will take place from 10-11.30am on Tuesday March 19th. This is a free event for IBT members but places need to be booked in advance. For a current list of members see Places are also available to non members for a fee of £50 payable in advance. Let me know if you’d like to attend.


Parliamentary event on aid and the role of the media

Last month we held a parliamentary event, in conjunction with IDS, which looked at ways of building public support for aid and in particular at how to engage the media more effectively in this process. The round table was chaired by the Labour MP, Alison McGovern, and attended by a number of Parliamentarians, NGOs and media representatives. There was a strong call from the media side for NGOs to think in terms of ‘stories’ rather than ‘issues’ and a recognition that a more concerted effort was needed by NGOs and Parliamentarians to change the nature of the public conversation and to find concrete examples of the positive impact of aid but at the same time to engage in an honest debate about the limits of aid. Bringing these three groups together was the beginning of what we hope will be a fruitful dialogue. The feedback from the round table has been positive with a number of participants asking for follow up meetings. A briefing note on the discussion is available to all IBT members – get in touch with Sophie Chalk, IBT’s Head of Campaigns, if you’d like a copy.


Impact of IBT report on the future of current affairs

Last month we published our research report An Uncertain Future – the threat to current affairs, which looked at the future of the genre that is considered to be most at risk if the Government takes a deregulatory approach in any future Communications Bill. We held a round table discussion which was attended by leading producers, commissioners, regulators and media journalists. There was a consensus that the report presented a strong case for regulation to ensure that current affairs retains its place in the schedules. The round table was followed by a leading article in Broadcast, the industry magazine and a think piece by Maggie Brown in Guardian Online. We also presented the research findings to officials at DCMS, the department responsible for broadcast policy. The report can be downloaded from the IBT website or obtained in hard copy from the IBT office.


BBC Trust review of all tv channels and news output

The BBC Trust has announced that it will review all the BBC’s tv channels and news output later this year. This is the biggest ever review undertaken by the Trust and the most important one to date. IBT will be submitting detailed evidence in consultation with its membership. It’s an important opportunity for us to look critically at the impact of the BBC’s global purpose to ‘bring the world to the UK’ and how effectively it is being delivered. In previous research we have found that fewer international programmes are being commissioned and many of these are migrating to the niche channels. Drama is a particular weakness with a near total absence of international dramas – the recent Mary and Martha is a notable exception. News output retains a strong international element but the range of stories being covered is narrowing.


Al Jazeera English briefing

Last week we heard from Ben Rayner, Head of News at Al Jazeera English.  Ben gave a useful overview of how the channel works, who commissions stories, what sort of stories appeal to them and names of key contacts. The channel has a particular interest in stories from Africa and the Middle East and strong coverage of Latin America. They are keen to develop good relationships with NGOs and there are opportunities for NGO staff to appear in studio discussions. It was good to hear that Al Jazeera English remains committed to a wider news agenda than the main UK news broadcasters. One of the key findings of the news survey which we published in The World in Focus was the fact that AJE regularly reported from significantly more countries than any other broadcaster.


Live tv watching still dominates

The latest figures on tv viewing from the industry marketing body, Thinkbox, show that the average tv viewer in the UK watches 4 hours and 4 minutes of tv a day. It’s the third year running that it has topped the 4 hour mark. Despite the proliferation of catch up and mobile, most television is watched live by people sitting in front of an actual television: the current figure is 90%, a drop of less than 1 per cent compared with a year ago.


Changes to IBT governance

As many of you know, we have been updating our governance to establish IBT as an incorporated charity. This has now been done, as a result of which we have a new charity number and new Memorandum and Articles. We shall also be electing a new group of Trustees at the next AGM in June. In future, we shall have a core group of 10 Trustees, 6 of whom will represent the membership. All members are eligible to put their names forward. We shall be making a formal announcement about the process for recruiting new Trustees in the next month or so.


Film festivals coming up soon 

–  The Human Rights Watch Film Festival runs from March 13-22 across a number of London venues. Key films include Salma, a documentary directed by Kim Longinotto, which tells the story of how a young Indian Muslim girl unexpectedly became a famous poet; War Witch, directed by Kim Nguyen, a drama shot entirely in DRC which focuses on life inside a rebel camp, and Wadjda, directed by Haifaa Al Mansour, the first full length feature shot entirely inside Saudi Arabia, which tells the story of a girl growing up in a suburb of Riyadh.

–  The Birds Eye Film Festival is back, also in a number of London venues, from April 3-10. This year it celebrates the work of Arab women filmmakers. Highlights include When I Saw You, a new film by Annemarie Jacir, Palestine’s first female feature director, which tells the story of a young boy escaping from a refugee camp in 1967, and On the Edge, by Leila Kilani, a fast paced drama giving an insight into the dark side of life in the Moroccan city of Tangier.



Best wishes


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