How Islamic Relief is using a gaming app to reach young audiences

Last October Islamic Relief UK launched an innovative gaming app, Virtue Reality. Its aim was to inform young people about how aid works and to tackle prejudice against Muslims. Judith Escribano, Head of Communications at Islamic Relief UK, explains the story behind Virtue Reality.

A couple of years ago, Mark Galloway, Director of IBT, asked me what my boys watched on television. ‘Nothing’, I replied. His eyes nearly popped out of his head! I told him that they and most of their friends just watch YouTube videos and play online games on their phones.

And that set me thinking. How could we, as the communications department of a charity, reach young people if they weren’t watching television or reading papers? And when algorithms mean they may not be seeing the social media posts we want them to see?

At the same time, I was reading Shelina Janmohamed’s book Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World. And I discovered that young British Muslims either felt that they were not represented in films, TV programmes or video games; or when they were, they saw themselves represented as terrorists (if male) or weak and oppressed (if female). And I thought about the impact that must have on the psyche of a young British Muslim.

I wondered if we could produce a video game app as a means of reaching young British Muslims and as a way to communicate Islamic Relief UK’s two key messages: aid works, and Muslims are inspired by their faith to donate to charity and to do good in the world. Could this also be a way of tackling widespread islamophobia in the media?

 

We didn’t want our game to be preachy

Since we’d never done anything like this before, we didn’t know whether it would work, let alone how successful it would be. But the CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide took a risk and allowed me to go ahead with the game without demanding any KPIs. A huge relief! We found a brilliant developer in Shahid Ahmad, the Managing Director of Ultimatum Games. As a Muslim, he had suffered Islamophobia and tokenism both in the gaming sector and society at large. He could bring his own experiences and passion to the project. But he also knew how to create compelling games. This was important to us because we didn’t want our game to be preachy. We wanted people to enjoy playing it, to share it, to talk about it. And to feel good about seeing people like themselves in it.

Shahid’s wealth of experience meant that he could create a game that was both informative AND fun. Starting with a microdam in Mali, players work their way through real-life projects run by Islamic Relief UK, hiring staff of different genders, ethnicities and appearances and earning ‘deed coins’ for their work. Once a certain amount of money is earned on a project, it is upgraded to different levels and once these levels are maxed out, new projects open up.

We rolled out Virtue Reality at Sheffield’s National Videogame Museum during Charity Week – a crucial fundraising initiative for Islamic Relief run by Islamic Student Societies at universities across the country. We invited local schools to come along and try out the game. And my media team targeted a range of media, recognising that this story straddles many themes: children’s; education; faith; BME; technology; charity; international development; local; and even mainstream news.

A still from Islamic Relief’s mobile game Virtue Reality

 

Broadcasters were keen to cover the launch

One of the reasons we had such success with media is that we made the launch visually attractive for broadcasters. Over an hour at the event was dedicated to children playing the game and being interviewed by journalists as they played. The BBC, Sky’s children’s programme FYI and the Islam Channel all attended and broadcast footage. We also prepared spokespeople for different specialities on the day: Shahid from the tech perspective; our Head of Programmes to talk about in-country work; our Head of Fundraising to talk about Charity Week. And myself to talk about where the idea came from. Having so much to offer meant we could give our diverse media exactly what they wanted.

The media interest validated the product. Editors who were quiet at first started warming up again a week after the launch event, having seen coverage on the BBC News website and across charity sector media. And the more the game was shared via external links online, the more it was shared on social media by influencers like Shuhei Yoshida (Sony’s President of Worldwide Studios), and Melissa Fleming, Director of Global Communications at the UN. Many communications professionals will be familiar with that domino effect of attention on your campaign or message. That was the case with Virtue Reality.

So far we have had coverage in over 50 outlets – and are still fielding interview requests three months after launch. It has been downloaded over 5,000 times and currently has a 5 star rating on the appstore and 4.8 star rating on Google PlayStore. And Virtue Reality’s journey is far from over. It has now been launched by our offices in Malaysia and Germany, and this year, offices in Canada, the US and Australia will introduce it to their markets.

Check it out for yourselves by downloading the app for free on the appstore or Google PlayStore. Tell us what you think!

 


If your organisation is interested in becoming a member of IBT, please get in touch here.

New ways of telling stories

We recently launched our new report Podcasts: where next? In the audience was Catherine Raynor, co-founder of Mile 91, a storytelling agency for charities and changemakers that provides both production and training services. She was previously Head of Media at VSO and during that time was a Trustee of IBT. We asked Catherine to give us her key takeaways from the report.

If someone told you there was a way to tell stories that didn’t mean squeezing everything into two minutes, was possible to produce on a low budget and that would result in more than half your audience researching more about what they’d learnt, would you be interested in knowing what that was? I assume your answer is yes.

These are just some of the things I learnt at the launch of Podcasts: where next? I think we’ve all been to events where we come out with a freshly clear inbox and a report that eventually finds its way into the recycling. This is not one of them and I would really encourage any charity storyteller, regardless of whether you work for an international organisation, to read this report because it is packed full of really fascinating insight and practical advice that is transferable to any sector.

The panel event, hosted by Channel 4 and chaired by Krishnam Guru-Murthy, was a rich, varied and at times funny conversation. Here are my top ten takeaways:

 

1. The market is booming

In 2019 one in eight adults listened to a podcast at least once a week, double the number just five years earlier. But the stat that blew my mind is that in the 15-24 age group podcast downloads surpassed music downloads for the first time in 2019. For charities desperately trying to reach younger audiences this is massive news.

 

2. They’re the most engaged audiences in town

68% of audiences listen to the entire episode they’ve downloaded and with 91% listening alone you really do have a captive audience. 67% of listeners go on to discuss a topic with family and friends and 52% will research more about the topic.

 

3. Longer is better

In an era when a three minute film is the ‘long’ version and an in-depth written story tops out at about 500 words, podcasts are almost inconceivably luxurious in the opportunity they offer. But 20 minutes is seen as the best digestible length.

 

4. You can be nuanced

The longer length means you can explore an issue or a story in more length, unpicking back stories and discussing the complexities of an issue. People who listen to podcasts are an interested audience who are actively seeking information so give it to them

 

5. Don’t be boring

Actively seeking information is not an invitation to be lectured to. Podcasts are still entertainment, so find creative ways to broach your issues. One of the panellists, Sarah King, was from the Institute of Development Studies and their podcast is called Between the Lines which follows the book group model, centring each episode on a different book.

 

6. Ditch your talking heads

Podcasts are not the place for clipped rehearsed soundbites. We’ve all turned off the radio when a slick overly trained spokesperson is spouting key messages and that’s just a one minute interview. Podcasts are intimate experiences and need engaging and authentic voices who will talk freely and openly.

 

7. Podcasts are good for sex

A comment that got a ripple of laughter from the audience, but the point was serious: podcasts allow you to liberate issues and conversations that may not work for radio or the TV sofa shows.

 

8. Commitment is needed

Chucking out one podcast and expecting it to be a success is not going to work. Commitment and consistency is needed and you have to invest time in discoverability. Whether you go for an interview, round table discussion or narrative format, it will take time to grow your audience so you need to commit to a series or a regular pattern of new episodes.

 

9. Content is evergreen

Although it will take time to build your audience old episodes will always be there (if you want them to be) and so, when you capture new audiences, they will be able to rummage around in your archives.

 

10. They are not expensive

Podcasts do not need to be big budget endeavours. Taking your audiences to communities and countries they may not otherwise visit is an opportunity but it is not the only way. With the right voices you can produce perfectly good podcasts in a quiet room and with a good quality microphone.

 

These are just some of my takeaways but the report is full of lots more interesting insight plus advice on hosting platforms and how to pitch stories to existing podcast. Do have a read.

How Save the Children helped rescue British children trapped in Syria

Last Autumn, Save the Children launched a successful campaign to bring the so called ‘ISIS children’ back to the UK. This group of orphans was stranded in an area of Syria previously controlled by ISIS. Media coverage played an important role in the success of the campaign as Dan Stewart, media manager at Save the Children explains.

Save the Children supporters recently helped transform the lives of a group of British children caught up in horrors far beyond their control.

The Government announced they were bringing home some of the innocent, British orphans who had been stranded in appalling conditions in overcrowded camps in northeast Syria after fleeing areas that had been under the control of ISIS.

Their short lives have been full of violence and fear but this brilliant news means these children have the precious chance to recover, have happy childhoods and live full lives. All children deserve that chance. And for the British children among them we can make it happen by bringing them to the UK.

This didn’t just happen on its own. It has taken a huge effort to get to this point and Save the Children campaigners have played an absolutely integral role. They spoke out in their thousands and our Government listened.

More than 10,000 campaigners emailed the Government calling on them to bring home all British children stranded in north-east Syria.These messages were sent in just five days, as support surged.

 

Media coverage

The campaign was given a boost when the BBC found three British orphans in a camp – stranded and in danger. Conditions for British children were now on the agenda but we were worried attention would die away before pressure built enough to make a difference. It was important for Save the Children to use our position as one of the few NGOs working in the northeast to keep the story going.

Fighting then came dangerously close to the British orphans’ camp. Hundreds of women and children fled and chaos reigned. But through our contacts Save the Children was able to confirm that the British orphans had been taken to safety nearby location, though they weren’t in our care.

Later, we were able to reveal that altogether there were more than 60 British children trapped in the area. This key part of the picture – previously unknown – generated widespread coverage in the media and helped decision-makers understand the scale of the issue.

All of this helped keep the issue high on the news and political agenda. Other voices joined in. Supportive articles in places like the Guardian and the Times soon followed.

Then we took our campaign direct to those in power. Save the Children projected ‘Don’t leave British children trapped in Syria’ onto the Houses of Parliament the evening before parliament dissolved for the election campaign. We sent a 50 sq m message that children’s lives cannot be left at risk for months in dangerous, freezing limbo while the election unfolds.

 

Impact

We started seeing positive signs coming from the corridors of power and the Government shifted position. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said for the first time that he thought ‘innocents should not be caught in the crossfire’ and he would look at whether British and orphans could be given safe passage to the UK. MPs from all parties spoke out in support and the Government acknowledged a duty of care to the British children in North East Syria. These are the building blocks of real change.

Everywhere we work has one thing in common: children are incredible. They want to play and learn, and just be children again. And they want to grow up to be doctors, teachers and football players. With the right care they can bounce back, recover and amaze us. They just need the chance. These children are no different, no matter what they’ve been dragged into by the decisions of adults.

By starting to bring these children home the Government showed they are prepared to do what’s right and stand up for children – even when it’s difficult. But this has to be only the start.

There are still as many as 60 British children that remain stranded in appalling conditions and Syria’s harsh winter will soon begin to bite. All are as innocent as those who have been rescued and our very real fear is that they won’t all survive to see the spring.

Everyone who helped bring these first children home should be incredibly proud, from campaigners making their voices heard to those working tirelessly behind the scenes. Every child saved is a triumph of compassion in the face of cruelty. Now it’s time to finish the job. They must all be brought home before it is too late.

Find out more about Save the Children’s campaign

 


If your organisation is interested in becoming a member of IBT, please get in touch here.

 

How Plan created the period emoji

In October 2019, a new period emoji made its way onto mobile phones all over the world. Designed by the team at Plan International UK, the emoji hopes to open up the conversation around menstruation and period poverty. We asked Laura MacLeman, Press and Media Manager at Plan International UK to give us a behind the scenes look at the campaign.

 

Q: How did you conceive and develop the idea for the Period Emoji campaign?

Back in 2017, the idea came up in a creative brainstorm. We knew we had a series of PR moments coming up focusing on reproductive health and rights, starting with Menstrual Hygiene Day in May. We’d also just started to build our work on girls’ rights here in the UK and we were looking for ideas that bridged the gap between our global and domestic work. The emoji felt like a creative, relevant and low-cost way to talk about the sometimes difficult topic of menstruation, and something that could have a tangible impact. We carried out a survey which found that almost half of women aged 18-34 believed that a period emoji would make it easier to discuss periods with friends and partners. That seemed like reason enough to try and make it a reality.

 

Q: What was involved in bringing the idea to life? Can you describe the process of creating an emoji?

The best word I can use for the process is long! Our Digital team did a lot of research before the campaign, so we knew we had to show the Unicode Consortium – who decide which emojis to take forward – that there was a significant public interest in this emoji being approved, and that nothing else existed that could stand in its place.

We did this by getting our supporters involved from the outset. Our in-house designer created various emojis and we asked the public to vote for their favourite. We had over 55,000 votes, so we knew we were on to something.

Unfortunately, the ‘period pants’ design that was originally chosen was rejected by Unicode and we were advised that we were more likely to be successful if the emoji had multiple uses. So we teamed up with NHS Blood to resubmit the successful blood drop emoji (the runner-up in the public vote).

 

Q: Did you have a specific target audience in mind for this campaign?

We wanted to get as many people on board as possible to show Unicode that there was a real need for the emoji. But we also knew it would resonate most with a younger female audience – which is slightly different to our existing supporter base – so we adjusted our communications accordingly. Our main media targets were places like Marie Claire, Grazia and Stylist – outwardly feminist titles read by our primary target audience. We also did some paid Facebook activity targeting younger women.

 

Q: How did you plan your media and communications to sustain engagement with the public throughout the campaign?

We knew that if we could get campaigners and journalists on side from the beginning, they would want to follow this story through to the end no matter what the outcome. If we hadn’t got the emoji that would have been a story in itself – why have emojis for unicorns, wizards and at least three different types of trains been approved, but not one for periods?!

Our campaign on period stigma has also been a lot wider than the emoji. In the past two years we’ve released the only representative statistics on girls facing period poverty in the UK, written a first-of-its-kind report, Break the Barriers, looking at period poverty and stigma in the UK and how this is linked to period poverty globally, and our Let’s Talk. Period. programme with sexual health and wellbeing charity, Brook, which has supported a huge number of girls across the UK.

Building up our expertise in this area has meant we’re consistently quoted in media stories and have become a go-to voice on periods.

 

Q: How has the media responded? Why do you think this is?

The media reaction to the arrival of the period emoji has been incredible, and we’ve had coverage everywhere from the Sun to Vogue. We really targeted technology reporters and women’s interest press, both of whom had a specific interest in the emoji, and the majority of coverage has been really positive and supportive.

There has definitely been a step change in the past two or three years around reporting about menstruation, though. When we first launched the campaign in early 2017, members of my team remember it being a really hard sell, with journalists literally laughing down the phone. So much has changed in that time – period poverty in the UK, and the stigma that contributes to this, has been highlighted as a real issue by individuals and organisations including Plan International UK, so I think by the time we were successful in getting the emoji the need for it was much more widely accepted.

 

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced during this campaign?

Unicode don’t share a lot of information on their decision-making process, so we never knew the timelines they were working to. We found out that the emoji was on keyboards when a member of staff happened to download their IOS update! That made communications tricky, as we had to be nimble and reactive rather than being able to plan in advance. We had to get as much ready to go as possible, and then just work like mad to get it all out there.

 

Q: How have you measured the impact of the campaign?

The main objective of all Plan International UK’s campaigns is to create actual change for girls, so the approval of the emoji and it now being available to use globally is the most tangible measure of success, and the one we’re most proud of.

We aimed to create this change – and open up the conversation around periods at the same time – through media coverage and digital engagement, and had measurable KPIs. We were aiming for a social media reach of 2 million (with 2,000 engagements across all channels), 500 solidarity votes on which emoji to put forward, and a modest 20 media clippings (as previously mentioned, the media environment wasn’t as period-friendly then as it is now).

The campaign completely outperformed these targets; from the activity surrounding the approval of the emoji in February 2019 alone we had 295 pieces of UK media coverage (and many more globally), our social media posts reached 4 million people with 8,500 engagements and drove 30,000 visits to our website – all at no cost.

It’s also been really interesting to see that the emoji has resonated across countries, and our colleagues in other Plan offices have been able to get real cut-through in their media landscapes too – from the Netherlands to Australia and even the government-run channels in China! So in that sense it’s been a truly global campaign.

Find out more about Plan’s Period Emoji Campaign

 


If your organisation is interested in becoming a member of IBT, please get in touch here.

Global Britain after Brexit

It’s time for the media to stop focusing on Brexit and look more closely at the UK’s global role. The general election is a great opportunity for the international development community to highlight UK soft power as the sector makes the case for retaining 0.7% and the importance of a separate Department for International Development.

By Nasim Salad, UK Policy & Advocacy Coordinator, ONE

 

In the last 3 years, Brexit has dominated not only UK foreign policy, but also media coverage in general. As such, the role of Britain’s global influence has received few column inches despite our soft power being amongst the best in the world.

Britain is currently ranked as 2nd in the Soft Power Index. From our world class universities and lifesaving scientific research, to our internationally renowned entertainers and artists, Britain’s global influence across academia, science and culture is well documented. Yet, Britain’s commitment to international development, one of the most prominent contributors to our world-class soft power, is all too often omitted.

Whilst the British press enjoys lauding our international pre-eminence in areas such as sport or science, the global recognition and respect for the UK on its development assistance is rarely covered. Many people are often surprised that the UK is admired for its international development achievements.

During the general election, this positive narrative should be conveyed more strongly across platforms, to inform the public of not just the incredible work that UK aid achieves, but to also celebrate that our development efforts are applauded globally.

Maintain 0.7%

Former Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell, once described the UK as a “development superpower”. The UK commits to spend 0.7% of its national income on aid, the only major economy to do so. The Overseas Development Institute has said it is necessary for every donor country to reach this target to end extreme poverty. This commitment is recognised internationally; a British Council survey of 20,000 young people from across the G20 nations showed that support for global development was the greatest driver of trust in the UK.

Retain a separate DFID

Britain’s development efforts are highly regarded. The Department for International Development (DFID), the main Government department delivering UK aid, is frequently ranked as one of the best development agencies in the world for its effectiveness and its transparency. UK aid has a remarkable impact on some of the poorest people in the world. In just 4 years, UK aid has reached 32 million people with humanitarian aid, helped 56 million children to be immunised, and supported 14 million children to gain a decent education. The British public understand that their generosity is helping to alleviate poverty. Recent polling suggests that 89% of UK respondents believe that helping people in developing countries is important.

At a time of political instability and rising populism, it is vital that Britain remains outward looking. This means ensuring that we retain an independent Department for International Development. In their Soft Power Index report, the authors at Portland Communications remark on recent rumours about departmental mergers, suggesting that such a merger would;  “Send a signal that the UK cares less about global development than it once did. The resulting impact on Britain’s soft power is unlikely to be positive.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and DFID are both experts in their respective fields. DFID lifts people out of poverty by educating children and vaccinating young mothers. The FCO exerts Britain’s diplomatic prowess in the world’s most difficult regions. Combining the functions of the departments risks blurring their respective objectives and damaging our international reputation just when we need it most.

2020 is a make or break year, Britain has many opportunities to enhance its soft power. It will be hosting the UK-Africa Investment Summit, the COP 26 (UN Climate Change Conference), and the Replenishment Conference for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. These summits offer major opportunities to enhance this global presence, and to lead efforts to promote sustainable economic growth in Africa, tackle climate change, and end preventable disease.

Maintaining the 0.7% commitment and accelerating efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals will be key to preserving our hard-earned global reputation. Now, more than ever, the British media need to be cheerleaders for our soft power.

 

How Oxfam made sustainable fashion mainstream news

Oxfam’s Second Hand September was one of its most successful campaigns, tapping into a public appetite, particularly amongst shoppers, to reduce their carbon footprint. What made the campaign so successful?
We asked Cordelia Kretzschmar, Head of Public Relations and Emma Fabian, Senior PR Press Officer at Oxfam GB to give us a behind the scenes look at the campaign.

 

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the campaign?

Cordelia: As the rest of the world has become more and more interested in the sustainable fashion story, we’ve found that it offers a rare opportunity for us to join up a number of things that Oxfam stands for. It really goes straight to the heart of what we do. Because if you buy second hand clothing from Oxfam all of the profits go towards the planet and the world’s poorest people. So it’s a double whammy for us. It felt like a really authentic and joined up campaign.

Emma: The actual idea was thought up by an individual in Oxfam, and then that was accepted by the organisation as the campaign that we would be running in the Summer.

C: We wanted to reach consumers and speak to them about something simple they can do so that they feel empowered about being able to do something about climate change. It also gave us an opportunity to talk about the wider issues around climate change. Because it often feels like such a huge problem, people get a bit paralysed about it. So we took that as a starting point and went from there.

 

Q: How did you plan your media campaign for maximum impact?

C: We knew that our job over the Summer was to get as much coverage as possible so that lots of people signed up to take the pledge. It was a crucial time period, so it was a bit of a no brainer to use our long-standing relationship with Glastonbury to launch the campaign. We were fortunate to get the headline acts of the festival to donate their stage outfits to us. So we had a team of people running around the backstage dressing rooms, and full support of the festival to make that happen. And the bands were amazing! We ended up with some incredible items, including Kylie Minogue’s sun visor! That story just got absolutely phenomenal coverage. It went around the world. So because of that celebrity buy in we launched the campaign really nicely at Glastonbury. It was part of a sequence of stories we mapped out to take us right from June through to the very beginning of September.

E: We commissioned a survey and conducted research showing that people got a lot of satisfaction from buying second hand. That generated a news story. Then later in the Summer we had a celebrity fashion shoot with Stella Tennant and her daughter, where they were wearing Oxfam clothes. We did a lot of work pitching that into the media, getting some definite features placed with the FT, Grazia and The Guardian before we did the shoot. Then afterwards, there was amazing coverage of that shoot. I suppose what both those things echo is that we’re using relationships that we’ve made over a long period of time; with Glastonbury and the relationships we’ve made in the fashion world. Which meant we had these influential voices speaking on Oxfam’s behalf.

C: The beauty of all of these stories was that it was an extremely cost effective campaign. For example the Glastonbury media story, which went global, was negligible in cost because it was just an email to the agents of the acts who were donating the clothing. This is always something we strive very hard to achieve.

 

Q: Did you face any difficulties getting the media interested in your campaign?

C: We were aware that the news agenda would be pretty busy during September. The MPs came back and it all started to kick off politically. We were unsure about how that would work for us. But I actually think a lot of outlets were looking for something a little more uplifting that wasn’t Westminster-based. You just have to be agile and adapt to what’s happening in the outside world as well as what’s happening internally.

E: When you’re talking about editorial and pitching to the media, there are never any guarantees. You just have to believe that what you’re doing is good. And that it’s news worthy. But you never know, because it’s not an exact science.

 

Q: How did you continue to build and sustain the interest around the campaign?

E: We are a very busy, very small team, so we jumped on every opportunity that we saw. We just kept pushing. Obviously there needs to be interest for you to be able to keep pushing, but we created momentum by being very proactive.

What we’re especially proud of is the way that it’s been adopted by people who also feel like they own the issue. There’s been loads and loads of mentions of #SecondHandSeptember in all sorts of media without necessarily attributing to Oxfam, because people have just made it their own. It’s become a thing!

And it’s done really well on social media as well. Particularly on Instagram, where we’ve had record levels of engagement. We’ve approached it very strategically, and the momentum we created throughout the Summer allowed our stories build. 

C: It’s a snowball effect. Once you launch something successfully into the media, it gets a life of its own. And that’s what’s happened here.

 

Q: When you started the campaign, did you have a specific target audience in mind?

C: I think it’s fair to say that we know the profile of the kinds of people who engage with the issue of sustainable fashion, and we know the profiles of the people who care about climate change because we’re very insight led here. It’s the smart way to do media work. But we are also always very aware that we’re talking to the whole of the UK through journalists and that in order to grow a movement we need to be speaking to everybody. So we wanted to make this very accessible to everyone.

 

Q: How have you measured the impact of the campaign?

C: We’ve got some fairly early stats on the number of people who took part, which was 62,000. We’ve also done some number crunching internally, and we can say that shoppers slashed the UK’s carbon footprint by 1500 tonnes in September – the equivalent of driving around the world 200 times!

E: We also do our evaluation of the campaign e.g. how many times the hashtag was used, how many times things were shared etc. Those numbers are very good. 37,000 people shared the hashtag. And from a comms perspective it has allowed us to make lots of new relationships, so that sets us up for the work we will continue to do beyond September.

 

Q: You’ve obviously had great reach and impact with this campaign, how did it compare to your original goals and targets?

C: It’s smashed them! And it’s not all down to our team. This was a massive cross organisational campaign! I guess this is a great example of what happens when you get real organisational buy in. The 62,000 people who signed up, they were being recruited at festivals across the summer by our teams on the ground. We’ve also got a social media team who were pushing out our messaging and repackaging our media and looking for content for our social channels. And we had a whole strategy around reaching out to digital influencers. Across the board, all the teams that worked across this have contributed to genuinely smashing the targets.

Find out more about the Second Hand September Campaign

 


If your organisation is interested in becoming a member of IBT, please get in touch here.

Climate refugees – why the language the media uses matters

Since 2008, around 26.4 million people have been forced to leave their homes, not for political reasons, but because of environmental disasters. Natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and droughts have been hitting humanity without prejudice; displacing millions of men, women and children all across the globe.

 

The label ‘Climate Refugee’ has been commonly attributed to those individuals forced out of their home countries for disturbances relating to nature and is used across mainstream media platforms. Worryingly, however, despite having to leave their nations, they do not fall under the ‘traditional refugee’ model; meaning they are not offered the same protection or rights. This is because the 1951 Refugee Convention states that a person must be fleeing direct persecution, which threatens their life or safety, to be defined as a refugee. This persecution often relates to religion, political belief, race, sexuality, and gender identity. Obviously, a climate refugee cannot claim to be persecuted by nature – at least not in any sense beyond metaphorical – and so therein lies the issue.

As climate change continues to displace more and more people every day, it is important to consider how the mainstream media addresses the topic. Dina Ionesco, the Head of the Migration, Environment and Climate Change (MECC) Division at the UN Migration Agency, feels that the term climate refugee is perhaps a harmful one for many reasons. She suggests, instead, that it should be replaced with the term ‘climate migrant’.

In an article for the UN, Ionesco reasons that, while using the term refugee resonates symbolically, it is not an accurate label. This is because climate migration is mainly internal. Individuals largely do not cross borders and therefore don’t need to seek protection from a third country, or at an international level, as refugees do. She also explains that migration is not necessarily forced, because the onset of climate change often occurs at a slow pace; therefore movement is, to a degree, a matter of choice. She suggests that countries think first of migration management and agreements rather than refugee protection. She also warns that opening the 1951 Refugee Convention, as to include climate migrants, might weaken the refugee status which would be tragic given that so many people severely need protection.

Instead of creating new terms and notions, Ionesco encourages the use of already existing laws. She suggests that human rights-based approaches are vital for addressing climate migration, pointing out that the governments of these countries must hold the primary responsibility for their citizens’ protection. She states that many migration management solutions are available to provide a status for those who move in the context of climate change impacts. These solutions could come in the form of humanitarian visas, temporary protection, authorization to stay, and regional and bilateral free movements’ agreements.

Although the matter of how the media defines climate migrants is a question that still needs to be answered with more clarity, one thing is clear: the issue of climate change is not going anywhere. In 2018, there were a recorded 17.2 million new displacements associated with disasters in 148 countries and territories. Figures such as this prove just how monumental the problem is. However, there remains no set definition within global or national law and policy to protect these environmentally displaced individuals. The sooner these groups can be fairly categorised, the sooner they can receive the right legal treatment and consequent protection. But until such a time, perhaps the mainstream media should reconsider its blanket use of the term ‘climate refugee’.

 


This article has been written by Hal Fish who is a political correspondent for the Immigration Advice Service; an organisation of UK immigration solicitors.

Bringing Cox’s Bazar to East London

In August, the British Red Cross gave London’s shoppers a chance to witness life in the world’s largest refugee camp.
This immersive pop-up installation of Cox’s Bazar, along with an innovative 360˚ communications campaign, hoped to remind the public of the ongoing plight of the 740,000 refugees who were forced to flee their homes in Myanmar over 2 years ago.
During their week-long installation at Stratford’s Westfield Shopping Centre, we dropped in to speak to Farah Ghulamali, Corporate Partnerships and Communications Advisor, to hear how the campaign came together.

 

Q: How did you develop the idea for this campaign?

We needed to do something to re-engage the media and the public with our Myanmar Appeal, so conversations around the campaign began in January. The idea for the installation actually came from something we’d seen the Norwegian Red Cross do during their Syria campaign. They rebuilt a Syrian home in Ikea’s flagship Oslo store, juxtaposing it very effectively with the Ikea show homes.

We couldn’t take people to experience Cox’s Bazar, but this installation would be the closest we could get to helping people understand the situation, what it’s like to make the journey as a refugee and what living in a refugee camp is like. I took this idea to our international and fundraising teams, and from there we developed a brief and asked different production agencies to tender for it.

 

British Red Cross’s immersive installation at Westfield, London in August 2019.

 

Q: Who was involved in bringing the idea to life?

The production company we decided to work with are called Ministry of Fun. We haven’t worked with them before, but they had a lot of experience with theatre events and set design, which was the sort of expertise we needed. It was a mammoth operation. They were working 12 hours to rig this on Sunday night – from 6 until 6! Making sure all the tech worked and that everything was accurate to the real images and content we’d shared with them.

Our content team worked really hard to deliver all the videos and photos, and we collaborated very closely with our international team to ensure that the content was accurate. We also worked with our individual giving team to have face-to-face fundraisers on the stand, informing people about how they can continue to support the appeal long-term.

 

Q: Why did you choose Westfield, London?

We were looking for a public space in London, so one of our partners, JCDecaux (the advertising company), came to us with a shortlist of options. Westfield seemed like the best option for the footfall – it has nearly 1 million visitors every week – and the space size. But also for the dwell time, as we know that people have time to look around when they’re shopping. JCDecaux then negotiated a really great charity rate for us – one that Ministry of Fun could hardly believe!

 

Q: The pop-up installation ran from August 12th – 18th, why did you choose these dates?

We wanted to do something for the 2-year anniversary which falls on August 25th, but were keen to run the campaign slightly earlier so that we could be the first ones contacting the media. The actual date also falls over the bank holiday, so we didn’t want to miss the usual footfall because of that.

 

Q: How have you found the reception from the public?

The feedback has been really great – whether you already know what’s going on or not, you can’t help but be gripped by what you see. Westfield in August is a really mixed audience – family, kids and older people. It has definitely helped us reach more people who wouldn’t otherwise be aware of Red Cross’s work.

 

The installation followed the journey of Mohamed and Roshida, and used short videos, photography and 3D sets to bring their stories to life.

 

Q: How have the media responded?

It’s been good so far. We’ve had Reuters and Press Association pick it up, as well as the Mail Online. We’ve also had a lot of really interesting international coverage from Germany, Australia and Spain! It’s a very multifaceted campaign and is about so much more than just engaging with the media. We’re also fundraising and trying to raise awareness in the public eye.

 

Q: What impact do you hope that this campaign has?

I hope that this campaign reminds people that this is the world’s largest refugee camp. That there are 1 million people living in this camp with nowhere to go, who have been forced to flee with nothing. They have had to leave their families and livelihoods behind. Many are now having to rebuild their lives, and it’s all with the support of the humanitarian agencies that are running this camp – agencies like the Red Cross. So, it’s vital that people continue to support us.

 

Q: What are you doing alongside the installation to make sure you’re able to deliver the desired impact?

Our social media team are posting across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all week. We’ve also had support from Westfield’s communication channels, and a couple of our corporate partners are helping out. For example, Samsung have donated free digital ads, and WeTransfer have given us ad space on their wallpapers. We have so much content coming out of this campaign, so we knew we could deliver something really creative in the style that WeTransfer like.

We’ve also had great support from our high-value donors. We held a high-value giving event and invited our corporate prospects to come and experience the installation ahead of it opening to the public. This received some really positive feedback highlighting how the installation brought to life a lot of the work we’ve being talking about for a long time.

 

Q: How will you measure the impact?

We’ll measure the impact through metrics like media coverage, visits to our website and to the appeal page, donations to our appeal, social media engagement and also through the numbers of people who decide to set up a regular gift to give directly to the Myanmar appeal. For this campaign, we’re testing a new system allowing supporters to give to a specific part of the Red Cross.

Everyone is really excited about this installation, and a number of my colleagues across the UK want to take it on tour. Many of our corporate partners also want to have the installation in their offices to help staff engagement and were offering us different spaces for that. There’s so much appetite for it, and hopefully a real longevity to it!

Find out more about the British Red Cross Myanmar Appeal

 


If your organisation is interested in becoming a member of IBT, please get in touch here.

How ActionAid UK is empowering female photographers in their latest campaign

Earlier this year, ActionAid UK launched ‘Women by Women’ an innovative year-long campaign that elevates the underrepresented stories and voices of women and girls. We spoke to Taahra Ghazi, Deputy Director of Communications at ActionAid UK to take a look behind the scenes of this unique campaign.

 

Q: How did you develop the idea for Women by Women?

For some time, ActionAid has been looking for ways to champion the empowering stories of women and girls and highlight the incredible talent of women photographers in Africa, Asia and Latin America – all of which are so often overlooked.

We wanted to ensure that our visual storytellers are as diverse as the communities we are representing and raise awareness of the everyday lives and experience of women and girls living in the global south – their positive energy, strength, courage and determination to break down barriers however small.

This is how we arrived at the idea of a meeting of two women – a subject and a photographer – to tell a story.

 

Q: Women by Women feels very timely, why do you think it is resonating so well in the current climate?

Women by Women is reflective of an increasingly loud conversation currently happening in the photographic community concerning the roles and talents of women photographers. After years of being overlooked, lens culture is starting to take note of the amazing women photographers all over the world and the perspective they can bring to a story.

It is also a remarkably positive project which lets the artists and subjects lead with personal, empathetic content which truly reflects their lives and perspectives. The impact this creates is authentic, beautiful and moving and people connect with this. We are showing daily realities and changing the way in which women are represented in the Global South, by giving them the platform to represent themselves.

Storytelling is vital to our global knowledge and to our understanding of our fellow humans. In today’s social media-enchanted, time-strapped culture, the power of imagery is never more relevant and the need for authentic, impactful stories never more compelling.

 

Q: This is an ambitious campaign, with lots of collaboration with external photographers. How have you found working with the artists? How did you find the right photographers to work with?

Being able to engage and work with women photographers from the global south has been both an eyeopener and an absolute privilege. To work with so many talented photographers who have voiced not only their enthusiasm for Women by Women but have gone on to be so inspired by the women subjects has been a joyous collaboration.

As you would expect, each photographer has a different creative style from the next and allowing this creativity to fully flow, without having to give the normal NGO type brief has been very liberating. The photographers have been found through the increasingly prominent network of women in photography that’s found on the internet, databases and information that lead you to a whole host of truly incredible and diverse female talent, as well as through our federation partners.

 

Q: How have you spread the word about the campaign, and how has it fed into your comms/media strategy? Have you found the media receptive to the story?

Our main channel for Women by Women has been Instagram as we really want to have these photos shared and engage new audiences. But we have also been pitching to main news outlets – the launch content by female photographers in Afghanistan featured in the Guardian, for example. Most outlets are very receptive to this content as it is bold, authentic and unique.

 

Q: What do you think has been most successful about the campaign so far?

We have seen very high engagement rates on Instagram. The ‘behind-the-scenes’ video footage which shows the photographers in action in Afghanistan has resonated and driven most of our traffic to the website. The images which are unexpected and really break down stereotypes have been the most successful. These include the images shot by Tahmina Saleem in Afghanistan showing women doing yoga in the snow in Kabul and a street artist who spray paints murals on walls that depict powerful women.

 

Fakhria Momtaz takes a yoga class up to the mountains at Shahrak-e Omid Sabz in Kabul.

 

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the campaign? What have you learned from the process?

Researching the stories of the women, ensuring that they can work visually and then getting the photographer on board – a photographer that we have never worked with and who is on another continent – is a lengthy process and requires both an enormous amount of work and trust for it all to come together successfully.

We have learned that there is a huge appetite for women to tell the stories of other women, that there is a real desire by the photographers to engage with their subjects and when those forces come together it produces some truly incredibly imagery.

 

Finally, how do you anticipate Women by Women evolving over the rest of the year? What do you hope to achieve with the campaign? What would success look like?

Initially this is a year-long project which will culminate in an exhibition of all the photographers’ work in the Spring of 2020. We hope to achieve recognition for the work of women photographers working in challenging environments in the global south, and the women and girls breaking down barriers, both big and small.

We also hope to engage more people in the work of ActionAid, so they can understand what it means to be a grassroots organisation that supports local women to support themselves. ActionAid is working for a world where the most vulnerable and forgotten women and girls can become valued and powerful. This means it is imperative that their voices are heard loud and clear across our communications.

Beyond the exhibition, we would love to see how different the world would look if all of our work across fundraising and communications were shot by women photographers and videographers living and working in the communities in the countries where they live. That would be groundbreaking.

Find out more about the campaign

 


If your organisation is interested in becoming a member of IBT, please get in touch here.

Islamophobia in the media: Enough is enough

I never thought I’d be the victim of Islamophobia – I’m not a Muslim, after all. But working in comms for an Islamic charity, Islamic Relief UK, I have come to accept that it is now part and parcel of my everyday life.

 

I’m not alone, obviously, and what I face is a tiny fraction of the Islamophobic abuse my Muslim friends and colleagues face. In our office, the social media team regularly reviews offensive remarks on our social channels, weighing up whether to ignore, rebuff or report them. In fact, so hateful are some of the comments, we even have a dedicated police officer to whom we report. Likewise, my colleagues in the media team frequently have to respond to Islamophobic reports in the press about our work.

So just how widespread is Islamophobia in the media and why does it influence all of our work?

Mainstream media: Offensive reports and negative stereotypes

Anyone interested in the subject of Islamophobia in the media must follow the incomparable Miqdaad Versi. Assistant General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, Versi records examples of Islamophobia in the British press and, where possible, gains corrections on inaccurate stories. It’s practically a full-time job.

As Versi says in his article Islamophobia not an issue in the British press? You’ve got to be kidding, anti-Muslim sentiment is rife in the mainstream media. Surprisingly the editor-in-chief of the Daily Express, Gary Jones, agrees. He has admitted that many of the stories published in the paper prior to his arrival had contributed to an “Islamophobic sentiment” in the media and that its front pages had sometimes been “downright offensive”.

 

Examples of media coverage of Islam

 

Anyone with even a passing interest in the news can see that Islamophobic comments are promoted by broadcasters as well, with right-wing extremists invited onto news and political programmes on a regular basis, often without being challenged about their Islamophobia. Sadly, chasing ratings seems to be more important than acquiring balance or reasoned debate.

So why do editors and broadcasters allow such words to be published or spoken without question? Versi is frank on this issue: “Let us not kid ourselves. Stories that play on the public’s fears and feed their prejudices are popular.”

In The role of the media in the spread of Islamophobia Sam Woolfe argues that “the media uses bold and harsh language to promote this kind of fear because bad news sells”. This constant drip feed of bad news focussed on Muslims and Islam merely “propagates and reinforces negative stereotypes of Muslims (e.g. that Muslims are terrorists, criminals, violent or barbaric).”

Drawing the line: Using the Riz Test

Such biased, negative coverage, however, doesn’t just appear on the news or politically-focused programmes. No, just think about last year’s inexplicably popular TV programme Bodyguard, which focused on Islamic terrorism. It pandered to every single stereotype of a Muslim: the cowed and oppressed woman (wearing the niqab) and the terrorist suicide bomber.

 

BBC’s popular drama, Bodyguard accused of stereotyping

 

It broke every single rule of the Riz Test, which adopts five criteria to measure how Muslims are portrayed on film and TV. To put is simply, if the film/show stars at least one character who is identifiably Muslim (by their ethnicity, language or clothing), one should ask: Is the character

  1. Talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator of terrorism?
  2. Presented as irrationally angry?
  3. Presented as superstitious, culturally backwards or anti-modern?
  4. Presented as a threat to a Western way of life?
  5. If male, is he presented as misogynistic? Or if female, is she presented as oppressed by her male counterparts?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, then the film/TV show in question fails the test. It’s that simple. Try it next time you watch a TV show, the news or read the paper. You’ll be surprised how few actually pass the Riz Test.

The power of the media: Real consequences

So, are Muslims disproportionately bad or does the media focus only on the bad stories?

In Spreading Islamophobia: Consequences Of Negative Media Representations, Muniba Saleem in fact highlights how current negative representations of Muslims in the media actually propagate harmful behaviour. Saleem explains how, given the extent to which the British public is influenced by the media, negative portrayals of Muslims in the media result in an increase in “negative attitudes towards Muslims” and “support for policies that harm Muslims.”

Having worked in international development for the past 25 years, I have myself noticed exactly the same thing when I first came to work at Islamic Relief. In my blog on Islamophobia, I point out how many of my friends and family automatically had negative assumptions about Islamic Relief based not on their knowledge of the charity, but on their ignorance of Islam and Muslims as a whole.

Given that only 5% of the British population is Muslim, it is likely that most people in the mainstream know very few Muslims, so their negative perceptions are unlikely to be based on actual experiences. Instead, they are much more likely to be based on what they have seen or heard in the mainstream media. Some of this is, of course, based on the reporting of terrorist acts perpetrated by Islamists. Yet in relative terms, are Muslims actually committing more terrorist acts than anyone else?

Well, the figures speak for themselves. Recent research undertaken after the brutal murders in Woolwich found that in the decade prior to that event, press coverage on Muslims and Islam in British-based newspapers had increased by around 270% and 91% were of a negative nature. What’s more, Islamists are three times more likely to be called ‘terrorists’ in media coverage of attacks than those on the far-right. Islamists were (rightly) referred to as terrorists in 78% of news coverage, however far-right extremists were only identified by this label in 27% of articles.

Social media obviously plays its part too. When each terrorist attack happens, a flurry of offensive tweets are unleashed. Journalists in search of a quick soundbite and so-called balance seek out soundbites from the worst offenders. Thus people like convicted criminal and former-EDL leader, Tommy Robinson, gain a disproportionate amount of coverage.

 

 

Islamophobia in the media: The effects

The reality of Islamophobia in the media affects Muslims in every area of their lives. Here at Islamic Relief, every time we carry out a fundraising or advocacy campaign, we have to think carefully about how this will be reported in the press and on social media. Of course, every NGO worth its salt should carry out a risk assessment on its campaigns. However, not every NGO has to think about how their words or stories might be twisted by an Islamophobic (often far-right) agenda.

As Ramadan begins, we launch our latest campaign featuring an inspirational quote from the Qur’an on buses in major cities asking: “Can you be 5:32?” This Qur’anic verse states: “Whosoever saves a life, it is as though they had saved the whole of mankind”.

 

Islamic Relief UK’s Ramadan campaign

 

It’s a beautiful inspirational quote which reminds Muslims of the sanctity of life and recalls our own mission – to transform and save lives. Nonetheless, we had to prepare ourselves for potential backlash. Some of the many questions we had to consider at length included:

  • Would we be attacked for advertising on buses, with people asking why we do so when Islamic terrorists have blown themselves up on buses?
  • Would we be told we were only allowed to put this message on the bus because we have a Muslim mayor?
  • If we quote the Qur’an to illustrate a positive point, will another quote be parroted back at us by far-right extremists to highlight what they think of as a negative quote?
  • If we go on TV or radio to defend the campaign, is there a possibility that the interview will get hijacked by Tommy Robinson?
  • Is there a possibility that our ads will be vandalised?
  • Will we be asked to justify the actions of the Sultan of Brunei (making homosexuality punishable by death)?

Are we being paranoid? Are we looking too much into things? Absolutely not. All of the above and more have happened to us over the past year alone. It’s horrid that as we prepare for the holy month of Ramadan – a month in which Muslims partake in immense charitable giving – that we should have to prepare for an Islamophobic backlash in the media and on social media. Yet this is the reality.

So next time you see a negative headline about a Muslim or Islam, ask yourselves what’s the real story behind the headline? Likewise, as you tune into a new TV show, film or video game featuring a Muslim character, ask yourselves ‘does it pass the Riz Test?’ If the answer is ‘no’, then simply switch it off. Please. As a non-Muslim, I can confidently say that such features do more harm than good. Islamophobia in the media threatens us all, whatever our faith and cultural background. It’s time to put an end to this abuse, today. Be aware of media bias, use the Riz test and ensure that you’re not propagating harmful Islamophobic narratives. We all deserve better.

 


This article has been written by Judith Escribano, Head of Communications at Islamic Relief UK.

 

The story behind the world’s first voice petition

Like all great stories, malaria is a tale of villains (the mosquitoes that carry the deadly parasite), heroes (from researchers to funders), tragedy (the billions of lives lost) and happy endings (knowing that we will defeat it).

 

We’ve seen tremendous progress, with seven million lives saved since 2000. But in November 2017 there was a major twist in the tale. Funding and political attention had dwindled causing progress to stall and risk being reversed. We needed to act, and fast. So in February 2018, David Beckham fronted the launch of Malaria Must Die, a global white label campaign that set out to reframe public perceptions of malaria and inspire political and private sector action.

The campaign laid the groundwork for the Malaria Summit held in April 2018 during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London when 53 leaders made a commitment to halve malaria by 2023. If delivered, this will save the lives of 650,000 people and protect 350 million more, mainly young children.

Cut to 2019 our aim is to sustain the campaign momentum and find an authentic way to unite a wide range of voices in a powerful way, to drive the conversation and demonstrate a strong, palpable demand for action. With this being the age of the voice, where smart speakers and voice recognition devices are becoming part of our everyday lives, Malaria Must Die is taking the humble petition into the 21st century with the world’s first voice petition to end malaria.

We wanted to gather, hear and amplify the voices of those affected by malaria; those global household names who are part of the fight to end malaria; those on the front line; those at home who care; businesses who are helping lead the charge; leaders who have stepped up to the plate and micro-influencers.

The Malaria Must Die Voice Petition launched on 9th April via a short film, produced by Ridley Scott Associates, where David Beckham appears to speak nine languages. But the voices are not all his own. Instead, using emerging AI video synthesis technology, we hear David speaking the voices of men and women from around the world, including malaria survivors.

The petition will capture a breadth of voices – geographically and across sectors. These collective voices will be packaged to create a malaria “roar” and used in a variety of ways, critically at a series of global and political moments in 2019 including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria replenishment in October where we want to grab the attention of leaders in a unique and memorable way.

 

 

Our media strategy for the campaign focused on online and broadcast coverage, ensuring that people saw the film and were directed to join the petition. We had complementary spokespeople, from the malaria survivors whose voices featured in the film, to Malaria No More UK supporters with powerful personal stories and experts who could speak about technical aspects of the disease. This enabled us to place opportunities over 18-hour period, from Sky Sunrise to evening radio. We have no advertising budget but thanks to our partnership with Dentsu Aegis Network we are fortunate to receive pro bono advertising and agency support.

As this was a global campaign we also worked with partners around the world to secure international coverage and saw online, print and broadcast coverage in key strategic markets including US, India, France, Nigeria and South Africa. A critical component of the communications strategy was social media and we were able to reach a large global audience thanks to the film and petition being promoted on David Beckham’s channels and those of other high-profile supporters and organisations. So far, the media coverage has created 44 million opportunities to see the campaign, with over 500 pieces of coverage, digital impressions have reached over 416 million, and video views are over 2.6 million. The campaign will continue to build with several moments planned in the next six months to inspire further sign ups for action.

Support the campaign

 


This article has been written by Vicky Gashe, Head of Comms at Malaria No More UK

Why children’s TV needs the support of campaigners for international development

What children watch on TV has a major impact on their understanding of their world and could affect their future support for, and interest in, international development.
By Lorriann Robinson, IBT advocacy adviser 

 

The UK is recognised as a global leader in aid and development and the generosity of the UK Government is matched, perhaps even surpassed by that of the UK public. Over the past 30 years, the UK public have donated more than a £1 billion to Comic Relief and in the past month alone, the public donated over £33 million to help families in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to recover from Cyclone Idai.

Campaigners understand that we need to keep making the case for aid and development and this requires strong public support for global development. Development agencies often engage young people through their programmes and campaigns, but few make the connection between what children see on their TV screens and how this might influence support for development causes in the years to come. There is already compelling research to show these issues are connected.

New IBT research shows children want to know more about the global world. 80% of the children we surveyed for The Challenge of Children’s TV said they were interested in the world outside the UK; 86% felt it was important for them to know what was happening in the world but only 9% said that they knew a lot about other countries. Children’s programmes that focus on other countries are greatly skewed towards North America and there is very limited coverage of some regions, particularly the Middle East. Despite the interest from children to see more television content about the wider world, this need was not being adequately met by the UK’s public service broadcasters. Overall IBT’s research found that international issues and events are not on most children’s radars.

All of this means children are missing opportunities to understand the developing world. The share of television content telling children about the developing world has dropped significantly between 2007 and 2018, and last year, only 17% of new international content shown on the UK’s main public service broadcast channels featured the developing world, compared with 30% in 2007. Children interviewed for IBT’s study shared the same, sometimes negative, perceptions of Africa, having watched television adverts and news items that depict poverty and suffering on the continent.

This matters for children, for the UK, and for development causes. High quality children’s content about the global word can help children to understand and contextualise news events which can help to reduce their anxieties about these events. It can also help to promote social cohesion, encourage democratic engagement and help children to develop skills that will be essential to the 21st century workplace.

Children are the development supporters, campaigners, and leaders of tomorrow and it’s in all of our interest to ensure they have a balanced understanding of developing countries, the people who live in these countries and the issues that affect their lives. As IBT’s research shows, children are being let down by broadcasters who are not doing enough to show children in the UK a balanced perspective of the wider world.

 


IBT’s new research report, The Challenge of Children’s TV, looks at how children see the world, where they get their information from and how new media content can be more effectively targeted at children to engage them with what is happening in the wider world.

Download Report

Why Children Need To Understand Global Issues

For our third article in our The Challenge of Children’s TV blog series, we heard from the Executive Director of Unicef UK, Mike Penrose, about the benefits of children being aware of global issues, the best way to engage them in the wider world and Unicef’s collaboration with First News, a weekly news publication for children.

 

Q: In your opinion, what are the benefits of children in the UK being aware of what is happening in the wider world?

At Unicef UK, we know that children who are engaged in international issues at a young age are more likely to be active citizens who want to make a positive contribution to the world.

There is also research which suggests that getting involved in action towards a better world has a positive impact on young people’s mental health. They will gain a better understanding of the differences between people, which they will then embrace, rather than fear.

 

Q: From your experience, are children in the UK interested in events taking place around the world or in the lives of people in other countries?

We believe that children in the UK are incredibly engaged and interested in the lives of people in other countries.

Thousands of children have taken part in Outright, which allows them to learn about important global issues in a fun and engaging way, and ensures their voices are heard by key political decision-makers. Children have also worked on our family reunion campaign, which saw them championing for the rights of refugees to be reunited with family members in the UK. As well as lobbying for the Safe Schools Declaration, which was endorsed by the Government. It really demonstrates the power of children’s voices to create change.

Our work in schools across the country never fails to show that children are incredibly engaged and keen to learn about other people’s lives from around the world.

 

Q: How aware do you think children in the UK are about global issues?

From my perspective, centennials are incredibly socially conscious and I think there is always an eagerness for children to learn more about children who live in different countries. However, it is often the case that a child’s awareness is reflective of whether they are taught about international issues at school or at home.

Through Unicef’s Rights Respecting Schools Award, we work with schools up and down the country to ensure that children are aware of their human rights. Our teaching resources are full to the brim of stories about children from around the world and one of the main areas of impact of this work is the increase in children and young people’s support for global justice. Our Rights Respecting Schools regularly tell us that by linking their curriculum to global learning they have increased the levels of pupil engagement.

I would urge all schools to make sure their students are taught about their rights to ensure that they leave education as global citizens.

 

Q: Are there any examples of TV or online content that you think has been successful in engaging children in the UK – and if so, why?

Thankfully, there is some brilliant content, which both engages and represents children. First News is an excellent example, with over 2.2 million readers each week, they produce articles using child- friendly language to explain complex issues. For instance, we recently worked with them on a Special Report about the Yemen conflict.

During Soccer Aid for Unicef in 2018, we also worked with First News to send Kendra, one of their young reporters and a pupil at a Rights Respecting School, to Lesotho to report on Unicef’s education work there. It was brilliant to see Kendra engaging with school children in Lesotho and bringing their voices to life in the UK through her fantastic reporting. I am always incredibly proud of our work with First News and hope to do more media work with publications which both represent and engage children in 2019.

 

Q: In your opinion what should the media be doing to increase the engagement of children in the UK with the wider world?

While the BBC have been leading the way with children’s news for decades thanks to Newsround, last year it was brilliant to hear about Sky News commissioning Fresh Start Media to produce FYI, a weekly children’s news show. Not only is it informative, but by having child presenters they are putting young people right at the forefront of news reporting.

We have heard repeatedly that centennials are incredibly politically motivated, therefore, more broadcasters should consider making informative programmes which engage and represent young people. In the age of ‘fake news’ it is important that children can rely on a number of trusted sources to educate them about world issues.

 

Q: How important is this issue for Unicef?

At Unicef, it is a vital part of our core mission to uphold the rights of every child. Therefore, it is incredibly important for us that every child has a right to access reliable information, have a say in decisions that affect them and to have a quality education. A vital part of upholding those rights is ensuring that children can learn about international issues and understand their capacity to bring about positive change in the world.

 


IBT’s new research report, The Challenge of Children’s TV, looks at how children see the world, where they get their information from and how new media content can be more effectively targeted at children to engage them with what is happening in the wider world.

Download Report

Kids’ TV: Engaging young people with the wider world

For the second article in our The Challenge of Children’s TV blog series, we spoke to Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save The Children, about why it is so important to educate our children about the wider world, how media can engage children in global issues and what needs to be done to improve the media they have access to.

 

Q: In your opinion, what are the benefits of children in the UK being aware of what is happening in the wider world?

It’s so important that young people understand the world outside of their immediate environment of school, family and friends. Not only does it help children become more empathetic, considerate and conscientious people, it also allows them to develop into responsible adults who contribute to a fairer and better world.

Children are affected by global politics and events everyday – whether they realise it or not – and the more they engage with this the better they’ll be able to advocate for change, speak out for their own rights and those of other children, and realise their potential.

 

Q: From your experience, are children in the UK interested in events taking place around the world? How aware do you think they are of global issues?

Whilst this varies hugely depending on children’s ages, backgrounds and interests, much as it does with adults, this generation is more aware than ever before of the world around them due to an increasing exposure via social media.

The young people we meet through our campaigning work in the UK tend to be more empathetic towards others than adults, with a strong sense of justice and fairness when discussing global issues that affect other people – particularly around conflict, refugees and climate change.

 

Q: Are there any examples of TV or online content that you think has been successful in engaging children in the UK – and if so, why?

First News and Newsround are both unbiased, engaging and appropriate in their approach to talking to children about the world. Equally, we’ve seen children engaging with content not specifically intended for a youth audience, such as the plastic revolution sparked by the Blue Planet series.

The biggest opportunity to engage young people is through social media – whether that’s YouTube channels like Vsauce and Kurzgesagt which take an interesting and creative approach to educating children about specific topics, or Instagram influencers discussing themes of mental health, gender/identity, diversity and environmental issues.

 

Q: In your opinion what should the media be doing to increase the engagement of children in the UK with the wider world?

Young people are most inspired by the stories and experiences of other young people and leaders (i.e. Malala, Amika George or the March For Our Lives movement) so the media should ensure it puts their stories at the heart of any content focused on engaging children.

 

Q: How important is this issue for Save the Children?

This is vital. We are the world’s largest child rights’ organisation – empowering, educating and informing children about their rights, the world around them and the events that will shape their future is at the heart of our purpose as an organisation.

 


IBT’s new research report, The Challenge of Children’s TV, looks at how children see the world, where they get their information from and how new media content can be more effectively targeted at children to engage them with what is happening in the wider world.

Download Report

5 things you need to know about children’s TV…

Children’s television is failing.

The UK government has recognised a market failure in production of kids’ TV content – an inevitable side effect of a 40% drop in funding over the last decade*.

This has led to new initiatives from both Ofcom (the media regulator) and DCMS (the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) to find urgent solutions to the inadequacies of children’s television content.

With kids’ programming now consisting of up to 98% repeats* of old content and much less new, high quality content in production, there has never been a better time to get up to speed on the issues (and solutions) within kids’ television.

In the first of this series of blogs exploring the challenge of kids’ TV and how it can be better used to inform children about the world around them, we summarise the 5 key things you need to know about kids’ television.

 

1. TV is one of the main sources of information about the wider world for children in the UK

Despite the fast-changing nature of media consumption, for many children in the UK, television is still one of their main sources of information about the wider world*. Though this presents a potentially invaluable opportunity to use the platform to help our children better understand the world around them, it is important that its content can compete with the growing pull of online platforms like YouTube and Instagram. Unlike our public service broadcasters (BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5), these online platforms are neither regulated for accuracy, nor under any obligation to produce content which doesn’t cause harm or encourage the spread of ‘fake news’.

 

2. Children want to know more about the world

Our own research shows that 86% of children think it is important that they know what is happening in other countries, but only 9% feel that they know a lot about what is happening outside the UK*.

This illustrates a real appetite for global stories, and an important gap in the market that broadcasters and producers should work to fill as part of the new efforts to improve children’s media.

 

3. Children’s TV needs to do a better job of preparing kids for the world

Though programmes such as CBBC’s Newsround and Sky’s FYI are doing an admirable job of featuring a wide range of international stories, children are still hugely limited in their exposure to stories and cultures from outside the UK. This is especially troubling given the increasing demands of the globalised world and workplace that our children are growing up into.

We need to act now to create a better media future for our kids. Are we laying the foundations for a generation unengaged and unaware of the world outside the UK’s borders?

Most experts agree that ensuring children understand the world outside their immediate environment is crucial – and television has a significant role to play in this.

“Children are affected by global politics and events everyday – whether they realise it or not – and the more they engage with this the better they’ll be able to advocate for change, speak out for their own rights and those of other children, and realise their potential.” – Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive of Save the Children UK.

 

4. There isn’t enough international kids’ TV content

53% of children we polled wanted to see more TV and video about what happens in other countries*. This is unsurprising given that in 2018, there were only 77 hours of new international content on CBBC, CITV, CBeebies and Channel 5*.

Reduced funding and growing online competition is making it increasingly difficult to get quality television made for younger audiences – particularly the bigger budget international stories. However, Sky’s successful launch of its new kids’ news show, FYI, demonstrates that there is a demand for a broader range of stories, and broadcasters should be incentivised to produce more of this international content.

 

5. We have an opportunity to change kids’ TV for the better

“We need to do everything we can, right now, to create a media future for children that we can be proud of, so we can all look back in 10 years’ time and be sure that we didn’t let a generation down.” – Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC.

We can all agree that we want our children to grow up as engaged and informed citizens, able to live and work in an increasingly globalised world. However, the current media landscape is failing to provide our children with the necessary content to help them understand their world, and its multitude of different people, politics and cultures.

As part of the government’s plans to save children’s TV, DCMS will be launching the Young Audiences Content Fund in April 2019. With £57 million set aside, this fund hopes to encourage more production of quality content for children by the commercial public service broadcasters like ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

Though this is a good start, it doesn’t address the growing deficit of international kids’ content. We are therefore calling for DCMS to ensure that some of this fund is reserved for producing content that informs kids about the wider world.

 


IBT’s new research report, The Challenge of Children’s TV, looks at how children see the world, where they get their information from and how new media content can be more effectively targeted at children to engage them with what is happening in the wider world.

Download Report

 

*Facts and figures based on research carried out for our ‘The Challenge of Children’s TV‘ report.

How do we get the media interested in some of the world’s forgotten crises?

By Siobhán Sheerin, Senior Communications Officer, Concern Worldwide UK 

I attended February’s IBT briefing with the BBC’s Today programme assistant editor, Laura Cooper. It was a full room of course; after all, the Today programme is an institution, and in many ways sets the broadcast news agenda for the day.  In the words of Laura herself, Today has the “luxury of beginning a conversation for the day”, and its prominence internationally and domestically means it always attracts significant players.

Right now anyone who works for an NGO is acutely aware that given the current, rather febrile, political environment, there is no shortage of domestic news – so how do we get more ‘under the radar’ stories with an international focus on to the news agenda?

 

Compelling human narratives

Laura said that Today was looking to expand its international focus, and cited an example of an upcoming trip to Beirut to look at the dilemmas facing Syrian refugees who are considering returning home. She also talked about the positive response to some of the recent outside broadcasts with Mishal Husain – one from Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, and one from Gaza, which focused on mothers on each side of the divide.  The reason for their success she said was a “compelling human narrative.”

Given the context most NGOs work in, “compelling human narratives” is not something we are short of. We have hundreds of human stories to help personalise the issues we want to highlight. We also have a responsibility to the people we work with to make sure their stories are told. Maybe we need to do more to make sure these stories are at the forefront of our pitches when approach news journalists?

When Laura mentioned a trip to Liberia in 2012, a collaboration with Save the Children, which involved several follow up trips and so gave the opportunity for more in-depth coverage, Mark Galloway from the IBT, who was in the Chair, asked why they had done nothing like this since then.  Laura admitted that Today tends to focus on stories in the news – and there’s the rub. Whilst undeniably important, Gaza is always news. Syria is always news.  These are tangible conflicts with recognisable actors, a role for UK foreign policy and international western players. But as Laura herself said – the BBC are ever conscious of resources – if they are going there, it means they are not going somewhere else.

 

Lack of coverage of countries not linked to the news agenda

For me, and it seems for others in the room, this highlights the lack of coverage of countries not necessarily linked to the news agenda.  Rose Caldwell from Concern Worldwide UK asked: “What about DRC? What about Central African Republic? What about the crises that fall under the radar?”  Another person mentioned Darfur. Laura said that these places had been covered but acknowledged that there were definitely countries which were being unreported.

The Central African Republic is officially the world’s hungriest country, with a population of just under five million, and half of these people need humanitarian assistance.  I can’t remember the Today programme mentioning that recently. Is it because we as NGOs need to work harder to convince programmes like Today, that there is value in giving a voice to people from a country most people couldn’t find on a map? Or is it because countries like CAR, with their long drawn-out protracted crises of hunger, conflict and displacement, can’t be linked in any obvious way to the news agenda? Or maybe the issues can’t be explored fully in a short broadcast segment? Should we as NGOs focus less on getting airtime for our CEOs and work harder to find the individual stories – the ‘compelling human narratives? ‘

Laura said that Today believes in putting time into the stories that take more time to tell – which also means more effort from us as NGOs to convince broadcasters these are stories worth covering.   Surely somewhere like CAR would fit into this category?   It would certainly fit the Today criteria of giving the listener something “significantly different to what they have heard before.”

 

Photo credit: Chris de Bode/Panos Pictures for Concern Worldwide

 


 

IBT holds monthly briefings with senior members of the media. These popular sessions have helped our members pitch successfully, create better informed plans and work more effectively across teams.

Find out more about our latest events

The Future of Children’s TV

In the spring we will be publishing a new research report that looks at children, how they see the world, where they get their information from, which media they consume and how new media content can be more effectively targeted at children to enable them to be better informed about the rest of the world.

Children’s television is currently under the spotlight. Parliamentarians are increasingly concerned about the quality of life of children growing up in the UK and the Government has recognised that there is market failure in the production of home grown content aimed at children. This means that the market alone is not producing content of sufficient quality and range.

DCMS (the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) has therefore earmarked the sum of £51m taken from the licence fee to be redirected at children’s content over the next three years.  The Government will be launching a Contestable Fund in April which aims to encourage increased production of content for children by the commercial public service broadcasters (PSBs) – ITV, Channel 4 and Five.

In addition, Ofcom, the media industry regulator, has asked the commercial PSBs to address the current deficit in supply of new UK produced content for children on their channels. They are due to report back to Ofcom with plans by the end of March and Ofcom will publicly report on this in June.

We believe that this makes a report on children’s TV timely as it gives us an opportunity to influence the type of content that the PSBs will be producing. Our goal is that some of this new content will cover global stories and issues, in a way that is accessible and engaging for children of all ages.

 

Why we need new research

The aim of our new research will be to present an evidence base that establishes both the need for new international content and the benefits of such content.

There is existing research to show that an awareness among children of how people live in other countries leads to greater tolerance (Think Global, 2010). And recently published research from Childwise shows that in 2018 the number of children worrying about war, terrorism and global events has increased significantly in the past year – one in three children aged between 9 and 16 said they were more worried about conflict in the world than anything else.

It is IBT’s view that no broadcaster in the UK provides adequate content to explain the wider world to children. The reason we focus on broadcasters is that the content they transmit is regulated, high quality and produced from a UK cultural perspective. Online content is not regulated for harm and offence or accuracy.

This report will examine the real benefits of children having access to international content, establish the current level of provision of such content and explore with children of different age groups the type of content they enjoy and the kind of international content that is most likely to appeal to them.

We are keen to hear about the experience of IBT members who work with children so do please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about this research.

 

Mark Galloway
IBT Executive Director
January 3, 2019

Download Report

Put Down Your Flags: Why consolidation is key to better aid delivery

by Simon O’Connell, Mercy Corps Executive Director

South Sudan is host to a myriad of international NGOs. The world’s newest country is in a state of protracted crisis. A combination of long-running conflict, a weak economy and drought has driven 3.7 million South Sudanese from their homes and left seven million people in need of aid.

In response, a lot of organisations are trying to help – often under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances. Alongside 214 national non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the South Sudan NGO Forum includes 115 international NGOs. My organisation, Mercy Corps, is one of them.

There is little doubt that these NGOs provide vital assistance in a country affected by long-term conflict and food insecurity that last year resulted in famine. The aid delivered by NGOs is, literally, life-saving. But, is the NGO sector structured in the best way possible to have maximum impact?

Ensuring large scale, lasting impact in fragile and volatile places like South Sudan comes with significant challenges. There are only 200 miles of paved road across the country, and much NGO work is reliant on air transportation. Risks to both people and resources are high; logistics are complex; security assessments and protection are time-consuming and difficult. All of this makes working here extremely expensive.

Whilst extensive coordination and information sharing does occur, there are over 115 different international agencies in South Sudan, each taking on the individual management responsibilities and costs of operating in this highly fragile environment. With humanitarian needs in South Sudan, and across dozens more countries around the world today, at almost unprecedented levels, more needs to be done by international agencies to join forces to reduce duplication and improve aid delivery and efficiency.

The large number of organisations can also affect the quality of aid delivery. Recipients of international assistance are sometimes left bewildered and frustrated by the number of different agencies entering and leaving their lives.

 

Why are there so many international agencies?

Each individual NGO has its own existential imperatives. Each was founded with its own particular mandate. Each has to raise money and to do that, each needs to be visible. Intentionally or not, this puts NGOs in competition with each other – for exposure, supporters and, ultimately, money. Each NGO needs to fly its flag (and frequently those of its funders) in places like South Sudan, because their visibility is central to their ability to raise the money they need. This perceived competition between agencies and a focus on bolstering brands and identities also affects trust, with negative stories about NGOs often linked to the crowded NGO landscape. With the media central to the public perception of aid organisations, the effects of these stories add up, with only 46% of people in the UK viewing NGOs as trustworthy.

Yet, in today’s world of extensive humanitarian need and pockets of deep, protracted fragility, NGOs still have a crucial role to play. Globally there are an estimated 10 million NGOs of one kind or another. They have contributed to extraordinary progress in recent decades, with both extreme poverty and under-5 mortality falling dramatically. But two billion people still live in places affected by instability, conflict and violence. There are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people – the highest number on record. Climate change is an increasingly active and urgent reality. With such complex issues and widespread needs, now is not the time to reduce aid budgets or commitments to addressing the root causes of poverty and displacement. It’s time to take concrete steps to improving how aid is delivered.

A key part of the answer of how to do this is through some consolidation of the international NGO sector – to improve efficiency, diminish duplication and ultimately be better for the recipients of their assistance.

 

Why not just better coordination?

Tremendous efforts have been made over many years to improve the way NGOs work with each other, with UN agencies, with governments and others: joint needs assessments, clusters, pooled funds, Humanitarian Country Teams, the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, the professionalisation of humanitarianism, the idea of ‘humanitarian passports’ – the list of initiatives to improve coordination in the humanitarian sector is long.

NGOs have demonstrated a significant ability to work together, for example the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies – now the Start Network – that took responsibility for a whole chunk of the UK’s humanitarian funding and has gone on to deliver extremely efficient, rapid and successful responses. The Start Network continues to push the boundaries of cooperation in the sector, while NGOs have also played their part in the Grand Bargain – a major set of commitments agreed at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, outlining increased cooperation in a range of ways.

These initiatives show the desire of organisations to work better together, but cooperation itself comes at a cost, with large amounts of time and resources spent on initiatives to improve NGO coordination.

There will also always be a limit to how efficiently hundreds of different organisations are able to work with each other. Each of those organisations still has to carry, to some extent, the cost of their own logistics, security, assessments, and information gathering. NGOs remain independent organisations with their own identities, responsibilities and costs.

 

Consolidation – a solution to greater scale, impact and value for money

The idea of consolidation in the NGO sector has generally been controversial, evoking an image of predatory capitalism that is anathema to many in the sector. Whilst occasional consolidation between NGOs has occurred, this has invariably been driven by financial imperatives. Instead of NGO mergers happening only when organisations are in a state of financial stress, they should be incentivised to merge voluntarily – simultaneously reducing operating costs, inefficiencies and confusion for those on the receiving end of aid. By reducing the number of NGOs, efforts to improve cooperation and coordination, including in areas like safeguarding, would become easier.

That does not mean we should eradicate the diversity that is in many ways the NGO sector’s greatest strength. There’s a tremendous need for innovation and nimbleness in the aid and development sector; often more present within smaller organisations. Everywhere is different, and it is impossible to have cookie-cutter approaches that apply equally well in Yemen as they do in Mali – or indeed here domestically in the UK. I am not advocating that aid is done solely by a small number of mega agencies, and international NGOs need to continue to up their game to increase public trust. They must continue to demonstrate efficiency, and increase transparency and accountability. They must also prioritise supporting and strengthening local and national aid providers.

Locally-led, less bureaucratic structures and systems are essential, and this is where local and national NGOs tend to excel. They often have a particular geographical or operational niche that brings something unique. At the international level, however, there are too many organisations duplicating each other’s work and needlessly competing with each other. While each of the 214 local and national organisations in the South Sudan NGO Forum may be offering something distinctive, I simply don’t believe that it is necessary for 115 international organisations to be there. Instead, a smaller number of international agencies should articulate how they work with local organisations to deliver for crisis-affected people.

 

How to get it done

Consolidating the international NGO sector will require incentives that outweigh the existing motivations of competing for visibility, profile, influence and funds. Donors can play a role here.

Institutional donors like DFID and USAID have already shown repeatedly that they are willing to fund initiatives that enhance collaboration, as examples like their Humanitarian Grand Challenge illustrate. Now, they need to go one step further. I call upon donors – both governmental and private – to establish a ‘Consolidation Initiative’ for international agencies willing to join together permanently. This would require some one-off costs, but would make long-term sense against the ongoing cost of coordination.

Beyond funding, governments and influential stakeholders should commit to opening their doors for conversation with NGOs that show a willingness to consolidate. Access to government representatives is valuable for NGOs as they seek to influence on behalf of the people they serve. Committing to increasing such access would provide a further incentive for consolidation.

Ultimately, though, it is up to NGOs to make the running on this issue. I call on my fellow NGO peers and those in the international aid and development community to join me in exploring how consolidation might be achieved, gathering evidence for the best approaches to take, and committing to generating efficiencies that will deepen the impact of our work at this critically important time.

Consolidation would go beyond the perpetual incentivisation of cooperation. It would produce a structural change that would improve how the NGO sector functions permanently. It would boost trust in NGOs by showing sincerity around improving efficiency rather than competing for exposure. It would elevate the role of local and national NGOs, as the main source of diversity and delivery in the system. Most importantly, it would improve the assistance provided by NGOs for people affected by poverty and crisis. With the ongoing question of how to engage with the world, the consolidation of international NGOs could be a core part of the answer.

 

A version of this blog originally appeared in Third Sector and has since been updated.

You can follow Simon on Twitter @sioconnell1

Filmmaking with your smartphone

“The best camera is the one that you have with you.”

Everything you need to create engaging, attention-grabbing content is sitting in your back pocket.

Gone are the days of dragging around a 30kg camera bag, 5 different lighting fixtures, 3 sound guys and a couple thousand pounds worth of complicated editing software. Smartphones have finally evened the playing field for content creators, and it goes without saying that this is excellent news for charities.

Last week, we ran the second IBT ‘How to Shoot and Edit with a Smartphone’ workshop. Back by popular demand, the hands-on training session with experienced trainer and YouTube expert, Nat Hawley, takes our members from filming newbies to confident self-shooting vloggers.

The session began with a lively discussion about how we engage with video content online, and the best ways for charities to utilise smartphones for this platform. The group were unanimous in their ambition to be able to use smartphones for filming whilst working overseas and were keen to start learning the skills required to do so.

 

First up, The Selfie.

“You cannot ask people to stand in front of your camera until you fully appreciate how awkward and uncomfortable it is for most people.” – Nat Hawley.

Acting as both the perfect icebreaker and an exercise in framing, manual focusing and lighting, the group’s selfie-taking introduced many of the fundamental principles of shooting with a smartphone.

Nat went on to lead the group through every aspect of the filming process, from his top tips for recording sound on the go, to understanding the video content landscape.

After a crash course in the latest smartphone editing software, the group were ready to put their new skills to the test in the afternoon’s challenge: Create a 1-minute clip for your organisation’s social media platforms.

Several hours of script-writing, shot-framing, and clip-cutting later, and the group had a selection of professional quality videos ready to show on the big screen. The results were impressive. From reinvigorating the usual charity “fact list” with energetic jump cuts and personal anecdotes, to using comedy and narrative to show off a new campaign – the videos shown proved just how effective filmmaking with a smartphone can be.

The ever-growing capabilities of the smartphone mean that content creation has never been easier, and charities embracing this powerful tool have a world of opportunities at their fingertips. Now you can film, edit and broadcast to the world from the little box in your back pocket – so what are you waiting for?

 


 

Is video the best way to promote your charity?

Click here to read our ‘Video First’ report for more information on the media landscape in the UK, the trends which are influencing it and where the opportunities lie for NGOs wishing to produce their own video content.

3 ways INGOs can harness the power of the podcast

2018 has been the year of the podcast.

Ofcom has found that about 6 million of us in the UK listen to podcasts on a weekly basis – a figure that has almost doubled over the last 5 years. With an endless catalogue of listening options, and more and more organisations turning to the format to grow their brand awareness, it seems inevitable that these figures will continue to grow.

Podcasts offer the charity sector an excitingly accessible new platform for reaching their audiences. So how can your charity best harness the power of the podcast?

 

1 – Feature as a Guest Speaker

Delve into iTunes’ exhaustive podcast directory and you will find a plethora of shows discussing the latest sector news, trends and practical advice. You will also find that most of these shows regularly feature guest speakers.

There are few other formats that provide such an engaged and focused audience – a recent study by Acast found that 76% of listeners said they had followed up on an ad or message they heard in a podcast. So, it seems logical that featuring as a podcast guest speaker offers the perfect platform for you to talk about your latest campaign or fundraiser.

Decide who in your team offers the best combination of high-profile influence and engaging radio patter, find the shows your target audience are listening to, and start reaching out to podcast hosts. This article by Thinkific provides a very detailed guide on how to get started.

Our Favourite Informative Podcasts: Displaced (IRC), Good Charity Bad Charity and NCVO

 

2 – Pitch Your Stories to Podcasts

Comms teams in the charity sector are very accustomed to the challenges of getting the attention of print journalists. Why not try pitching to podcast producers instead?

There are a number of fantastic podcasts covering stories from the development sector, each focusing their output on curating a series of engaging, human led stories.

Last month, IBT ran a networking event with Guardian Global Development’s, Lucy Lamble – the driving force behind the Guardian’s brilliant, ‘Small Changes’ podcast. Whilst meeting with our members, she spoke about the huge potential of podcasts for the sector and encouraged our member charities to send her their pitches for character driven stories.

“The digital reach is far far bigger than print. There are lots of different ways of pushing things out: short films, Facebook, podcasts… All reaching people who aren’t necessarily Guardian readers.”
– Lucy Lamble, Guardian Global Development

Our Favourite Story-led Podcasts: Awake at Night (UNHCR), and Small Changes (Guardian Global Development)

 

3 – Start Your Own Podcast

With consistently rising engagement numbers, widely accessible listening platforms and entry-level recording equipment available at a surprisingly affordable cost, there has never been a better time to start your own podcast.

A number of charities have successfully broken into the world of podcasts: from Amnesty International’s, ‘In Their Own Words’ to ODI’s humanitarian interview series. Providing you have the time, resources and content worth broadcasting, this can be a great way to utilise the rise in podcast popularity.

In the new year, IBT will be running a day-long podcast workshop for our members. Run by experienced podcast host and trainer, Lucy Lucraft, the sessions will cover everything from navigating the audio landscape, to the technicalities of recording your first episode.

Our Favourite Charity-run Podcasts: In Their Own Words (Amnesty International), Completely Optional Knowledge (Greenpeace), ODI

 

If 2018 has been the year the podcast found its place among mainstream media, then let 2019 be the year the charity sector harnesses its potential.

How ready are journalists to cover the big humanitarian stories?

An opinion piece by Kate Wright, co-author of The State of Humanitarian Journalism

Should Save the Children play a key role in setting up a new worldwide register of suspected sex offenders, whilst being investigated by the charities Commission for its own failure to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct? Are feminist whistle-blowers being marginalised from debates about how sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation are tackled? Will the steps suggested at DFID’s recent Safeguarding Summit actually work?

Whilst these internal rows grind on, the suffering of others grows much, much worse. The UN has warned that in Yemen the worst famine in a hundred years is imminent, if Saudi’s blockade does not cease. But Yemen is not an isolated case: 80% of the world’s humanitarian needs are already driven by conflict.

Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report saying that we have only a few years to ward off catastrophic levels of global warming. If we don’t cut carbon emissions drastically, there will be far more droughts, hurricanes and floods. These will hit the poorest hardest: feeding a vicious cycle of fragility, competition over resources, and conflict. Little has improved, it seems, since the first World Humanitarian Summit was held two years ago.

If we are to respond to these issues effectively, we need to have information about what’s going on. Policy-makers and other audiences need to understand the causes of the issues, and the range of solutions on offer. So the question is: how ready are journalists to cover what is coming?

 

Only a few news outlets regularly report on humanitarian issues

In our industry report, The State of Humanitarian Journalism, we explain some of the key results of a global, four year research project. The main finding is that only a very small number of news outlets produce regular, original reporting of humanitarian issues. With the exception of The Washington Post, commercial news outlets do not report on humanitarian issues outside of ‘emergencies’. Instead, the funding for humanitarian reporting is largely concentrated in the hands of two sets of powerful actors: states and private foundations.

State-funded international broadcasters, including BBC World Service, Al Jazeera English, CGTN and Voice of America, aren’t as limited by financial concerns as commercial news organisations. But what they can report may be constrained by overt censorship, diplomatic sensitivities or fierce arguments between states, as happened during the blockade of Qatar. Even when states do not directly interfere in the day-to-day running of these news outlets, their strategic priorities tend to shape the geographic spread of reporters, if not actual editorial content.

The other major group of funders are private foundations, which support small, specialist news outlets, like IRIN and the humanitarian news vertical at Thomson Reuters Foundation, as well as blogs like Humanosphere. These foundations have been established by businesses and entrepreneurs, the most prominent of which is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But such forms of funding are unsustainable as we foundations usually provide ‘start-up’ funding, rather than regular running costs. They also tend to invest in humanitarian reporting as a short-term means of delivering other kinds of socio-economic ‘impact’, rather than a worthwhile goal in and of itself. For these reasons, Humanosphere closed in June 2017, and News Deeply had to make deep cuts to its services in September 2018.

 

Some good news – research shows that audiences are interested

There are two bits of cheering news. The first is that humanitarian reporting is much more varied than many had previously thought. News outlets differ significantly from one another, and there are still important ‘gaps’ which those interested in this work could move forward to fill, including gender reporting and investigative journalism. The second is that Western audiences are far more interested in humanitarian news than editors have hitherto believed. In the Aid Attitudes Tracker survey spanning audiences in 4 countries, ‘humanitarian disasters’ was actually found to be the most popular category of international news—not the least.

 

Read Full Report

Dear journalists, we want to be more honest with you. For starters, don’t call us charities

An opinion piece By Simon O’Connell, Executive Director, Mercy Corps.

Yumbe is about as far north and west in Uganda as it is possible to go. A dozen years ago I worked in this part of Africa, and I went back there recently. Much has changed. Four years of civil war in neighbouring South Sudan has created two million refugees, half of whom have crossed into Uganda. They are trying to rebuild their lives among Ugandan communities that are themselves struggling against poverty.

But where you might expect to see strife, we are seeing how the combination of South Sudanese and Ugandans is sparking enterprise and beginning to drive growth. Spending and investment by refugees is supporting more businesses, and the increased economic activity is bringing opportunities to a part of Uganda that was previously remote and cut off from significant markets.

To facilitate this, organisations like mine, Mercy Corps, are promoting land sharing between refugees and host communities, subsidising seed purchases from local agro-dealers, improving agro-dealers’ ability to access quality seeds from national companies, and working to attract produce trading companies to the area. We are working with the private sector, local government and other aid organisations to support not just individual people, but the market systems on which they rely and can build for the future.

Elsewhere around the world, we have run reinsurance programmes, set up dozens of micro-finance initiatives, established the first tech start-up incubator and accelerator in Gaza, and formed a public private partnership to provide a water system for over a million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. By working through markets, the scale of impact is enormous.

 

Don’t call us a charity

But we have a problem: traditionally, our work has been labelled ‘charity’, a word that means ‘an organisation set up to provide help and raise money for those in need’ or ‘the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need’. It is a word that has also become synonymous with emergency relief and ‘handouts’.

In Yumbe and elsewhere, though, Mercy Corps and others are engaged in intricate social and economic activity to help deliver lasting change. To describe this work as ‘charity’ doesn’t really cut it. But, we largely have ourselves to blame. Our ability to communicate what we do has been found wanting. When it comes to aid, we think that the public and politicians have little appetite for complexity or potential failures. So we portray ourselves as simple ‘charities’ – raising money to give to the needy – not the complicated agents of social change that we actually aspire to be.

This has consequences for the relationship between aid agencies and the media – a relationship that has increasingly resembled a battlefield. Few things set journalists going like the scent of inconsistency and hypocrisy – and by presenting ourselves as we have, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have made themselves a target. In turn, we have responded to media attacks by becoming increasingly wary and defensive.

There are other consequences, too. The Edelman Trust Barometer – a survey of more than 33,000 respondents – earlier this year found that NGOs are viewed negatively or neutrally in 21 of the 28 countries surveyed. In the UK, trust in NGOs stood at only 46%. Negative stories about aid continue to eat away at how our sector is perceived.

This should come as no surprise. If we present ourselves as ‘charities’, it is little wonder the media criticise us and people mistrust us when they see us doing things they don’t expect. If we want to regain trust we need to communicate better what we do, and what the work of modern NGOs actually involves. But we can’t do that without the media. It is through the media that the world is represented and our role in helping to shape it. We in the NGO sector need to find a way to work with the media without metaphorically coming to blows.

In a decline in trust, NGOs and the media have some common ground. The Edelman Trust Barometer also found that media are trusted less than both businesses and government, the first time that has happened in the survey’s 18-year history. This is mostly driven by the growth of ‘fake news’ and the public’s acknowledgement that they find it difficult to tell fact from fiction. Within this general crisis of trust, the media are suffering too.

 

A new relationship between the media and NGOs

So, is it time to take a different view of the relationship between NGOs and the media? Instead of frequently behaving as if we are on opposite sides, we could instead view ourselves as mutually supportive – both important parts of a functioning democratic society. A strong and independent press is an essential counterbalance to government and the private sector. So is a range of non-governmental organisations, backed up by a commitment to freedom of speech. Between us, NGOs and the media are vital for building social capital, trust and shared values that help hold society together.

If we could see the relationship between aid agencies and the media in that way, some real changes might be possible. Organisations like mine should do more to avoid presenting ourselves simplistically as ‘charities’, but instead take responsibility for representing the complexity of the challenges we seek to solve and the diversity of our work. No-one knows better than we do that the aid sector is not perfect. We should commit to increased transparency in explaining the realities of what we do.

In turn, more media organisations should stop viewing aid agencies simply as a target for exposing hypocrisy and scandal. That does not mean the media should stop looking critically at what aid agencies are doing but, with the straw man of ‘simple charity’ removed, they should commit to exploring the realities of aid work objectively.

If we can realise this shift in thinking not only would it benefit communities here in the UK and abroad. It would also go some way to addressing our common problem – by restoring trust in all of us.

An edited version of this piece first appeared on Thomson Reuters News

Follow Simon on Twitter at @sioconnell1

Find out more about Mercy Corps’ work promoting land sharing between refugees and host communities (PDF)

What is an IBT briefing?

So what happens at an IBT briefing? We hold these events regularly so that our members can meet face to face with media decision makers.

Our last briefing was with Liz Corbin, Head of News at BBC World News. The BBC is, of course, a leading broadcaster when it comes to international content so we were all keen to hear how decisions are taken about which stories to cover.

BBC World News is the BBC’s most watched TV channel with a global audience of more than 100 million, so its news coverage is truly global, and much more varied that what we see on the BBC here in the UK.

 

Knowing the audience

Liz and her colleagues are very aware of who is watching the channel at any given time and the news agenda reflects this. For example, The Briefing at 5am is aimed at viewers in Europe and Africa; GMT at noon is aimed at Asia/Pacific and the US East coast.

Every story goes through a key test of ‘will this interest our audience?’ So if you’re pitching to Liz have that thought upper most in your mind. Like all news editors, she wants to know what’s new about a story and why it is relevant now.

One of the goals of the channel is to place global events in context and to explain wider trends to its audience.

 

Advice on pitching a story

Much of the briefing covered practical points such as how to pitch ideas to Liz; which stories worked best for her channel; who was watching and examples of successful collaborations with NGOs.

Liz encouraged IBT members to make contact with BBC bureaux in the countries in which they operated. When she ran the BBC team in Singapore, she had several key contacts amongst local NGOs and kept in regular touch with them.

Liz also told us about the BBC’s 50-50 policy – its target that half of all experts appearing on news programmes should be female by 2020.

This was having a big effect on day to day decisions so if you are suggesting an expert to appear on one of her shows you’ll have far more chance if it’s a woman.

When academics first started measuring these figures some BBC programmes such as Today had a ration of 6 to 1.

 

NGOs and safeguarding

The BBC is such an influential broadcaster so how it tells stories about the developing world matter – and how it reports on the work of aid agencies.

These agencies have come under criticism for their handling of safeguarding, with coverage over the last few months focusing on Oxfam, then Save the Children and, most recently, MSF.

BBC World News covered the revelations about MSF, since they originated with the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show. An important question we wanted Liz to answer was how far this coverage had changed her view of NGOs.

It was reassuring to hear that her views hadn’t changed. Safeguarding was an issue for all sectors of society, she told us, therefore it was no surprise that NGOs were affected.

 

IBT briefings

IBT briefings are open to all our members and free to attend. If you’re interested in joining IBT take a look at our membership page or get in touch mark@ibt.org.uk.

The Blue Planet Effect

How good is TV coverage of the environment? Blue Planet II showed us the damage plastics are doing to our oceans. Hugh’s War on Waste highlighted waste from coffee cups that could not be recycled, vegetables grown by farmers but rejected by supermarkets and excess packaging from suppliers like Amazon. But how could TV do better? How can it help us as consumers to understand the environmental impact of decisions we take? How can it raise awareness of climate change?

At this year’s Sheffield Documentary Festival, there was much talk of ‘the Blue Planet effect.’ The prominence with which the David Attenborough fronted series featured plastic shocked many viewers into action. One of those shocked viewers was reportedly Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary.

It was interesting to hear in Sheffield from Tom McDonald, the BBC executive who commissioned Blue Planet II. When the series was first commissioned there was no plan to feature plastic. It was only when filming began and the film crews encountered so much plastic in the oceans that the producers decided this had to be a major theme of the series.

The way the audience responded to the programme, Tom McDonald told delegates at Sheffield, has given the BBC the confidence to commission more programmes that look at our impact on the environment. There will be more on plastics and these shows will run in prime time on BBC1. And there will be a new one-off BBC1 programme fronted by Stacey Dooley that looks at the impact on the environment of the clothes we buy.

At IBT, we have a longstanding interest in environmental issues and we welcome these new moves by the BBC. We’d like to see the other principal public service broadcasters, ITV and Channel 4, follow the BBC’s lead.

At ITV this is certainly taking place with the popular soap, Emmerdale, featuring characters who use recyclable cups and bags, drive electric vehicles and talk about environmental issues, according to Philip Holdgate, project lead of ITV’s Production Green Team. As Holdgate rightly says, this is a powerful tool to normalise sustainable behaviour as Emmerdale reaches 7 million viewers every night on ITV.

 

But more and better TV coverage of the environment is urgent

The major environmental challenge facing us is climate change. And it’s urgent. At Paris in December 2015, global leaders committed themselves to big reductions in carbon emissions with the goal of reducing global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees. If this is to be achieved we need to make huge changes in our behaviour.

But there is little popular understanding in the UK of what changes individuals can make to reduce their own carbon emissions. When we have held events with producers and broadcasters, we’ve found that many of them admit to ignorance on this subject.

Television has the ability to reach mass audiences and to contribute to important changes in behaviour. Blue Planet II is an example of this and so is Hugh’s War On Waste, another BBC1 show. In this series, the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall focused on three issues: non-recyclable coffee cups; food waste on farms due to supermarkets rejecting perfectly good ‘wonky’ vegetables because they were the wrong size or shape; and excess packaging by companies like Amazon.

War On Waste was a great show because it put itself in the position of the viewer – it didn’t lecture or talk down – and it focused on practical steps that viewers could take.

 

So how could TV do better?

If we look at climate change and how best to tackle it, there are three priority areas: transport, energy use and agriculture. These are the areas of life responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions.

We need popular television that looks at the environmental impact of transport, flying, car travel and electric cars.

TV should be doing more on the home – heating, insulation, energy efficient appliances, solar power, thermostats, smart meters. We do have programmes on homes and house building – like Grand Designs – but it’s rare for them to touch on these issues.

The third major contributor is agriculture which accounts for 20% of emissions. We need to look at what we eat, where the food comes from, its carbon footprint and the impact of food waste on the environment.  TV has plenty of very good food shows – like Food Unwrapped on Channel 4 – but they don’t look at the carbon footprint of food.

We need more shows that help us to think about our role as consumers and the impact of the decisions that we take. I recognise that this is challenging. The tone needs to be right – and it’s hard to achieve, but Hugh’s War On Waste demonstrates that it can be done successfully in prime time. We need the creatives and the commissioners to work harder to get these issues into the mainstream.

Children’s TV – crucial decisions ahead

The future of children’s TV in the UK is under the spotlight and crucial decisions made in the next few months will have a serious impact on what children are able to watch on television.
  • Ofcom is considering how to ensure children have enough public service content to watch and may introduce quotas on the commercial public service broadcasters to provide it
  • A new fund will be set up to help finance UK made children’s content – we want to see it prioritise international stories
Why is international content important for children?

For IBT members, engaging children, even as young as pre-schoolers, with the world outside the UK is essential if they are to grow up with a rounded understanding of how the world works and their place in it. IBT believes children need access to information about the lives and cultures of people in other countries and television has a vital role to play in providing this.

Recent research by Childwise showed that one in three British children aged nine to 16 said they were more worried about conflict in the world than anything else.

While many children are now watching video online, TV is still crucial because, unlike online, it is regulated to protect us from harmful content and has a statutory duty to be impartial and accurate. This is more important now than ever with the rise of fake news, identified in IBT’s recent report, Faking It – fake news and how it impacts on the charity sector.

For the past 15 years the quantity of TV programmes for children in the UK has declined steadily after quotas for the non-BBC public service channels (ITV, C4, Channel 5) were dropped. Now, most new content produced for children in the UK is broadcast by the BBC and the BBC can’t deliver enough content on its own. There are lots of pay TV channels for children but these mostly show US imports and don’t provide British kids with information relevant to their lives in the UK.

A wealth of research indicates that high quality programming can have a positive effect on children’s development and stimulate their interest in the world around them. This has always been a key element of the public value behind programmes like Blue Peter, Newsround, Magpie, Rainbow and How!

The list of entertaining, informative shows in the archives is a long one, but the list of such programmes currently being broadcast is much shorter. Newsround still plays a hugely important role but Blue Peter, while it runs excellent campaigns on sustainability and provides engaging science content, is largely domestic. International episodes of My Life on CBBC and the recent CBeebies series Where in the World are notable, but they are not the norm.

 

IBT is calling for an increase in international content aimed at children

We want more content like Where in the World so that our children grow up aware of what is happening in the wider world and become engaged global citizens.

IBT is calling for more content for British children on TV which provides them with a window on the wider world, explaining different cultures, putting international events into context and providing a rounded understanding of where we fit in the scheme of things.

In December the government announced the launch of a £60 million fund for the production of kids’ content for UK TV channels and Ofcom is considering whether to introduce extra regulation to increase the amount of children’s content on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. IBT is calling for the Contestable Fund to prioritise international content for children and has supported the introduction of extra quotas for the commercial public service channels to provide more content for children.

If you wish to support our campaign please get in touch.

Sophie Chalk, IBT Advocacy Consultant

Fake news and its impact on the charity sector

The Oxfam scandal has transformed the environment for international NGOs. They are under much more pressure than ever before to be as open and transparent as possible. The speed with which stories spread online demands immediate response. But what happens when the stories are false?
How should NGOs respond to fake news?

This is one of the issues considered in our new report, Faking It – fake news and how it impacts on the charity sector. The report finds that charities are struggling to cope with the impact of fake news. Both Save the Children and MSF have been the subject of fake news, falsely accused of colluding with people traffickers as they conduct rescue efforts in the Mediterranean.

The report quotes Sean Ryan, Director of Media at Save the Children as saying:

“In the Mediterranean, our search and rescue operations have been falsely accused of colluding with traffickers. It started as a report in the Italian media and then Defend Europe, the far right group, hired their own boat to try and stop what we were doing. We had to fight this propaganda without any resources. We just had to keep repeating that we only worked with the Italian coastguard.”

MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) have come under similar attack. Their head of press, Gemma Gillie, is deeply concerned about the impact of fake news on their reputation:

“Fake news delegitimises MSF and criminalises the vulnerable which in turn facilitates anti-immigration policies.”

Much has been written about fake news but Faking It is the first report that has looked specifically at the charity sector. Its findings are deeply worrying and illustrate how life has become much more difficult for charities, particularly those involved in international development. In an increasingly strident online environment, it’s harder for charities to be heard. It’s also easier for them to fall victim to false accusations, which often originate online but gain traction through mainstream media.

The report cites one example of trolling in which Girish Menon, the highly regarded CEO of ActionAid was falsely accused of being an ISIS agent. In Girish’s own words:

“We discovered that the message originated from a fake news site hosted in the US. In the heat of the moment there’s no analysis of what’s fake or not. If it had been picked up by other media what would we do? There are only so many times you can issue a rebuttal. Reputations are so brittle, what would our supporters think? And of course ActionAid works in many countries that have an ISIS footprint.”

 

5 actions that charities can take
  • Fake news and misinformation about your work should be monitored and challenged
  • Key staff should be trained in verification methods so that information coming from a charity is always carefully scrutinised
  • Maintaining and rebuilding public trust should be a key pillar of any communications strategy
  • Invest in relationships with trusted media outlets to help reinforce and amplify messaging

 

Download the Faking it: Fake News and How it Impacts on the Charity Sector report

IBT announces its new international TV award

Dear IBT members,

We need your help. Today we are launching the IBT award for the outstanding international television programme of 2017 and we need you to nominate your favourite programmes.

Despite the growth of social media, television remains hugely important as a way bringing global issues to mainstream audiences.

Who can be in any doubt as to the influence of television on the public – and even on some hard to reach politicians? If you read The Times today you will have seen its report that Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, is now a passionate advocate of tackling plastics pollution, having watched the final episode of Blue Planet 2 and, according to the newspaper, been ‘affected’ by what he saw. Congratulations must go of course to Sir David Attenborough and the team behind this amazing series.

What’s your favourite international TV programme?

No one can be unaware of Blue Planet but of course there is much television that goes uncelebrated. That’s why we are launching this award. A shortlist will be drawn up based on nominations received by IBT members, so please get in touch and tell me your favourite international programmes from 2017. To be eligible a programme must have an international theme and have been broadcast on radio or television, in the UK, in the calendar year 2017.

We are running this award in conjunction with VLV (Voice of the Listener and Viewer), the influential audience group. It will be presented at a special awards ceremony in the spring.

Of course there are many other TV awards – the BAFTAs, RTS, Grierson, Rory Peck, Amnesty and One World. So why a new award? There’s one simple reason. These awards are all judged by media professionals. The IBT award is different as it will be nominated exclusively by our members, who will have a very different set of priorities.

So let me take a personal look at some of the international programmes that have stood out in 2017. It’s been a good year for the traditional presenter-led format, with memorable examples such as The Ganges with Sue Perkins, Russia with Simon Reeve, Joanna Lumley’s India, Reggie Yates Extreme Russia and Stacey Dooley Investigates. The BBC’s Partition season had some memorable shows, notably My Family, Partition and Me and Dangerous Borders – A Journey Across India and Pakistan.

All the programmes I’ve mentioned so far come from the BBC or ITV. Channel 4 nowadays broadcasts far fewer international programmes, but what it does is always worth watching. This year there was The Fight for Mosul and Syria’s Disappeared: the Case Against Assad. And of course the inimitable Unreported World which in 2017 took us to so many countries that would otherwise not feature on television at all – Peru, Mexico, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Samoa, to name just a few.

When you review this list, it does seem that TV commissioners have settled very much on the presenter-led format. It’s a shame that there is not more experimentation. A few years ago we had Welcome to Rio on BBC2 and The Tribe on Channel 4. There is, however, one important exception. Keo, the producers of Welcome to Rio, brought us Exodus – Our Journey Continues. There is so much coverage of refugees in the media that we think we know all there is to know, but Exodus brings the human drama into our living rooms in a way that keeps you awake at night. It’s another reminder, along with Blue Planet, that television has a huge impact on the way we see the world.

We hope the IBT award will become a regular fixture and will encourage broadcasters to commission more high quality international content. This will only happen if you, our members, nominate your favourite programmes now. There’s no nomination form, just email me with your suggestions. The closing date for nominations is January 14, 2018.

Mark Galloway, IBT Director