Watch in full: Charity campaigning: where next?


Briefing Notes: BBC Africa


Nick Ericcson, Head of Planning, BBC Africa

BBC World Service has changed a lot in recent years – now it is ‘digital first’ so online comes first. Usually, an online piece will run with either a TV piece or a radio one. They are now doing more on social media – Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Still working out how to get the best out of Tik Tok.

Digital helps them to achieve the goal of reaching a younger, more female audience. In the past, the BBCWS appealed to older men who had an interest in global politics. Now it is aiming to reach a different demographic with some success. 39% of their audience is now female and a similar percentage are aged 18-25. Still a long way to go but heading in the right direction.

There’s a big emphasis on the language services as a way of reaching new audiences who may be less urban and less educated.

BBC Africa still has the goal of telling African stories in a different way – the main way they achieve this is by having African reporter. So you will now see an African reporter on the Ten O’Clock News, Newsnight and Today. This would not have been the case a decade ago. Having this profile on linear output is still important but digital is now more important.

A digital first approach brings them closer to their audience – they use audience data much more extensively to find out what their audience is interested in, so journalism is much less top down. There is a shift in power, Nick says, so the audience has more control.

They are also using digital to try new ways of storytelling. Africa Eye with its open access investigations is a good example of this, sharing content with the audience as the investigation moves forward. Content is repackaged and repurposed for different audiences so a 30 minute Africa Eye documentary will be shown on YouTube and then a shorter version on TV news, radio and online – and a Twitter thread.

Nick’s team is in charge of planning and they will keep in touch with the genre teams who are the main content commissioners. They will cream off the best stories and share these more widely. English language versions will be produced and then shared with the different language services.

Their main programmes are Focus on Africa Radio and TV, Swahili TV, and then Somali, Hausa and Afrique.

There has been a big effort in BBC News to modernise the commissioning process so that several reporters are not sent to cover the same story for different programmes. These changes are taking place in domestic news, not in the World Service, as they were already doing that. It’s true that the range of stories covered has fallen as a result of these changes but it does mean that when a story runs it is likely to be shown in more places and reach a bigger audience.

BBCWS has set itself the target of reaching 500m people by the end of 2022. It is currently hitting 488m. Their biggest audiences are in India, US, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania.



Nick advises to pitch to him and he will respond and/or pass on to the relevant team. Please send proposals well in advance and if you are suggesting studio guest they are more likely to say yes to women as they are aiming for a 50-50 gender split of experts. Let him know if you have B roll. They are keen to collaborate on any report where you are gathering new evidence – they did this successfully with Human Rights Watch.


MG 22.3.22

Watch in full: briefing with BBC Africa


Briefing Notes: Reporting international development – where next?


Sarah Johnson Guardian Development reporter

Yasir Khan Editor in Chief Thomson Reuters Foundation

Will Worley Devex UK correspondent


Thomson Reuters

Yasir took over as Editor in Chief last year, before that he was with Euronews. He charted the change in journalism during Covid from being entirely office and telephone based to returning to travelling. Things were almost back to normal. Journalists were coming in to the office for 2 days a week. He said there was now an appetite for non Covid stories, as Covid fatigue had set in.

Since his arrival much has changed at TRF. Its close relationship with Reuters meant that its stories always went out on the wires and this was their main focus. Now they are digital first, focusing on web as this is where they think the growth will be. Their stories still go out via Reuters so you will see them in newspapers around the world. Yasir has moved TRF away from following the daily news agenda and for the most part it will steer clear of this.

There are 3 main areas of focus: climate change, inclusive economies and technology and society. He is publishing a lot less and going for depth instead. New insights into key policy debates. New evidence. Stories that haven’t been touched on by other media. There are no hard and fast lines between these topics. Their audience is ‘purpose-driven professionals.’ They have lots of places where they can catch up the news – TRF are giving them depth and fresh insights. Their audience research indicates that this is what their audience wants. They are also keep on establishing a thought leadership role for themselves.

However, they did find that they gained an audience for stories on Afghanistan that no one else was covering – such as what was happening to beauty salons.


Guardian Development

Sarah joined the GD team last year and her brief covers human rights and global development. She has a particular interest in health and writing about non-communicable diseases. Travel is not yet back to normal. Sarah did make on trip since joining, to Kenya, where she worked with the Global Fund on a series of stories on TB, malaria and HIV.

The GD team consists of 3 full time reporters and one part timer with Tracy McVeigh as editor. The brief has changed under Tracy’s editorship – they are no longer mainly aiming at the GD community; instead they want to run stories that work for a mainstream audience. This means more human interest and human angles, more for example on the impacts of climate change on communities.

They are covering mainly low and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. She’d like to do more on Latin America and more stories focused on one community but which are emblematic of bigger problems. Their agenda includes health, livelihoods, gender, equality, food security, migration and the climate crisis. They want to run stories that no other national newspaper is doing. Some popular stories on the site have been about the impact of Covid on tourism, an interactive story on Israeli bombing of Gaza, her own story on the little-known disease noma.



Will has spent most of the last two years reporting on the merger of the FCO and DFID and the subsequent cuts to aid. He has sometimes found it hard to get NGOs to go on the record if it involves criticising the government as they are worried about jeopardising future funding. Devex is much smaller that GD or TRF and they have a narrow focus. Their audience is people working in international development, for UN agencies, for charities, in government or think tanks. Global health is a big part of their agenda so they devoted a lot of resources to covering the impact of Covid in developing countries.


Decolonising language

A question was asked about whether these media outlets were talking about decolonising language in the same way as the development sector is. All the speakers said that they thought carefully about the language they used – for example the term refugee or migrant and that there was nothing new to this. It was clear that they had not taken on board some of the more recent debates about language which Bond is leading on. There may be an opportunity for a fruitful dialogue between the media and development sectors – it would be good to know what IBT members think about this.


MG, 22.2.22

Watch in full: Reporting international development – where next?


Watch in full: COP26 – where next for the media?


You can access Gaby’s presentation on BBC’s post COP26 audience research here. Please not this presentation is for IBT members only and not for mass distribution.

Briefing Notes: COP26 – where next for the media?


Sarah Whitehead, deputy head of newsgathering, Sky News

Angela Dewan, international climate editor, CNN

Matt McGrath, environment correspondent, BBC News

Jack Lundie, director of campaigns and engagement, WWF

Gaby Hornsby, TV lead sustainability, BBC


In the first part of this session we reviewed the media coverage of COP26.

Sky News – Sarah said that Sky had understood that this was a real moment and they had launched their climate change daily news programme in April with a weekly podcast and a beefed-up team of reporters and producers. They wanted to report on daily changes and developments on the issue, bring a climate change angle to mainstream stories and search out some solutions. During COP they launched a dedicated Climate Live channel. And there were reports from around the world including Mark Austin in Brazil and Alex Crawford in Madagascar. There was also a commitment to following the impact on the ground in Bangladesh.

CNN – Angela said that CNN also recognised that climate change had ceased to be a niche issue and had gone mainstream. They too expanded their team of reporters and writers. She found that the CNN audience was less interested in the machinations of COP and more interested in how climate change was impacting on communities around the world. The audience was also keen to see CNN holding companies and governments to account.

BBC – Matt said it was hard to get across to audiences the importance of COP. One of their successes was explainers on key issues which proved very popular with audiences. Ros Atkins specialised in these and has spoken of what he calls ‘assertive impartiality.’ Matt, like Angela, felt that audiences were interested in accountability.

WWF – Jack reflected on media coverage from the point of view of WWF, saying that the media played a key role in ensuring that climate promises made in the run up to COP were kept. He praised the media’s commitment to covering climate change which made it easier for WWF and other campaigners to get their message across. However, the question remained as to the wider impact of media coverage. WWF is working on the assumption that politicians and governments are more likely to keep their promises on tackling climate change if the media is holding them to account.

The audience

Gaby shared the BBC’s audience research which tracked UK attitudes to climate change at three points in the year – July, October and late November. She will speak to colleagues about whether she is able to share her slides with attendees. But, if you wish to see the slides, just watch the recording of the event. Gaby is the fifth speaker.

Six out of 10 people said that climate change was important or very important to them and this was true across all ages, gender and demographics. In July audiences cared about COP but had very little understanding of the summit – by the time it took place they had a much clearer understanding of its importance and the topics that were covered, especially deforestation, fossil fuels and carbon emissions.

Audiences demonstrated a high level of understanding on some headline issues – renewable energy, deforestation and climate change. There was good understanding of carbon footprint. But there was much less understanding when it came to more technical aspects such as sustainable infrastructure. COP produced higher levels of understanding – for example those who said they understood net zero went up from 49 to 60%.

Once COP had finished there was some drop in public understanding of climate change – from 82 to 75%, perhaps because audience had come to realise how complicated it was. There was no sign of environmental fatigue after COP with 59% of respondents saying they wanted to hear more, compared with 50% in July.

Audiences were asked which aspects interested them the most. They said they wanted to know what they could personally do to make a difference; they wanted to hear more positive stories; and they wanted to see governments held to account.

Overall, audiences felt that they had a broad understanding of climate change but lacked knowledge about the detail. They felt that the media was not doing a good job of holding governments, companies and policy makers to account.

Gaby also shared with us the IPSOS MORI poll in which members of the public identified the issues that were of most concern to them. In November, after COP climate change/the environment/pollution was the top issue on 40%. By December this had fallen by an astonishing 27 percentage points to 13%, its lowest point.

Gaby said that there were two key groups that had a lower understanding – young people and CDEs. This presented an opportunity for the media, although it might be hard to bring specialist content to these audiences.

Climate change pledge

Gaby also told us about the pledge by the Sky, the BBC and other public service broadcasters to beef up their coverage of climate change across a range of genres. In all areas of commissioning, commissioners would have a conversation with producers about how climate change could be included in editorial content. Gaby said there was a need to upskill the creative community so that they had a better understanding of climate change and related issues. The broadcaster group is working together to see how they can best track the changes in content and any increase in audience understanding and engagement.

Where next for the media?

All the broadcasters spoke about their plans for coverage now and in the run up to COP27.

Sky – Sarah wanted more stories about the impact of climate change and how to ensure accountability on a regular basis. Timeliness was key and pitching to the right person. Email her and she will put you in touch with the right person.

CNN – Angela was planning to do less but hoping that this would have more impact. She was open to all good stories with a fresh angle and also keen to do more on accountability. Email her your pitches.

BBC – Matt said the BBC would continue as before and there would be more explainers, more embedding of climate change across the full range of news stories and more investigations and attempts to hold those to the promises made at COP. He advised planning a long time ahead when approaching the BBC. Bring him case studies rather than issues. Bring him stories that illustrate the impact of climate change and look for ways of helping the audience to connect emotionally.


MG, 25.1.21

Watch in full: podcast peer learning session with Dear Lifesaver


Briefing Notes: podcast masterclass with British Red Cross

Speakers: Jude, Annie and Zaina

Jude explained that the podcast was the result of an existing relationship between the British Red Cross and the We are VOICES network, an independent organisation. The podcast was timed to coincide the BRC ‘every refugee matters’ campaign and to support advocacy around the new Borders Bill.

Jude pitched the idea to her colleagues. She had produced media content with the VOICES network but this was different, as refugees and asylum seekers would be the editorial leads. She got the go ahead with funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery and put together the team of around a dozen refugees who were working as ambassadors for the VOICES network. A freelance audio producer, Bridey, was hired.

They began by running a series of workshops for the refugees, training them in podcast production. They listen to a lot of other podcasts, searched out resources, practised with audio diaries etc and then started to talk about the content. It was agreed that each episode would be themed and constructed around a key moment – the heart of the story. There would be no overarching narrative.

Annie explained that the refugees themselves decided the issues that they wanted to talk about. They had several goals for the podcast. They wanted to change perceptions of asylum seekers – they came to the UK out of necessity, not choice. The theme for the series was ‘joy and happiness.’ They wanted the podcasts to feel celebratory.

Zaina explained how they looked for small details to tell stories – she wants a tennis partner but it’s hard because she keeps being forced to move.

The themes they explored included loneliness, journeys, family life, accommodation, everyday life, borders and mental health.

The producers wanted to create a team spirit where there was mutual trust and everyone felt able to share their stories.

The podcasts were aimed at an audience that wanted to know more about the plight of refugees and what their daily lives were like. Their research indicated that many people were supportive but did not have much idea of the actual experience of refugees arriving in the UK. The series has been successful with more than 4,000 downloads and many listeners have signed the BRC ‘every refuges matters’ pledge. The link to the pledge campaign has been important as it gave the podcast team access to comms support and the ability to share clips from the podcasts across social media. The podcasts were not a separate activity but integrated with a wider campaign.

There were some challenges in getting internal sign off for each episode but overall it was much easier than Jude expected. She had to avoid being party political or naming individual politicians as the BRC has to remain politically neutral but they were allowed to broadcast the views and experience of the refugees themselves, however critical of the system they were.

The three speakers shared some of the key lessons that they had learnt in making the podcasts.

Annie said that she had learnt the importance of listening skills, resilience, trust in the team and the process, to be open minded, mindful of yourself and others.

Zaina said that for here the key was collaboration at every stage and to hold onto her passion. Passion was important than having the right skillset.

Jude said that the key lessons for her were bringing a co-production ethos into every element of the production, creating openness, building trust, be ready to change your plans and to go off piste. Working with other BRC teams was a particular challenge as they did not share the co-production ethos.


Dear Lifesaver podcast

The masterclass was followed by a networking session. We invited the presenters of Islamic Relief’s new podcast, Dear Lifesaver, to share their experience. Sara and Nabilah explained how the podcast came about, and spoke about the format and target audience. The initial aim was to engage their Muslim supporters with key development issues. They wanted to take the audience on a journey of learning and to go on that journey themselves. The aim was to choose a simple format which was comfortable and accessible, with Sara and Nabilah interview one guest in each episode and then reflecting on some of the key themes that arose from the interview. They may experiment with other formats in later episodes.






Watch in full: podcast masterclass with British Red Cross


Briefing Notes: crisis comms

PLEASE NOTE: This is an off the record briefing – do not quote its contents to third parties



John Orme, senior counsel, Porter Novelli

Sean Ryan, Director of Media and Corporate Comms, Save the Children


John’s advice

All crises are complex and difficult and they come when you least expect them, but John emphasised the importance of preparation, having systems in place, so that they could be dealt with quickly and effectively. A crisis is a badly managed issue – if it’s well managed it does not become a crisis. John said it was essential to anticipate what might happen and to ensure that you can respond speedily. He has a ‘one hour ready’ rule. You should be ready to respond within one hour of an issue arising. This may mean that you have to respond without having the full facts and without having sign off from everyone.


You can anticipate a variety of crises that may occur and prepare for them. These could involve safeguarding, behaviour of senior staff, concerns of people who have left the organisation or internal whistleblowers. You need to do a risk assessment but also look at your own vulnerabilities as an organisation. What are the roadblocks to an effective response? Is power devolved? Do you have a transparent culture? Do you respond well to criticism?


Stick to your values and respond according to them even if others are advising you to do differently. Be as open as possible, putting as much information out as possible, anticipate what is likely to happen next and prepare your response, be proactive rather than reactive. Try and encourage authentic voices to speak up on your behalf.


Sean’s experience

Sean spoke about three occasions when he had been in the media spotlight.


When he was Foreign Editor at the Sunday Times one of his reporters, Marie Colvin, was killed in Syria. Soon after he was informed, Al Jazeera told him they were running the story, so he had to inform the family, colleagues, manage the media response and think ahead to tackle logistical issues such as bring Marie’s body home and rescuing her injured colleague. He had no plan in place and was overwhelmed. He said that he learnt several lessons – above all, be prepared, have a system in place for dealing with a crisis, protect people who are dealing with the crisis as the pressure is intense, don’t neglect internal comms, it’s important to keep your colleagues fully informed. Sean also briefed a journalist when Vanity Fair started to investigate and he made the mistake of trusted the journalist who then used his words against him. It took them several weeks to gain control and feel that they were no longer on the defensive.


The next crisis that Sean had to manage was when ISIS bombed the Save the Children compound in Afghanistan. This time they got ahead of the story, briefing the BBC on the facts as far as they knew them. But then the Wall Street Journal wanted to publish a story in which ISIS accused Save the Children of evangelising in Afghanistan. Sean managed to persuade the Foreign Editor not to run the story as it would put all Save’s in country staff at risk.


The third crisis was when two senior managers at Save were accused of sexual misconduct. When the story broke, the two had already left the organisation but Save was accused of failing to hold them to account for their misbehaviour. The Chair of the Trustees set up a small group to handle the crisis which included Sean and an outside lawyer, but not the CEO who had to recuse himself as he had been a Trustee at the time of the allegations. The lawyer persuaded the group to take an aggressive stance against journalists and threaten legal action. This was a huge mistake and damaged Save’s relationship with journalists and proved counter-productive. Sean was told not to speak to journalists which also proved to be a big mistake. The lesson Sean learnt was that NGOs should engage with their critics and provide as much information as possible. Be very careful about how you come across in these situations. Stay true to your values.


MG, 16.11.21




Watch in full: crisis comms briefing

PLEASE NOTE: This is an off the record briefing – do not quote its contents to third parties.


Briefing Notes: Richard Greene from CNN

Key contacts

Guest booking

Freedom Project lead


Senior news editor

International climate editor



Richard Greene, Head of Content, CNN London



CNN International is a division of CNN. It has a similar relationship as BBC News with BBC World News. CNNI broadcasts globally outside the US to several hundred million homes although there are no precise viewing figures. Some of its shows are broadcast by the US network and vice versa and content is shared between the two, but CNNI is principally aimed at a global audience so each story is judged on its merits. The US network has much more of a US focus. CNNI recently led for example on the kidnapping of US missionaries in Haiti and on the murder of the British MP David Amess.

CNNI is known as a breaking news channel and this is what it does best. When there’s a breaking story it throws lots of resources at it. Part of Richard’s role is to encourage his colleagues to place these stories in a wider context, which is what audiences are looking for. The nature of breaking news is changing. But if there is a big story and you have a guest who can contribute get straight on to the guest bookers, who are part of the planning team. Guests are judged on their merits. Players are of more interest than commentators.

CNNI comes from London several times a day and in normal times they would want guests in the studio but currently they have no studio guests so anyone can contribute regardless of where they are.

Television is no longer the most important outlet. In the US live TV dominates but outside of the US, CNN’s online presence is equally important and they have a digital team in London. London is the largest CNN bureau outside the US and the hub for stories from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It employs around 30 people – producers, reporters, presenters, sports desk, photo desk, business team, climate team.

Pitches can go to Richard or one of the specialist teams.


What are they looking for?

Any story you pitch needs to have a topical angle or peg so that it feels like a story that is relevant now. This doesn’t mean that they don’t do features, but it does mean that any off-agenda story should have a strong peg.


Top issues

Each year CNN decides on the top issues that it wants to focus on in order to differentiate itself from the competition – this year there are prioritising the climate crisis, China, inequality, the new post-Covid world and global politics/identity.

Climate crisis – they will go big on COP and they will be devoting a lot of resources to it. The international climate editor, Angela Dewan, is based in London. Angela has said that she welcomes pitches from us, although she may be slow to answer. They are keen as part of their coverage of climate change to look at solutions so that the coverage is not all negative and bleak. At COP, they will seek to hold world leaders to account. Climate change pitches need to have a different angle or something new to say.

Inequality is another key topic for them – and they interpret this widely. For example whether billionaires should spend their money go into space or give to more deserving causes, can be seen as an inequality issue.

Whilst CNN is not a campaigning organisation it does sometimes do issue-related campaigns. One such campaign is the freedom project which looks at human trafficking. The campaign is ongoing.


MG, 21.10.21

Watch in full: Briefing with CNN

Watch in full: social media training session two

You can access the slides from the session here.

This session covered:

    • Platform changes for LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook and YouTube 
    • How to reach new audiences 
    • Team members’ social media presences 
    • Tone of voice – advanced tips 
    • How to piggyback on trending topics 
    • Advocacy management and strategy 
    • Crisis communications 
    • Dealing with trolls 
    • Accessibility on social media – advanced tips 
    • How to take an insights led approach to content strategy as a team 
    • How to create a compelling narrative about your organisation on social media 


Watch in full: social media training session one

You can access the slides from the session here.

This session covered:

    • Understanding your audience on social media and their needs 
    • How to be strategic and measure success on social media 
    • How to get more reach and engagement 
    • How to create low cost content 
    • Content pillars: what are they and how to use them 
    • Tone of voice- beginner to intermediate tips 
    • Accessibility on social media


Watch in full: Briefing on climate change with BBC News

Briefing Notes: BBC News on Climate Change


Matt McGrath, BBC Environment Correspondent


Climate and Science team

Matt is part of the 20-25 strong Climate and Science team (it was previously Science and Environment). The new name signals the importance that the BBC attaches to climate change. The team is being relocated to Cardiff so there will be some departures. The main correspondents are David Shukman, Victoria Gill, Rebecca Morelle, Justin Rowlatt, Claire Marshall, Pallab Ghosh and Roger Harrabin. Each has their own area of interest which you can see from their previous reporting but there is some overlap. Roger covers UK and Matt global. Matt mainly produces digital content but also some radio and TV. He covers climate change, IPPC, COP, UN, global policy and impacts.


Climate change coverage

Matt said there is a big audience appetite for climate change related stories and interest is growing. When he wrote a story about the latest IPPC report it had 4m page views on the day. He says that their audience research shows that the audience likes mainstream coverage of the big climate stories. They like the fact that the BBC is objective and is a reliable source of information.


Changes to BBC News

A new commissioning system is currently being put in place to avoid duplication and to focus on fewer stories. It was felt that there were too many stories being produced and too much duplication. Commissioning groups will decide which stories to prioritise and the approach will be digital first. Each story will run on radio, TV and online, so for the stories that are commissioned will reach bigger audiences than in the past. There will be greater depth and analysis. The downside is that there will be a narrowing of the range of stories. Matt agreed that the big news story of the day will dominate, as it does now, but said there would be a greater effort to put in place explainers and increase the range of voices that are heard on a story.



Matt was sympathetic about the challenges of pitching to BBC News. He said a lot is about building relationships. The first story you pitch will not necessarily get commissioned but a later one may. Target a correspondent that you think may be interested and start trying out ideas on them. He said most of the commissioning for the coverage of COP has been done but advised everyone to watch events and post comments or pictures that are relevant on a given day. He said there will be live coverage online throughout COP and this is a good opportunity to place topical stories especially on the first few days of COP when not much is newsworthy. The BBC is going to give COP a huge amount of coverage. Also think about pitching spokespeople, but be clear that they have something to say and are willing to be outspoken. This is a chance to talk about issues rather than a PR opportunity for an NGO. There is strong interest in data – if you are pitching data then the BBC will need access to the raw data and their in house team will make the charts.


Impact of climate change on developing countries

This is an aspect of the climate change story that the BBC wants to cover but Matt said that they had covered it already and needed to keep finding new angles. They are also keen to ensure that voices from these worst affected communities are heard during COP and Matt accepts that NGOs are closer to the communities and can help to give the BBC access.


Changing tone of coverage

The BBC’s approach to covering this issue had changed a lot since the previous COP when coverage had to be ‘balanced’ with sceptical voices included. BBC News now accepts that climate change is the result of human actions. Given the audience interest, the BBC is aware of its responsibility in covering the issue and wants to ensure that its coverage reaches mainstream audiences. They are often more interested in the practical aspects – such as replacing gas boilers – and Matt feels that future coverage will look more at these practical realities. He also says that want to give more time to food and the food system. There is great interest in positive stories and people want to see solutions and how they work on the ground. In future, correspondents like Matt will be travelling much less and stories will be covered by in country reporters. This has been happening already under Covid and will continue. Reporters will still go on trips – for example to undertake investigations – but they won’t go simply to be seen in a place or to record a piece to camera.


MG, 28.9.21


Briefing Notes: Podcast peer learning session

IBT hosted an informal peer learning session on podcasting. Members were invited to share their experiences of working on a podcast. 

Internal buy-in and sign offs
  • Getting the organisation’s CEO to support (and sometimes host!) the podcast was suggested as a good strategy to secure buy-in for a podcast.
  • One member also pointed out that an important selling point for podcasts is that they work well over a long period of time compared to blogs or media spotlights and are therefore good value for money for the organisation. 
  • Several members found that linking the podcast to a particular campaign or initiative was important in securing buy-in. 
  • Once podcast production begins some members found there were internal obstacles to getting content signed off, which can be a ‘frustrating and slow’ process, especially if not everyone agrees that the content meets the organisation’s values or content guidelines. One member said they’ve found sharing transcripts can be a good way of getting more contentious parts of an episode signed off because stakeholders focus more on the words being used, rather than how it sounds as an audio clip.
  • The point was also made by one participant that producing more edgy content that engages an audience was more challenging than getting internal buy-in


Paying guests and contributors 
  • The issue of whether guests and contributors should be paid for their time was raised. For some members not paying guests, particularly those in the global south who may benefit only indirectly from appearing on the podcast, felt uncomfortable.
  • It was pointed out that paying guests may result in them saying what they think the NGO or host wants to hear, rather than speaking honestly.
  • The general consensus amongst members was that guests would not be paid for appearing on their podcasts.


Promoting podcasts
  • YouTube was widely regarded as a useful place to share podcasts and was described as an ‘easy way to get an untapped audience’. YouTube is also a good place to upload transcriptions of each episode.
  • Organisational newsletters are a useful outlet for promoting a podcast.
  • One member’s podcast has its own Twitter account which is most helpful for engaging their existing audience, rather than attracting new listeners.
  • Another member deployed a range of methods for promoting their podcast including visual trailers on YouTube and celebrity social media takeovers.
  • One member tested different social media platforms and found LinkedIn to be far more effective than Twitter for finding new listeners. 
  • Several members continue promoting an episode until the next one is released and also look for news hooks to promote related episodes of their podcasts, even if they were released several months ago.
  • Broccoli Content, the podcast production company, was recommended as a great reference for social media assets to accompany a podcast series. 
  • Headliner can be used to create five free audiograms per month, which are useful for promoting podcasts on social media.


Measuring success
  • Members found that measuring success and ascertaining who is listening to their podcast can be quite difficult.
  • Measuring listener numbers is one way of measuring success but it’s important to remember that although podcast listener numbers are often a lot smaller than audiences on other mediums, podcast audiences are often more engaged and will listen to the entire episode. 


KT 03.8.21



Watch in full: Podcast masterclass with Today in Focus

Briefing Notes: Podcast masterclass with Today in Focus


Rachel Humphreys, co-presenter and producer



The Guardian set up its Today in Focus podcast in the summer of 2018 and it launched in November of that year. There’s quite a big team – around 10 full time staff plus freelancers – made up of presenters, producers, exec producers and sound designers. Rachel presents and produces (which involves planning the episode, briefing the presenter and editing).


The aim of the podcast was to tell the stories behind the headlines, develop the Guardian’s journalists as characters and find a new audience beyond those who read the newspaper or follow the Guardian online. Rachel came from daily news so she is able to turn stories around quickly when necessary, but she enjoys spending more time getting the story right. The lead presenter at the start was Anushka who recently left. There will now be a trio of presenters – Rachel, Mike Safi and Nosheen Iqbal.


They were named best current affairs podcast in last year’s British Podcast Awards. They are different from most current affairs podcast as they only do one story per episode and they do not slavishly follow the news agenda.


Today in Focus runs daily from Monday to Friday – each episode is roughly 30 minutes long and follows one story. The interviewees are mostly Guardian journalists but other experts sometimes feature and when it’s a human interest story there will be first person testimony from someone who has first-hand experience of the issue.


They try and vary the mix each week, a mixture of lighter and more serious, a running daily news story, a human interest story, a big global story, something lighter.


International stories

They have run quite a few international stories. In the last couple of months, they have reported from Brazil, Syria, Gaza, Hong Kong, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Canada, China and the US. They have covered Covid, British politics, climate change, missing people, human rights, UFOs. The range is broad. They are quite open minded about the stories they cover. One of the new presenters, Mike, is based in Beirut so there will be more foreign stories going forward.



Rachel and her colleagues keep an open mind and they are happy to receive pitches. Pitch to Rachel by email, either a story you think they should report on or a human interest issue with a named character they can interview at length. The stories need to have several elements to sustain 30 minutes. One of their recent episodes about families tracing missing relatives was the result of a pitch by a charity to Anushka. Rachel will read all the pitches she receives. It is also helpful if you can send her some audio that you have recorded yourself (it can be recorded on a smartphone).


Human interest stories

Rachel spoke about a podcast on human rights in Egypt which told the story of an Egyptian who was detained by the authorities and later released. The podcast also featured his British wife. Casting is key and they work hard to make sure that the human interest stories have strong characters at their heart. They also have a duty of care and will play clips to the contributors to let them know what to expect. It’s good to interview people who have never been interviewed before – they did one episode on gay conversion therapy and featured a woman talking for the first time about her experience of it.


Prepping guests

There is no set approach. Sometimes they will send questions in advance or do a research interview. On other occasions, it is more effective to be spontaneous. It depends on the guest and what works best for that person. Answers should not feel rehearsed or scripted.


Tone of voice

One of the key reasons for their success is getting the right tone of voice and this has evolved over time. The tone is conversational and informal. The presenter is a like a friend guiding the audience through a story. They bring something personal to it and even if they have prepared the questions in advance it should not feel scripted. They want to explain complex stories but not to patronise their audience and tell them things they already know. Working out how much to give as background to a story is one of the most challenging aspects.



Rachel showed us how she edits with different contributors on different tracks. She will do the first edit then show it to the presenter and exec producer and make more changes. Everyone will listen to it several times before it is signed off and goes to the sound designer to complete. A lot of time and effort goes into editing although on the big running news stories the time is condensed. They will do an interview in the morning, edit it and hand it to the sound designer in the afternoon and s/he may work on it all evening. It goes live around 2 or 3am.


The presenter

Choosing the right presenter is key. Rachel feels that the skills needed are to be calm under pressure, to have the ability to empathise, to be able to listen and have a conversation rather than just run through a list of predetermined questions, to remember to ask the obvious questions, a sense of humour, and a voice that is easy to listen to. Presenters should be in the background allowing the story and the protagonists to take centre stage, they should not ask ‘clever’ questions to show off. Follow your instincts – the audience tends to be interested in what you are interested in.



A podcast is like a documentary, there is a narrative journey, a beginning, a middle and an end. Today in Focus breaks a story up into chapters to provide punctuation. They also start with a question which provides the focus for the narrative. The intro at the top is important – put your strongest sound first to get the audience hooked but don’t tell the whole story in the intro. Remember the thing that got you interested in the story in the first place.



Rachel gave us some concluding thoughts. Teamwork is crucial. Tell stories that you’re interested in. Keep an open mind. Keep things simple. Audio is so clever that there is always a way of telling a story.






Watch in full: Sarah Whitehead at Sky News

Briefing Notes: Sky News on climate change


Sarah Whitehead, deputy head of newsgathering


Climate change unit

Michael Blair news editor

Rhiannon Williams producer

Hannah Thomas-Peter reporter

Victoria Seabrook digital reporter


Emails all first name dot surname at


Sky News has had a longstanding interest in climate change and environmental stories. Sarah mentioned ocean rescue campaign and the new climate series of monthly films. They are now increasing their commitment to climate change in the run up to COP. They are aware that the audience is often depressed by the news about climate change and scared so they have a big emphasis on charting the changes that are taking place and showing the solutions. They want to empower audiences and hold governments and business to account. It is not just up to people to change their behaviour, government and industry have a big role to play too. They want their coverage to reach a mainstream audience, both those who are already interested in climate change and those who may become more interested.


The Daily Climate Show – Now they do the Daily Climate Show, a 12-15 daily show which features the day’s news stories and climate change diaries of people who are making a difference. The aim of the show is to be very topical and newsy, they don’t run long features, there are a lot of stories covered (8 or 9 stories in each show). Its regular presenter is Anna Jones. They are also looking for studio guests for the show. The show features lots of data as Sarah says there is big audience interest in data. There is a daily tally of UK fuel consumption showing the proportion that comes from renewables. Ed Conway the business correspondent has now taken on a role as business/data correspondent.


ClimateCast – they also do a weekly podcast. This is very accessible. Recent editions have included an interview with a leading climate change expert and with social influencers who are championing the issue. The podcast includes a run down of the week’s stories. It is presented by Anna too.


Bangladesh – they currently have a team in Bangladesh and will continue to report from the country in the run up to COP, subject to visas. They wanted to be somewhere where you can see the impacts of climate change at first hand. Michael Blair is there. The correspondent is Katerina Vittozi.


Pitching – they are looking for news so give them a new report, new research, new data, something that they can push and will make their headlines. Send photos, video, sound clip. Pitch stories and interviewees and email one of the team not all of them. They are also interested in UK stories. For more information on pitching to Sky News, see notes from the briefing with Tim Singleton, Head of International News, which took place in October 2020.


Instagram – they do an Instagram live every Wednesday at 5 which Katerina hosts. It’s a different guest each week.



MG, 22.6.21

Watch in full: Dan Stewart at Time

Briefing Notes: Time


Dan Stewart, International Editor

Key contacts

Justin Worland, climate change policy

Aryn Baker, climate change human impacts

Ciara Nugent, will lead on COP

Alejandro de la Garza, covers innovation

Elijah Wolfson, covers science and health (based in New York)

Alice Park, covers health and medicine



Dan is the international editor, based and London, and leads on all international coverage, although he is regularly in touch with New York and takes decisions jointly with them.

He spoke about some of the many changes that have been taking place at Time. It was best known as a weekly news magazine but now it is reinventing itself as a global media organisation. The magazine is now fortnightly and distributed in 45 countries although its biggest audience is in the US. But the magazine represents only a small part of the content that is produced. Time have a big online presence with articles, photos, videos and a podcast coming. 90% of their journalism is online only with 10% going in the magazine.

The current owners are Mark and Lynne Benioff from Salesforce and they are investing in the brand, not looking to make money. There is a big push on experimenting and innovation to reach new audiences. They currently have 2m subscribers and the goal is to reach 10m by 2030. One on five subscribers are outside the US.

The online audience is also mainly in the US and they are read by policy makers in Washington and New York. But there is a growing global audience in Europe, Africa and Asia. They employ 120 journalists worldwide with correspondents and stringers.

They are not trying to be a breaking news site. If they report on a breaking news story then they will try and find their own angle so that they have something new to say. They are interested in finding stories that have a wider impact and shed light on global trends. They are quite choosy about the stories they cover.


International coverage

Their international coverage is crucial and Dan says that they ‘cover the world with an American accent.’ He explained that they are trying to make connections, explain events and the impact they have. He cited their coverage of Myanmar and Covid in India as being successful and popular with their audience.


Climate change

They have had a big push on coverage of climate change with a special issue of the magazine last month and another one coming in the run up to COP26. They are currently planning their COP coverage but one of the issues they are focusing on is the role of the global south. Will leaders from the global south be able to attend COP? Will their perspective be heard? The theme of their coverage is ‘climate is everything.’ They want to show audiences that it affects every aspect of our lives – for example food and diet, educations, archtecture. They want to find stories that make these connections and are surprising or unexpected. One recent climate change story focused on the Rift Valley in Kenya and the way in which lakes are merging, displacing communities and creating climate refugees.

In addition to their online coverage they have a weekly climate change newsletter which reaches an influential audience. The aim of their climate change coverage is principally to reach a mainstream audience. They will be watching COP26 closely. Dan gave us the names and contact details of the climate change team (see key contacts above):

Justin Worland, based in Washington DC covers policy

Aryn Baker, based in Rome, covers the human impacts

Ciara Nugent , based in London, will lead on COP

Alejandro de la Garza, based in New York, covers innovation

With their climate change coverage they have also tried to give young people a platform. They chose Greta as their person of the year and have a strong relationship with her.


2030 Project

In January, they launched their 2030 Project with the aim of looking at solutions to some of the world’s key issues such as sustainability, innovation, etc and examining the ways in which the world is changing or needs to change. They have a partnership with the World Economic Forum which has called for a ‘great reset.’ Dan referenced the challenge of meeting the SDGs by 2030. They have created a microsite for this



Pitches should be targeted at Time, you should show some knowledge and understanding of what works for them. They should be short and to the point. Think about why this would work for Time and offer exclusivity if at all possible. Pitch as long in advance as you can, especially if you are publishing a report. Pitches can go direct to Dan or to one of his colleagues. He receives hundreds of emails so cannot promise to answer every single one. It’s very unlikely that they will take photos or slideshows or video as they have a big team doing with this. However, if you have a photo that captures something important taking place that may work for them – Dan will pass it on to the photo team.


MG, 25.5.21

Watch in full: What have we learnt from international coverage of Covid?

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Briefing Notes: Unreported World & Channel 4 News

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Watch in full: Nevine Mabro at Channel 4 News

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The Media: Where Next? | Watch Full Report Launch Event

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The Future Of Children’s TV Debate

Below are the notes from the recent APPG for Children’s Media and The Arts debating the Future Of Children’s TV Debate, 16 May 2018.

Download The Future Of Children’s TV Debate notes PDF version


Chair’s welcome

Julie Elliott MP welcomed the audience of 70, stating that this debate was timely, coming at a crucial point in time for kids’ media. She then invited Sophie Chalk from IBT to chair the debate.

Sophie further set the context with a reminder of Article 17 of the UNCRC:

She said that recent research by Childwise shows that children are terrified by international events as they see them in alarmist news and on social media and remarked that children need events to be explained so children are not scared by the world they’re growing up in but able to engage with it.


Simon Terrington – OFCOM

Simon was unable to talk about Ofcom’s ongoing inquiry, beyond what is already in the public domain or to say that the intention is and are on track to publish sometime July-Sept. He did however use Ofcom’s research publication Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes 2017 to set the market context:

Older kids especially are watching less linear TV but even so that averages at 11.9 hours a week so linear TV still plays a huge role in children’s lives. They are watching TV but on other devices, rather than the main TV set.

The reason kids watch content is mainly to make them laugh and/or relax but even so 48% kids want content that ‘makes you think’. Where they source such content was enlightening: 61% go to YouTube to make them laugh/relax, and 54% going there for content that made them think. The BBC scored better for content that made them think or discuss topics but less so for content that made them laugh.

54% of 3-4 year olds are watching YouTube, mainly global pre-school brands and music.

Simon stated that Ofcom understands that Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) content however is not just about what kids want, but also about what they need. He stated the importance of Ofcom’s Public Service Content objectives.

The kind of news that 12-15 year olds are interested in tends to be music, celebrity, sport but 28% were also interested in serious topics (current affairs etc) and when asked to state their top three news interests, half of the teenagers asked had serious topics in their top three, which is encouraging. But there is clearly a need to find ways to draw in the other half to be interested in the wider world.

35% 8-11 year olds don’t think there is enough content that is specifically about kids like them (regional, diverse etc). Ofcom hopes that C4’s proposed move away from London will address this.

As a news source, TV is still the most trusted. Children may get news from social media and online but they will check it out with parents and against the TV because they don’t trust it. 73% of 12-15 year olds are aware of fake news.

View Simon Terrington’s presentation slides (pdf)


Cheryl Taylor Head of Content, BBC Children’s

Cheryl screened a short taster from some of the documentaries, dramas and animations that explore the world for kids (My Life, Go Jetters etc). She stated the intention in most programmes was to show that kids of the world are the same, despite their differences. She said that making such programming was highly skilled and trained to get it right so that nothing is ever mawkish or exploitative but rather celebrates the children’s whose stories they are telling. She welcomed plurality but said content makers needed to give an extraordinary attention to detail if it is to serve its audience well.

Asked if international stories are less palatable to kids, Cheryl stated that they do just as well with the child viewer as domestic content. The My Life documentary strand is often in the Top 40 shows on the iPlayer. Producers do not need to fear making documentaries for kids.


Nicky Cox- First News, Unicef UK Advisor

With children surrounded by 24/7 news channels, social media etc she ignored the naysayers and established the newspaper, First News, now also online, and continues to have a daily interaction with kids.

She said the average age for children to get their first mobile phone is now 71/2 years, so the world is very much at the fingertips of young kids. But this has led to an overload of information about world events and a desperately alarming rise in anxiety and mental health problems. Kids are worried by news and fake news because of the stuff they have read or seen online. There is a big need for truthful content that empowers kids, but we are falling short of delivering this. She said that kids are 27% of the world’s population, but 100% of the future.

Children watch 15 hours of online video a week. For ten year olds this is a mix of things like social gaming, and celebrity stories on snap chat. These things help form the morals and values of the children watching: why are we leaving this formation of values to chance?

To counter this, First News makes a daily video for Sky News as well as 2 minute Explainer videos under the banner Fresh Start Media. These have been well received and there is clearly a big thirst for informative and popular content. But currently the only PSB broadcaster to be doing any of this sort of content is BBC with strands such as My Life.

Nicky has been making documentary content for My Life with UNICEF, exploring topics such as the Calais ‘Jungle’. But rather than the usual alarmist tone, these documentaries highlight the positive stories. Editors need to make better choices and tell positive stories. Nicky called for a quota: there should be a minimum percentage requirement for broadcasters to children to show programming about the wider world. Currently ITV has no target and C4 says such content is financially not viable. But our children need it.


Professor Jeanette Steemers

From her work exploring the business end of children’s content, Jeanette stated that the key problems that need to be solved are Funding and Distribution.

She stated that the best content SHOWS diversity rather than just naming it.

From her studies with Public Service Broadcasters overseas, she warned that if there is no content about the wider world, it creates a vacuum in kids’ lives. PSBs are the only people making this content. There are no such broadcasters in the Middle East so parents rely on religious broadcasters, which lays children open to indoctrination rather than accurate and unbiased information. Kids are not born as citizens but need access to content that helps them become citizens.

We must believe that good content will have an impact. It takes a long time but research round the world shows that good content helps to shape how kids think about and engage with the world. She called on Ofcom to extend its research beyond what children are watching to WHY they watch what they watch.

With so much content now accessed online, there is a real issue about the lack of regulation and compliance with the online platforms. With evidence for example of  companies rejecting black hands for unboxing videos, there is a lot of material that simply wouldn’t be allowed on traditional channels. Such unchallenged racism creates discriminatory attitudes that will manifest in the viewers later.

Jeanette dismissed the argument that children only want entertainment.  What we should be asking ourselves is ‘how can we help to make informed citizens?’ She hoped that the DCMS’ contestable fund could help go towards tackling the distribution and discoverability issues. There has been much talk of an online platform. The recent discussions between PSBs to create a streaming service to rival Netflix might be a solution. Ofcom needs to find a way to encourage the commercial PSBs to do a bit more and also online companies like Facebook must step up.

But for any real change, policy needs to step away from prohibition and find ways to be positive. Other territories are facing the same issues.  Countries like Denmark and Germany have very good public service broadcasters and they are hooking up with education organisations and film institutes for example to fund and distribute content. The British Film Institute could do more to help distribution. DCMS could connect with Education to make good quality content.



Adam Minns COBA stated that non-PSBs (i.e. Sky, Nickelodeon, Disney) invested £23m last year in first run Public Service type content in UK (Ocean Rescue, Art Attack). It’s not going to replace the BBC but these broadcasters are still highly regulated and this was their own money. He asked that in light of this investment, the current EPG positions were critical, for children to discover this content, and keep the investment financially viable.

Colette Bowe VLV asked how do people discover content online especially? There needs to be support and help to find the good stuff.

Kate O’Connor Animation UK said that there needs to be a combination of options: quotas + specialist platforms etc. She asked why do we fear setting quotas for commercial channels?

In response:

Simon – Navigation is critical to finding content. Parents tend to curate preschool but older children begin to choose for themselves or via friends. Prominence on the EPG is critical as are the links on digital platforms.

Nicky – when she proposed First News, it was ridiculed but now it has 2.2million readers. She wants to build an online safe channel. Her attitude from her experience with the print version is “build it and they will come.”

Jeanette – the reality is that children don’t always want the safe stuff. They want to push the boundaries and we mustn’t forget there are many audiences within the kids sector. There is currently not enough research about how platforms work: it looks like they push algorithms rather than public service values. There needs to be transparency. ITV don’t want kids content because its expensive. What can Ofcom do? Jeanette said she had every confidence Ofcom will do the right thing.

Cheryl – parents want content they can trust for their little ones, hence they’ll go direct to CBeebies for example but it is hard to keep up with what older ones are up to. With the connectedness of kids, programme makers are competing with kids creating their own soap opera. CBBC doesn’t post on YouTube because of the age regulations but other people are making money from posting CBBC content there.

Ian Lucas MP – DCMS Select Committee – An issue within Westminster is that things tend to get compartmentalised. It would be good to connect with All Party Groups for countries to get the perspectives of children abroad. He said that, like his own constituency, every constituency has talent to produce content and this potential should be mined. There needs to be more working together for funding: tapping into international development budgets for example. C4’s regional agenda talks about having a strong focus on younger audiences. The case needs to be made that C4 needs to capture its audience early. He also suggested that we need to get politicians to talk to broadcasters.

Beryl Richards, European Broadcasting Union. Broadcasters need to think more internationally: coming together with PSBs overseas to achieve the common aims on a platform. Ofcom regulates British broadcasters but platforms are international. Can we make international companies do more?

Karen Merkel, UNESCO – UK is part of the Creative Cities Programme with Bristol and Bradford working on media literacy. Not simply the critical theory but practical aspects: taking serious film makers into schools. It has had a serendipitous positive impact on the kids wider attainment of literacy and numeracy etc but focussing on the creative processes and cultural perspective has also resulted in young citizens who can tell their own stories. There needs to be a shift in the Education agenda.

How can we make the likes of Google take more responsibility and do more? Shame them! There is mounting public pressure that they have responsibilities but we mustn’t be too censorious. Kids like to open Pandora’s box but the sheer volume of content means that platforms are slow. That said, surely algorithms can be changed?

Simon agreed that media literacy, with kids creating as well as consuming content is key and Ofcom will think more about this and the need to invest more, again.

Sophie stated that IBT are campaigning for more media literacy and calling upon DDCMS to reinstate funding that was previously cut.

Cary Bazalgette – Schools have a role to play in introducing kids to other art forms but not film. Why not? This is a wasted chance.

Mark Galloway, IBT – asked Cheryl what plans do BBC have for future with brands such as My Life or Where in the World?  – Cheryl stated they now have a great library of content but need to grow more for 12-16 year olds. There are plans to make stuff that is for iPlayer only (where they’re watching) but they are only assessed on their delivery of their quotas by Ofcom for their two broadcast channels rather than online. They need some flexibility to spread money to other platforms without impacting on the hours required of them by Ofcom.


SUMMING UP – Sophie Chalk

  • Public service content needs discoverability on all platforms and needs to be actively promoted by its broadcasters.
  • There need to be incentives for commercial broadcasters to commit to children’s content because of their commercial motivation.
  • Children need a SAFE SPACE online.
  • Two important Inquiries to follow/submit to:
    • DCMS Select committee into Fake News
    • Lords Communications Committee into Regulation of the Internet.

Briefing Notes: The Economist

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Briefing Notes: Fake news and how it impacts on the charity sector

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Briefing Notes: Networking breakfast with Unreported World

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Briefing Notes: BBC World News

Contacts, global health correspondent, BBC World News

Jane Dreaper, health correspondent, radio

Adam Brimelow, health correspondent, online

Sophie Hutchinson, health correspondent, TV

Fergus Walsh, medical correspondent, TV

Hugh Pym, health editor, TV

Carol Rubra, head, science and environment editor

Helen Miller, health producer

Eimear McNamara, health producer

James Gallagher, health editor, online

Caroline Parkinson, health editor, online

Michelle Roberts, health reporter, online

Philippa Roxby, health reporter, online

Smeeta Mundasad, health reporter, online

Alex Bolton, assistant editor, World News, planning

Kristina Block, World News, planning

Alastair Elphick, World News, editor/journalist

Rachael Buchanan, medical producer

Naomi Grimley, global affairs correspondent



Tulip started in radio at Radio Merseyside then worked for Radio 1 Newsbeat and Radio 1 Extra, before moving to Pakistan to cover Pakistan/Afghanistan.  She became global health correspondent in 2013. It’s a new position so she doesn’t have a specific brief. She interprets her brief quite widely but is committed to bringing untold global health stories to the screen. She’s keen to do something on neglected tropical diseases and also on snake bites. She travels abroad once every 1-2 months to do a piece. Her pieces run on World News TV, the World Service and – if they’re taken up – on the Today programme, the Six and the Ten. She also does longer docs for the Our World strand. She has a film coming up soon on Sierra Leone and the aftermath of Ebola. Much of her time has been spent covering Ebola. She is now free to look for new stories and encouraged everyone present to send her any suggestions. Some subjects such as malaria and HIV are a hard sell. She has to come up with a new angle or a compelling reason to run this story now. But she is lucky to be able to do features and depart from the news agenda. Sometimes she will respond to a running story – for example she is keen to do something on the health and mental health of migrants.

There are many health stories she could do but she must persuade her editors that a story is worth covering especially given the cost of sending her abroad to cover it. World News are very supportive and generally when they commit they do not change their mind. The domestic news bulletins are harder to pin down as her story may be dropped on a busy news day.

When you pitch an idea to Tulip, be very clear on access, what is new about the story and why it is important. Finding a hook is key – even if it just a UN announcement or a new piece of research. If you’re publishing a report and you are giving it to her before it goes in the newspapers, then that is a big plus. When you write to Tulip, spell things out clearly in bullet points – it’s much easier for her to digest that way. Be aware of what the BBC has done and mention any other BBC coverage in your email to her. There is no point in her pitching an idea if someone else has already done something similar.

It’s best to pitch ideas to correspondents and copy editors in to emails. Editors like to keep across what is going on but a story needs a champion and that is most likely to be a correspondent.

Tulip is keen to do more seasons and spoke enthusiastically about a day in which all news outlets focused on death. The day was called ‘Dealing with death‘ and Tulip went to Uganda to report on community responses to death.

Tulip recently did a piece on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and filmed in Saudi Arabia. The editors liked this because it was a ‘new’ story and also because Tulip had access to Saudi (which is hard to get apparently and quite rare). BBC World also did a branded day of programming around MERS with buy in from Today, the Six and the Ten. World News does this sort of thing well as there are several slots during the day on the tv channel where they can bring in studio guests to talk about a running story.

BBC News is keen to do more off agenda days like this – IBT has been talking to James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News, who said that he is keen to stop the news juggernaut occasionally to focus on an issue that is important but which doesn’t normally get exposure on the news. He spoke about the difficulty of covering the process of development  – we will be talking to him further about this.

There is a big move for BBC news to raise its game online so the health team are particularly keen on any suggestions for online stories, animation or interactive pieces. Tulip spoke about the body clock piece produced by Rachael Buchanan as part of the dealing with death season.

Tulip said there is no definitive way to get a story commissioned – in her experience each time has been different. She is keen to find more stories on innovation in sub Saharan Africa; to look at the pharmaceutical industry; to focus on obesity, diabetes and more consumer type stories. She did a piece on body image which went down well. She will be filming in Japan in March and is keen to find another story to do whilst she is out there. She also wants to tackle ‘difficult’ subjects and responded well to a suggestion that she should look at menstruation.  She has already reported on fistula. Tulip said that Naomi Grimley is another person to try if you have a development story or one with a women’s angle.


Mark Galloway


Briefing Notes: MailOnline

IBT briefing with MailOnline  October 2015


Marianna Partasides  Deputy News Editor

Key contacts:  deputy news editor health editor science and technology editor global editor head of video show business editor femail editor


The key point to remember is that MailOnline is not The Daily Mail. Although they share a newsroom and the site runs Daily Mail stories it does not have the Mail’s political agenda; it is not anti-aid; it is not sceptical about climate change. It has a huge readership and is not just read by Daily Mail readers.

Its USP is that there is something for everyone – lots of celeb stories, lots of fun content to share, but also lots of news stories. Often the news stories have more hits than the celeb stories. Readers may come to the site initially for the celeb content but they quickly graduate onto other parts of the site. There’s a lot on the site and stories often run at some length. Videos are common too. A key aspect of the site is its use of pictures. Whilst occasionally a story will run without pictures, this is quite rare.

The MailOnline has a completely separate editorial team from The Daily Mail. You can’t pitch to both at the same time – you need to pitch to them separately, although they will take each other’s stories. The website has a global reach – although its main audience is in the UK it is widely read in English speaking countries like the US, Australia and Canada. They will see a different home page with local content but much of the rest of the site will be the same.

The site publishes hundreds of stories every day and some will just stay there for a few hours. A typical story will be removed after 24 hours. There is no beginning of the day – the site is refreshed on a 24 hour basis. Peak readership is morning, lunchtime and early evening. More readers now access the site using mobile devices.

Pitching a story – think of yourself as a reader – what would you like to read? Where is the human interest angle? Do you have great pictures? Almost any subject can be interesting if approached in the right way. Of course the site is always looking for a MailOnline take on a story but there is no set rule as to what this is. On one day the site may lead with an expose looking at conditions in Brazilian jails; on another it may lead on the world’s worst wedding cakes. It’s hard to pin down what a typical MailOnline story is. They are interested in global issues. They have devoted a lot of coverage to the refugee crisis.

The best way to pitch is to email one of the subject editors mentioned at the top of this note. Focus on the human interest angle, the personal story rather than the issue. And open your pitch with ‘we have some great pictures…’ Pictures count for a lot especially if you own the copyright. They like using video too – this can be pitched direct to the video editor.

If you have an expose or investigation, think of the UK angle and how this impacts on consumers. They ran a piece on the conditions in which pigs were kept but it wasn’t considered a story until they found out who was consuming the meat. It turned out to be Morrisons. Morrisons responded by dropping the supplier – and then the site had its story.

Global stories should be pitched to the global team. They have roving reporters who could work with you and they are thinking ahead, not just responding to the day’s news stories.

If you have a great story it will be more attractive to them if you offer it exclusively – but this is not essential.

Marianna is compiling a list of features which are not time sensitive and can be run on a quiet news day – maybe at Xmas for example. So get in touch if you have something along these lines.

Foreign stories do well on the site, particularly if there are strong pictures or video.

If you are taking a celebrity abroad contact the show business team.

If you have a female angle contact the femail team.

Climate change stories in the run up to Paris should go to the science team.

All these subject teams work exclusively for MailOnline – they are completely separate from the Daily Mail.

Briefing Notes: Buzzfeed UK and New Statesman Online


Paul Hamilos, World Features Editor, BuzzFeed UK

Caroline Crampton, Web Editor, New Statesman



Founded in the US 3 years ago as an entertainment site, they discovered that audiences had an appetite for quality news reporting so they started hiring reporters to write news stories and they now have a team of correspondents around the world and freelancers too. They also have themed correspondents like Jina Moore, who writes about women’s rights and is based in Nairobi – and Saeed Jones, who is their LGBT editor. They are due to hire many more reporters and open new bureaux. They have bureaux in Canada, Mexico, Paris, Delhi, Berlin. These bureaux cater for local and global audiences. They are thinking of hiring new reporters who will specialise in migration, climate change and sexual health.

Climate change is a particular challenge and they are giving serious thought to how BuzzFeed should approach this important subject. They need to find a new way of talking about climate change that engages readers.

Miriam Elder is the Foreign Editor based in New York; they have another foreign editor in Washington DC and Paul in London.

The UK site was set up 18 months ago and its tone is different from the US site – the US site is very jolly and upbeat. Janine Gibson has been hired as Editor in Chief in London and she has money to hire 25 more reporters.

Paul is in charge of commissioning long pieces (5-7,000 words) – he says that audiences either like short pithy pieces or longer, in depth ones. Their main aim at BuzzFeed is to produce content that people want to share. Not many readers go to the home page – most come via social media recommendations. Of course BuzzFeed is known for its lists, but Paul is equally happy to produce longer pieces that are read by a few key policy makers or others with influence. It’s not all about the numbers.

They want to tell new stories not comment on other people’s stories so there is a big emphasis on original journalism. They are not trying to do everything – other sites such as the BBC do that very well. A key for them is human interest – personal first person testimony. This should be at the heart of every news story which BuzzFeed does. A news peg will help draw people in.

Paul says the best way to pitch is to get to know the reporters and pitch to them – don’t go to the editors and don’t send generic press releases. Make the effort to understand what BuzzFeed is about and what works for them. A good recent pitch came from Human Rights Watch which was highlighting human rights abuse in Uzbekistan. They chose to do so by pitching a story highlighting ’10 ways you can fall foul of officialdom.’ This went down well as it felt novel. Paul’s advice to NGOs is to look for novel approaches and to find characters that audiences can relate to.

BuzzFeed doesn’t normally take content directly from NGOs. On a wider point, he said most of what comes from NGOs is in similar vein and he is always looking for an angle or tone that feels different – hence why he liked the Human Rights Watch story.

BuzzFeed have 200 million readers worldwide – half in the US and half elsewhere. 75% of their content is accessed via social media – Facebook mainly – and 70% on mobile phones. Mobile phone access is growing. Every story needs to be laid out so that it works on mobile. 50% of their readers are under 35.

Paul is a big advocate of the written word and he says that this – combined with graphics – works well on mobile. Stark, beautiful images work well too – and images that have something new to say for example they ran some images of oil being transported across the Syrian-Turkish border and no one had captured this on film before. They also run video but it tends to be short clips that capture a moment. Clips need to be succinct and punchy. They like lists of course – an efficient way of telling a story according to Paul.

Paul highlighted reports by Hussein Kesvani, their Muslim affairs correspondent, based in London and Ellie Hall who is based in New York and writes about the Catholic Church, the British royal family and ISIS online. Foreign stories are a challenge – they need to stand out. The tone needs to feel fresh and different. Paul criticised the flatness of tone of much foreign reporting in the UK.

Ideas should be pitched by email not by telephone to Paul but preferably to individual reporters.


New Statesman

NS is a small, political magazine with weekly sales of around 30,000. In 1993 the website was established – it was expanded in 2008 and Caroline joined in 2012 as the first dedicated web editor. She has her own team of reporters and commissions her own content. There is very little overlap between the magazine and the website. There are 5 full time staff working on the site and 20 contracted freelancers. Around a third of their coverage is of Westminster politics; the rest is made up of features and news pieces on familiar subjects like human rights, injustice, oppressed minorities. The NS pursues a broadly left wing agenda.

The site has an average of 3m readers a month. 60-70% are returning so they are reaching a familiar audience. 75% of the readership is female and under 35s is the biggest demographic. 55% come to the site via social media. No one comes to the home page so they are redesigning the site with this in mind.

Caroline receives around 100 pitches every day from freelancers, charities etc. She may be interested in 15-20 and end up commissioning 3 so the bar is set high. She is not interested in comment pieces but, like Paul, wants original journalism with a strong focus on first person testimony. The website is not part of what she calls ‘the media food chain’ where writers constantly comment on what others have written elsewhere.

Caroline received a good pitch from an organisation called Refugee Women – they had access to women in Yarlswood Detention Centre and the result was that the NS online ran a series of interviews with these women over a period of weeks. She liked this fresh approach.

They mainly run written articles – pictures work well too, but they don’t use video. They do have an audio podcast once a week. Pictures need to be surprising and evocative and feel a bit unusual. For example they used a picture of a bombed out Homs and in the centre of the picture was a small child playing in the ruins.  This was widely shared via social media.

Ideas should be pitched to Caroline by email – not by phone.


Mark Galloway


Briefing Notes: Radio 5 Live and Radio 1 Newsbeat


Chris Hunter, assistant editor, 5 Live Drive show     @mrchrishunter

Anna Doble, online editor, Radio 1 Newsbeat     @annadoble


5 Live

Radio 5 Live is a 24/7 radio station specialising in sport and news, particularly breaking news. The weekends are dominated by sport but the rest of the week has far more news than sport. The two  shows with the biggest ratings are:

Breakfast 6-9am (9-10am phone in show: YourCall) Runs Monday – Friday. Peak time is 7.30am

Drive 4-7pm Monday – Friday. Peak time is 5-5.30pm. For Breakfast and Drive items usually run 3-5 mins.

There is also:

10am-1pm 5 Live Daily – this runs mainly human interest stories and has space for much longer form in depth interviews running up to 20 minutes.

1-4pm Afternoon Edition – this is where they run features from the world of arts, books. Much less news based unless there is a breaking story.

10pm-1am Late – very free ranging and anything goes, no set agenda. Guests from the US. Tomorrow’s papers.

1am onwards Up All Night – surprising number of insomniacs and night workers tune in. Has no agenda. Recently ran a piece on biker culture in the US, for example, following the biker killings.

5-6am Wake Up to Money – this is edited by the Business team and is a good place to target.

5 Live is based in Salford and their preference is to have live guests in the studio. Failing that then the priority would be live guests down a quality line or in a local BBC studio. Ordinary phone line or pre-recorded much less good. They are a live radio station so their preference is always to do interviews live. Foreign language can be pre-recorded and then a voice over added. These are rare so the interviewees would need to be special.

Their main interest is in finding the people at the heart of a news story – so that they can give detailed first person testimony. They have their own team of reporters but if it is a breaking story (especially abroad) they will rely on the BBC News reporters initially until they have had time to send their own reporters. They do more UK than international news but cover all the major international news stories and any other hard news stories that would interest a UK audience.

5 Live’s audience is 72% male and 32% ABs, 34% C1s. It’s slightly older – average age around 44. Interestingly, most of its audience is not made up of news consumers – they don’t listen to Today etc. The regular news listeners will come to 5Live when there is a big breaking story. They have a loyal audience that likes the way they cover news. 38% of listeners are in the south; 26% in the north. The northern audience is growing now that they are based in Salford. They have 6m individual listeners per week. Their peak audience for Breakfast -across the week – would be 3.5m at 7.30am and 2.5m+ for Drive.


It’s the news service on Radio 1 and so is targeted at 16-25 year olds. There are two 15 minutes news bulletins each day, at 12.45pm and 5.45pm. The average age of the Radio 1 listener is 23. They also have short news bulletins on the hour every hour. Anna was brought in from Channel 4 News to develop Newsbeat as a digital brand so the online content is growing rapidly and includes lots of specially commissioned video content. They have a team of 35 journalists who have all now been trained to shoot video, stills, record sound, write copy and use social media.

They do a lot of explainers to explain complex news stories and key issues – for example during the election they did explainers on the first past the post voting system, on a hung parliament etc. They are keen to use animation. They have their own YouTube channel. Some of the pieces they commission can be up to 12 mins long. They are keen to run stories that have substance but are relevant to their target audience. They do a lot of music and entertainment but serious issues also feature in the mix.

One way of covering an international story – like the riots in Baltimore – might be to pair a young person in the UK who is protesting with a young person on Baltimore who is doing the same. They want to find different ways of covering international stories. With Nepal, they commissioned an artist to draw a comic strip. This was very popular and found its way onto the main BBC news website.

They also run feature items online if they think their audience will be interested – for example they have done pieces on self-harm, cannabis addiction, drag kings.

Newsbeat’s online coverage is not necessarily covering the agenda of BBC news –they are constantly looking for an angle that will appeal to young people or to find a young person at the heart of a story. They work on a daily news agenda – their main newsgathering effort is from 8am to 12.45pm.

Climate change – they are thinking about how they should cover it but certainly it is on their agenda given that the Paris summit is coming up in November.



For 5 Live, Chris suggested pitching to He is the head of news for 5 Live and will pass your email on to the relevant person. He also said phoning up may be more effective than emailing. Be clear on your top line and be opportunistic – responding to a story that’s in the news asap. Phone numbers are as follows:

Breakfast 0161 335 6501

Daily/Afternoon Edition 0161 335 6504

Drive 0161 335 6503

Late/Up All Night 0161 335 6502

If it’s not a story for that day then just ask to speak to the programme’s forward planning producer.

The main thing to remember is not to send generic press releases or emails. Give some thought to what would work for a particular programme. With 5 Live they want -where possible- people at the heart of the news. But you may find that they will interview different people on the same story at different points in the day – for example they may want your CEO on Wake Up to Money to talk about the financial aspect of a story or crisis; then at Breakfast they may want an aid worker giving their point of view; then on Daily they may want a killer guest who can sustain a 20 minute interview. Think about all this before you phone them up and pitch a story or guest. Also bear in mind that they are always looking for more guests who are female or who are young. Diversity is another issue to bear in mind.

If you want to target one show go for Breakfast – the show is the best resourced on 5 Live and the producers have a brief to think across the station not just to think about their own show. You will find that all the producers on 5 Live are more collaborative than on Radio 4 where the different news programmes are competing against each other.

Email pitches should have a strong top line and include named interviewees that you are proposing and who you know are available and easy to contact on the day. It’s useful to include a sound taster on MP3.

5 Live sometimes does a day devoted to a theme – GP day for example. They could do a Charity or Aid day.

When to pitch – avoid Mondays. They get a huge amount of emails from NGOs on a Monday. Also think about Saturday or Sunday – it’s easier to get on air on these days, and your story may run through the day.

For Newsbeat, Anna said email is a nightmare – best to tweet her or call the Newsbeat newsdesk on 020 3614 1110. Key contacts are:

Debbie Ramsay @Deb_ramz

Daniel Rosney @Daniel Rosney

With Newsbeat, the key is to find the young person’s angle or point of view on a news story – or a strong feature that will speak to their audience.

Briefing Notes: Travel for NGOs

Speakers:  Christin Tallon, partner, Leigh Day and Marie-Louise Kinsler, barrister, 2 Temple Gardens

The overriding lesson from this briefing was that UK based employers have a duty to take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their staff at all times. This is an onerous duty and the courts expect an employer to check all the arrangements that are in place when employees undertake foreign travel. If a helicopter is being hired the employer will be expected to check the safety record of the company, verify its insurance cover, check the pilot’s licence etc.

The employer’s duty is much less onerous with freelance staff. For freelancers, an employer must be deemed to have taken ‘reasonable care‘.  Selecting a competent person to discharge this responsibility is deemed to be adequate. But the courts may take the view that a freelance on a long term contract has the same rights as an employee.

Marie-Louise explained the complexity of pursuing a legal claim as a result of an accident abroad. If it is possible, it is preferable to hear the case in the UK, under UK law; alternatively a case can be heard in the UK under foreign law; the third option would be for the case to be heard abroad. Claimants, when pursuing claims against UK-based NGOs, are much more likely to want to have the case heard in an English court.

Lawyers will advise on jurisdiction (where the claim can be heard) and applicable law (whether English or foreign law applies). It is easier to bring a claim in the UK for many reasons, including the fact that disclosure always applies here but not in all other countries; here costs are paid which again is not always the case abroad; here the court’s decision is enforceable which is also not always the case outside the UK.

If the court case follows an accident which has taken place in an EU country then it has to be heard in that country under its law. If the accident occurred outside the EU the case can only be heard in the UK if the papers can be served physically here. If a UK resident is injured abroad but the injury continues on his/her return to the UK then the case is more likely to be heard here.

Liability varies according to country. In most EU countries, for example, liability for an accident lies with the driver of the vehicle. This is not always the case in other countries – in Costa Rica, for example, liability rests with the owner of the vehicle.

Christine spoke about the importance of doing a detailed risk assessment before a foreign trip. She will help draw up a protocol for us to distribute to IBT members. She advised not to cut back on insurance – for example, make sure that your policy includes repatriation as this can be very expensive. Make sure it applies to the country you are travelling to. This is a surprisingly common mistake. When you hire a driver and vehicle make sure that the company and the driver are insured and that he/she has a valid licence. Make it clear that when they drive there is a no alcohol/no speaking on the phone rule, regardless of local customs.

If you are involved in an accident collect as much information as possible whilst you are still in the country – for example, the name of the police officer, the case reference number, a copy of the police report, names of eyewitnesses, driver’s name and licence details. Take photographs of everything – the scene of the incident, damaged vehicle, licence plate, your injuries etc. It is almost impossible to obtain any relevant information once back in the UK. Keep copies of your medical records. Keep receipts for all expenses you incur. Phone your travel insurer as they can be very helpful. Ask for help – it is hard to deal with these incidents on your own. Contact the British Embassy or Consulate -staff will be very helpful. Don’t hire a local lawyer – wait until you are back in the UK. Don’t accept offers of compensation – wait until you have sought legal advice.


Mark Galloway

April 2015

Briefing Notes: BBC News Online


Jon Zilkha – head of 24/7 and digital

Steve Herrmann – head of BBC News online


Jon is in charge of the BBC News Channel and BBC World News and all the online content produced by BBC News – he is a member of the senior management team at BBC News. He was previously head of the business and economics unit. Steve is the editor of the news website and manages BBC News online. He is responsible for editorial content and works closely with the future media team of developers, designers and product managers.

Both spoke about the big changes that are taking place to strengthen the BBC’s online offering and make it accessible via mobile and tablets. Demand is shifting in this direction – currently, 45% of users access the site via desktops; 40% via mobiles and 14% via tablets. Mobile is growing massively and tablet is also growing but not so fast.

They confirmed that there is widespread interest from the UK audience in international content. Features are popular not just the main story of the day. BBC News is the homepage for many people and also a favourite of many – so it gets a higher percentage of its traffic directly rather than through recommendations on social media. The website has a public service ethos and so will promote off agenda features and stories that the editors believe in – it won’t just replicate the news agenda of other BBC outlets.

They are looking at new ways of presenting video – 15% of users watch video content. There is a lot of experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t. Lots of background explainers, using graphics, statistics, short interview clips etc – content designed for sharing.

Both speakers talked about what makes a story popular – they agreed that there is no ideal running time. Vice News has shown that longer pieces can work well online. Authenticity is important and good storytelling – good use of visuals too. Pieces should be concise and get to the point quickly. Reporters should not just reproduce their tv pieces – they should think about what would work online. There is an appetite for more immersive content.

An example of a recent popular feature which ran on the site is David Shukman’s piece on the disposable syringe.

Science stories are popular and those that cover health, technology, innovation, the workplace, lifestyle, achievement etc. Both speakers said that the agenda of BBC News was moving away from traditional geopolitical stories. They suggested that we make contact with Tulip Mazumbar, global health correspondent, who is based in London.

Other pieces that were mentioned included the A Richer World strand looking at the impact of rising incomes in some countries

And a report on the drying up of the Aral Sea – this featured prominently on the home page and had 1.2m hits:

There was a report from Fergus Walsh based on a UNICEF story on child mortality in Malawi.

Fergus Walsh is regarded as being good at delivering quality online content as well as traditional tv pieces.

BBC News has a ‘digital first’ policy which means that stories run online first and also that digital is not just an add on – the digital element is there from the beginning. This requires advance planning and thought.

Steve spoke about the stories that had done well recently – 5 out of the top 6 stories were international: Paris drone mystery; US sniper case; Cliff Richard; Waiting for the sea; cold calling; and Austria’s new Islamic laws.

The site is also running more live feeds – in response to audience demand.

In June the BBC is launching a new 9pm news show called Outside Source which will be simulcast on the BBC News Channel and on BBC World News. Presented by Ros Atkins from World Have Your Say, it will have an innovative format (using social media prominently) and a global agenda, including sport and business. The BBC Trust asked BBC News to broaden its offering to audiences – to feature a wider range of international stories (in response to lobbying by IBT) – and this is what they have come up with.

Steve and Jon spoke about pitching. What are BBC News looking for? They want to tell audiences something they don’t already know. The ideal pitch will include some or all of the following: access, expertise, personal testimony, new data – content that provides a proper understanding of an issue. Strong storytelling that grabs people’s attention and a strong visual component will help a lot. There is space on the website to run a broad range of stories so they are always on the lookout for something that it a little eclectic – and for light and shade. They are also on the lookout for pieces with a different tone (they have noted how Vice News does this well) – something that feels rougher and less polished – that will appeal to younger audiences. James Reynolds and Matthew Price are two reporters who can pull this off.

They said the key to pitching is establishing relationships with commissioners but agreed that BBC News online is hard to penetrate from the outside. They advised that correspondents could be approached directly (Fergus Walsh, Tulip Mazumbar, David Shukman, Pallab Ghosh etc).

For BBC World, Jon provided a few names of planning editors:

Anna Williams – Planning editor at BBC Global News

Kristina Block – BBC World Assignment editor

Oversees planning on behalf of World News and

Fiona Crack – Editor, Language planning, BBC World Service

For the website, Steve suggests that specialist teams should be contacted direct:



James Gallagher – Michelle Roberts –

0203 614 1216



Paul Rincon –

0203 614 1182



Sean Coughlan –

Hannah Richardson –

0203 614 3172/3180



Leo Kelion –

Tel – 0203 614 1224



The best address, given the different people in at different points of the day is

0203 614 0885/2929



Mark Savage –

Rebecca Thomas –

0203 614 1891


For general queries if you aren’t sure which section – try Caroline Parkinson Acting Assistant Editor, Specialist Journalism BBC News website Room 02D New Broadcasting House London W1A 1AA Direct line: 020 3614 1213




Mark Galloway

March 3 2015

Briefing Notes: Vice News and Huffington Post


Yonni Usiskin, Supervising Producer, Vice News UK

Charlie Lindlar, Assistant blogs editor, Huffington Post UK


Vice News UK

The UK site is barely a year old and in a short space of time it has achieved a huge following. The team is small, 15-20 people in the London office, made up of producers, directors, journalists, researchers. Some of these are specialists in, for example economics, environment and conflict. They have 37 bureaux across the world. Vice has the stated ambition of becoming the biggest media company in the world and has big plans to grow – including launching tv stations.

Yonni is responsible for the video content. His background is in documentaries and he has worked on a number of high profile shows such as Channel 4’s 24 Hours in A and E. Most of the people who watch Vice videos do so via their YouTube channel. They go regularly or they find videos through recommendations on social media. The Vice News site itself doesn’t work very well for video. Their most successful video was shot behind the scenes in IS territory – it currently has 14 million views, so they are capable of getting bigger audiences than mainstream tv.

There is no optimum length for a video on Vice News – the team respond to each story differently. They run many longer pieces – the IS video is an hour long. Yonni doesn’t believe that audiences have a short attention span when it comes to authentic content.

Vice’s USP is to provide a different news agenda from other news suppliers such as the BBC. They want to cover stories that are not been covered by mainstream news and to find different angles and to promote the voices of ordinary people rather than experts.

They are not a 24 hour news channel and don’t have the capacity to turn round videos within hours but they have regular weekly meetings to plan their video content. They don’t have deadlines as such or a schedule so they can be flexible. The key is topicality.

They shoot most of their own material with their crews and correspondents but they are open to using footage supplied by NGOs – provided that they are able to edit the footage to give it a Vice News approach. The key is finding good content- they are not worried about being seen to promote an NGO line.

Yonni believes there is a real opportunity for NGOs to engage audiences – if they can find the right tone and content. He believes that audiences engage differently with media from the way they used to – so this presents an opportunity for NGOs to gain supporters and future activists.

Their target audience is 14-34 year olds. They are not a ‘youth channel’. They see this group as the decision makers of the future. They say they are the fastest growing news channel in the UK. For the global site, 50% of the audience is in the US; and 50% the rest of the world.

They have given extensive coverage to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Recently they ran a series on immigration to Europe. They’ve also reported extensively from Ukraine and ran a series on the rise of anarchism in Greece.

Yonni was asked why he thought his audience was interested in foreign stories when other broadcasters have told us that there is not much appetite for foreign news. Yonni’s view is that there is a genuine interest in what is happening around the world. The style of reporting is crucial – audiences are interested in getting to the truth and not being patronised. He wants to cover aid and development as he feels this is necessary for people to understand the causes behind war and famine.

Vice News has worked effectively with NGOs in the past, notably Stonewall (on a series on gays in Russia and Jamaica) and Reprieve (on a series on Guantanamo).

They are keen to cover climate change – and have done some stories in the US on solar power and the lack of choice US consumers have when looking for an energy supplier. And stories in the UK about fracking.

They tend to steer clear of celebrities – they did shoot some material with Vivienne Westwood on the fracking story but it felt as if it was just promoting her and her opinions so they dropped it.

One weakness of Vice News at the moment is it UK coverage which he believes needs to be strengthened.

Another concern is that their audience is heavily male skewed – they are not sure why this is but they would like to attract a more mixed audience.

Plans for the future – they want to strengthen the photo section of the site – they think it’s a bit weak at the moment. Since they are only a year old, they are currently taking stock to assess what worked and what didn’t. They do feel they need more publicity for the site – not enough people know about it yet. They are also planning to explore the idea of more partnerships – as a source of additional revenue.

Yonni is happy to be contacted with story ideas and they can be topical, for now, or for the future.  His advice to NGOs pitching stories:  be ambitious, know your audience.


Huffington Post UK

The site was launched initially in the US as a news and politics blog by Arianna Huffington. The UK site was launched in 2011. They have spent the last 3 years establishing themselves – they are currently the 7th biggest news site in the UK – bigger than The Sun and The Independent. They want to get bigger and be more ambitious – and to grow the blogs section of the site.

There are now sites in numerous countries- France, Germany, Spain, Greece, Brazil, India, South Korea. An Arabic edition is coming soon – in association with Al Jazeera. Blogs and news stories are shared between countries if appropriate and often translated into the appropriate language.

Huffington Post sees itself as outside mainstream news, trying to promote different voices, with a focus on how events and policies impact on ordinary people. Blogs for the site should be shareable and should win hearts and minds and entertain. They should be heartfelt. They encourage bloggers to put their point of view across clearly, strongly argued and using emotion! Be bold and evidence based, Charlie said. But everything is up to the blogger. The site is run as an open platform and does not edit blogs – blog editors will check for accuracy and legality and may comment but their approach is very light touch.

They have 10,000 registered bloggers – some blog frequently; others infrequently. The rule is that you blog when you choose but the editors do approach bloggers and suggest they blog at particular times about issues of the moment. Blogs need to be topical. And they don’t need to be from officials or CEOs – they can be from people at the grassroots.

They are particularly pleased with their student section which Charlie edits – this will be rebranded later in the year as Young Voices. This is a place where ordinary students can blog about the issues which concern them.

If you’d like to become a registered blogger, then approach Charlie, with a sample of what your first blog might look like. It should be 500-800 words. Blogs should appeal to a wide audience – Charlie believes that is the reason for the success of the site. There is something for everyone here. They do not measure traffic and they do not judge their success by traffic on the site. They do, however, look at social statistics – likes and shares on Facebook and Twitter. The site appeals to a youngish demographic – 18-34 year olds. It’s owned by AOL and is ad funded.  They have 8 million monthly readers coming to the UK site.

If you want to get attention for your blog then social media is the way to do it.

They haven’t yet harnessed the power of video on the blog section but this will come in the future. They can embed video that already exists online but they can’t upload new video into a blog.

There are around 25 people working on Huffington Post in London – there people dealing with blogs and the rest with news. They are a small team and all talk to each other so send any ideas for the site to Charlie and he’ll pass them on to the right person.

Some blogs can be very popular – Charlie gave the example of a student blog responding to anti-Islam sentiment that was shared 34,000 times on Facebook and had 93,000 likes.

Huffington Post has no deadlines – blogs can be pitched at any time, for now or for some time in the future. It’s up to you. But they advise against posting at the weekend – they have few readers over the weekend. They generally upload between 80 and 100 blogs every day. There are 30 slots on the home page. They will pick the ones they feel are the most topical or relevant for the home page but if something does well it may get promoted to the home page. They will typically upload 10-15 first thing in the morning and then the rest throughout the day. There is no best time of day but traffic is heavier at the times you’d expect it to be – lunchtime etc. But they also find that people are reading the blogs at all hours – early mornings, late at night.

Who is the audience for HP? Charlie says its audience is made up of readers of the Guardian, Independent etc and many of them will be consuming news and opinion from a variety of other sources. The site is best known for its coverage of politics and current affairs but welcomes blogs on any subject.  They work with celebs as their access to social media gives these blogs a bigger reach – Lenny Henry, Hugh Dennis, Prince William. But in the end it’s the quality of the content that counts. A blog from a famous person who doesn’t really know the issues is not a good idea. Photos and images do well too.


Mark Galloway


Briefing Notes: Radio 4 Today Programme

Please note that this meeting was held according to Chatham House rules so Adam cannot be quoted without his consent.


Key contacts  Acting planning editor and senior producer Planning editor Today planning desk email

Planning desk direct line 020 3614 3622



How Today works

There are around 60-65 people working on the show, made of up two teams: the day team and the planning team. The teams aren’t fixed and people will move from one team to the other. The day editor has a main meeting at 11.30am for the next day’s show and stays until early evening. At 7.30pm the night editor comes in and takes the show right through until 9am the next day. In the evening, some items will get dropped as new news stories break.

There are several points of entry to Today. The main one is the planning desk which is run by Ollie Stone-Lee. Adam is standing in for him at the moment. Adam recommended phoning rather than emailing. He suggested making contact with someone on the team, and pitching your idea over the phone. Make sure you get the name of the person so that you have a named contact for the future.

You can also pitch to one of the specialist teams such as health, business or education – or to a correspondent in the field. Don’t pitch it to Mike Thomson as he no longer works full time on Today.

Adam spoke at length about how to write a decent press release. He suggested listening to the programme and then pitching something that will actually fit with the style of the programme. He doesn’t have time to read emails and press releases from beginning to end so the subject line or heading are key to grab his intention – these should be like a newspaper headline. The first sentence should sum up what the story is, emphasising what you have to say that is new. The sheer volume of ideas they get pitched is huge. He typically deals with 150-200 stories in one week. What they want to find when they read a press release is the human story – case studies are crucial. And if you are offering named experts make sure they are available, ideally to go into a studio, in London or elsewhere. Studio sound is much better than a telephone line.

The role of the planning desk is to come up with stories that can’t be set up in a few hours but need more planning. He gave the example of the Ebola audio diary by Geraldine O’Hara. They are also looking for stories that provide more texture – Today is not just a news programme. He gave the example of the interview that John Humphrys had done in Cardiff on the subject of dementia. They try to avoid doing too many packages as these tend to be dropped when a new story breaks.

The pitch has to be good and some ideas inevitably get lost in the system. Adam complained that many of the ideas he receives are not specifically targeted at the Today programme – they are just general press releases which obviously go to all media contacts on the mailing list. This is not the way to get your story on Today.

He gave an example of what he considered to be a good pitch – it came from a charity working on drugs and was about a new antibiotic – the story was summed up at the top of the release in two sentences. There was a list of possible interviewees and two strong case studies.

If you’re publishing new research make sure that the report author is available for interview and be very clear about the methodology.

Adam urged everyone to think on their feet – respond to stories that are in the news. If you have a report coming out next week but the story is in the news today then bring the launch forward since no one will want to return to the story next week.

He also advised everyone to try pitching something different – the programme is keen to find new ways of covering foreign stories. Hence the Ebola audio diary. Adam spoke about how Justin Forsyth had pitched the Liberia project and this had been a great way for the programme to cover both positive and negative stories from Africa.

He suggested being aware of other stories in the news when deciding the right time to pitch a story – Adam recommended subscribing to

Think of sound – this is a radio show after all. He was recently pitched a story about a new water mill generating electricity – one of the attractions of the story was the sound.

Feature children if you can – they are brilliant on the radio.


Gender imbalance

Adam said that Today were working hard to increase the number of women interviewed on the show – sometimes the guests would be 80% male. A low point was when they had two male experts on the show talking about breast cancer. He welcomed suggestions for good female studio interviewees. They would prefer to interview a female expert working for an NGO than the male chief executive.

He recommended that all potential female experts should register on Women’s Room and Her Say as he uses both sites to search for experts. Today does not currently have its own expert database but a new one will come online soon.


Foreign coverage

Adam spoke about Jamie Angus’s comments earlier this year when he said foreign coverage was putting off viewers. See

Adam said there was no detectable loss in listeners and he didn’t believe that foreign coverage per se was putting off listeners. What he did feel was that there were more big running stories and that the programme needed to be creative about finding new ways of covering the big story of the day. He said the Ebola audio diary was an example of a different type of coverage. Sending presenters to the location also helped – for example Mishal Hussein’s trip to Lebanon.

Adam broadly welcomed the fact that since the merger of BBC News and the World Service, some WS correspondents were available to file stories for Today. Adam gave an example of a trip he made to Kenya to look at radio and the changing media landscape, with Alan Kasujja, one of the Newsday presenters.


Studio discussions

In addition to trying to recruit more women as studio guests, there were other changes afoot. They want studio discussions to have more light and less heat – it won’t be necessary always to have two opposing points of view. Adam noted that with discussions about climate change they have moved away from always interviewing a scientist and a sceptic – acknowledging that the sceptics represent a very small minority and should not be given too much air time.


Mark Galloway


Briefing Notes: Focus on Africa


Rachael Akidi, Editor, Focus on Africa (radio) @rakidi

Stephane Mayoux, Editor, Focus on Afric (tv) @smayoux


Other useful contacts

Nick Ericscson, Planning editor, BBC Africa @nickericsson

Chakuchanya Harawa, senior planner for the tv show

Alice Muthengi (and others), planners for the radio show @amuthengi



Focus on Africa (radio)

The radio show goes out three times a day on the BBC World Service, broadcast live in English from London at 1500, 1700 and 1900 (all GMT). The main show is at 1700 and lasts an hour and the other two shows are 30 minutes each. The show aims to provide comprehensive coverage of African politics, business, sport, arts etc. It wants to reflect the progress that is taking place across Africa but not shy away from addressing the challenges. It is not a straight news show. The assumption is that the audience finds the headlines elsewhere but comes to the show for detail and analysis and for its features. The same team produces all three editions of the show and one of their priorities is to engage with their audiences via social media. They have a reach of 2½m across FB, Twitter and Google +. When selecting a studio guest topicality is the key. Why this guest? Why now?


Focus on Africa (tv)

This is a daily show which goes out at 1730 GMT Monday-Friday, live from London. It is also syndicated to 13 African tv stations. The show is broadcast on BBC World News so it reaches a global audience, although a high proportion of that audience is in Africa. The tv and radio shows work closely together, often interviewing the same guests, but they are made by different editorial teams. Stephane has a strong belief that coverage of Africa needs to move away from the 3D approach – death, disease and destruction. He’s keen to feature stories that look at arts, business, technology and health. The production team and reporters are for the most part African and he believes that Africans should be telling their own stories. The team also contributes an African perspective to wider news coverage on BBC World News.


How to pitch ideas

The best way of pitching ideas is to go to the planning editors for each show (Chaku and Alice – see above for contact details) or Nick Ericsson on the BBC Africa newsdesk. You can also contact the editors direct – Stephane via Twitter and Rachael via email. They are inundated by press releases and pitches but, whilst they are receptive, they find it frustrating that NGOs make a range of elementary errors in their dealings with the BBC. They gave a few examples of mistakes to avoid:

Reports arrive at the last minute with little or no advance notice. Experts quoted in the press release are not available for interview. Press releases lack a clear top line. Reports don’t have an executive summary. Old press releases are rehashed with a new top line. The reports offer experts to comment whereas what the broadcasters want is human stories to illustrate the issues being raised.

Both Stephane and Rachael made the point that BBC Global News in general is keen to collaborate with outside organisations, to save money, but also to give them access to expertise and information they would not otherwise have. If you are planning some research, get in touch at the beginning and see if they want to collaborate with you. This particularly applies to investigations. They are keen to do more investigations but lack the funds therefore collaboration is vital.

They are generally less keen on covering UN days, summits, elections, publication of reports, unless there is something new and surprising to say. They do not want to follow the news agenda set by UK broadcasters but prefer to respond to an African agenda. And they are keen to move away from the traditional way in which Africa has been reported and to cover a broader range of stories including ones that have something positive to say about Africa.

Rachael said she was particularly interested in covering countries that receive very little coverage such as Angola, Lesotho, Swaziland, Equitorial Guinea and Guinea Bissau.



BBC Africa now has an established team of reporters who have started to appear more widely across BBC News, including Namsa Maseko (who came to fame when she gave a personal view on what the death of Mandela meant to her), Anne Soy (who has been reporting on terrorist attacks in Kenya) and Tulip Mazumdar (reporting on Ebola). There is a feeling that these African reporters have a more authentic voice than British reporters sent in to cover African stories. The point was also made that these reporters connect with a more diverse UK audience.


Working with NGOs

Both spoke reasonably positively about their experience of working with NGOs and a couple of examples were given. Rachael worked with Oxfam during the Copenhagen climate change summit and they helped her to find examples of farmers who were affected by climate change so that she could give a human and African dimension to the issues being discussed.  Amnesty published a report on torture in Ethiopia and were able to provide Rachael with someone from Ethiopia who had been tortured and could be interviewed live on the show. Rachael emphasised her interest in featuring human stories rather than experts.

Rachael and Stephane were asked if they would use NGO footage on air – or if they would be interested in edited pieces. Both would consider using NGO footage if it provided them with access they didn’t have or couldn’t obtain. The NGO footage would be credited but the BBC would edit it as they saw fit and would want editorial control. The BBC remains nervous about being perceived to be ceding editorial control to NGOs. Balance remains critically important.



The audience profile for radio and tv is similar. The shows tend to reach a professional male skewed audience typically in their early 30s, comprising teachers, students, NGO staff, government, civil servants and other decision makers. They are keen to reach a younger audience and would welcome ideas that would appeal to young people. The audience is predominantly urban and focus groups have shown them that the audience welcomes a move away from the traditional 3D agenda.


Mark Galloway


Briefing Notes: Dispatches

IBT briefing on Channel 4 Dispatches September 2014


Daniel Pearl -Commissioning Editor, Channel 4

Karen Edwards- Executive Producer, Blakeway


Daniel explained the set up at Channel 4. There are 4 commissioning editors who cover the whole of news and current affairs. He has overall responsibility for Channel 4 News and Dispatches. Siobhan Sinnerton has responsibility for Unreported World. Daniel encouraged everyone to take their international ideas to Quicksilver, the production company which makes Unreported World. They have two runs of 8 episodes each year so they are always on the lookout for good international stories.


There are 30 half hour episodes of Dispatches each year – most of these are domestic and Blakeway makes a good number of these episodes. In addition, there will be 8-12 one hour films each year – most of these will be foreign and, again, Blakeway, makes a number of these. Karen recently did a Dispatches called Hunted which investigated the persecution of gays in Russia. LGBT rights is an issue that she remains interested in.


Daniel says he is always in search of a good idea. At the heart of every Dispatches is revelation. These films are journalistic, not analytical, and they need to have something new to say. There’s always a shortage of good ideas so please send any ideas you have to Daniel (if you know you want to see them on Channel 4) or Karen (if you’re also open to seeing them elsewhere – as Karen also makes current affairs programmes for two BBC strands, Panorama and This World).


What’s the difference between Panorama and Dispatches? Not much, it seems. Daniel said that Panorama goes in cycles and so what they are looking for changes. Panorama is about to appoint a new editor so the direction of travel will become clearer soon. Channel 4, in Daniel’s view, is more willing to make mischief and challenge the establishment.


If you take an idea to Daniel and he likes the idea, he will work with you to identify the best outlet – it may work best in a short form for Channel 4 News for example. He sees Channel 4 News as a current affairs programme, taking the news agenda further, rather than just reflecting it.


Karen explained the set up at Blakeway – it is part of the Ten Alps media group which also includes two other independent production companies, Brook Lapping and Films of Record. Karen is head of current affairs and documentaries at Blakeway. She makes programmes for ITV, BBC and Channel 4. Before becoming an executive producer, she was producing Dispatches for 10 years, so she knows Channel 4 inside out. She likes dealing with Channel 4 as they are very flexible and have a number of different places for a good idea – the BBC is more restricted.


Karen loves doing foreign films. She is always looking for stories that feature real people – rather than just tissues.  She doesn’t feel that current affairs works without strong personal stories and testimony.


Daniel has few slots for foreign films so the bar is set high – he has turned down some good ideas recently as his main focus is Syria, IS and the Ukraine. Ebola is being covered by Unreported World. Whereas Panorama will automatically cover the big foreign stories, Dispatches will not always do this. He’s currently looking for fresh angles on Syria and wants to find a way of showing what life is like inside IS territory. He recommended everyone to watch the Vice film made inside IS territory.


Daniel was asked whether NGO footage was of interest to him  – he said he was always after original footage.


Daniel and Karen were asked about their experience of working with NGOs. Karen had good experiences when NGOs were helping her with access but when the NGO brought the film idea to her she felt there were sometimes unrealistic expectations that she was producing a puff piece. NGOs needed to understand that producers could not relinquish editorial control and had the right to criticize NGOs. This relationship needed to be made clear at the beginning. She did, however, say that she would show NGOs a cut of the finished film for comments and she recognized that safety of contributors was a major issue.


Daniel spoke about sponsored output. The current affairs team could not broadcast sponsored output. However, other teams in Channel 4 could. There would be a mention in the end credits that the piece was funded/sponsored by a third party.


Daniel and Karen were asked whether media officers should pitch to one of them rather than the other. Daniel replied that they could both be pitched to – but if you wanted the option of a BBC or ITV slot then go to Karen.


Daniel was asked if he was interested in tax avoidance/evasion – he said yes. He was also interested in new angles on poverty. He was particularly interested in what he called ‘rubbish jobs’ – people working on zero hours or poverty wages. He’d done several Dispatches on this issue but would do more if the right story came up.


Both were asked what issues they felt were under-reported. Karen said China and Daniel said migration.


Daniel was asked about pressure to get ratings – he said there wasn’t any pressure but that he wanted to appeal to a mainstream audience and didn’t want Dispatches to become niche viewing.  He felt that if this happened the strand would not survive. Therefore his aim was that Dispatches should regularly get a 5% audience share.


Mark Galloway 25.9.14

Briefing Notes: ITV News

IBT briefing with ITV News

Key contacts:

Michael Herrod, Head of Foreign News

Tel 020 7430 4411 T: @mherroditv

Delilah Jeary, Series Producer, On Assignment and Tonight

Tel 020 7430 4625

ITV News

TMichael explained how ITN worked: the biggest team is the ITV News team which produces bulletins for ITV and also does Tonight and On Assignment; there are also the Channel 4 News and 5 News teams. There’s ITN Source, an archive library and ITN Productions which acts as an independent producer specialising in factual programmes. ITV has 3 news bulletins: 1.30pm, 6.30pm and 10pm. The 10 is more international and will sometimes run stories that the other bulletins don’t run; only the 1.30 has studio guests.


ITV News has bureaux in Brussels, Johannesburg, Dubai, Tel Aviv, Bangkok, Beijing and Washington DC. The Joburg bureau is a joint one with NBC News. NBC News also has a foreign desk based at ITN in London and the two organisations collaborate to split costs on stories. Several of the NBC reporters are ex-ITN – like Bill Neely.

ITV News has an international unit with specialist correspondents who fly out to cover major stories: Rageh Omaar, James Mates and John Ray. There are also a number of former foreign correspondents in the general reporting team who may cover foreign stories.

There’s a big commitment to running foreign stories but there are financial constraints. A recent planned trip to South Sudan did not take place on cost grounds.

Michael  is also keen to avoid running the same foreign stories as everyone else – so he’s always looking for original pieces. He recently ran a story on tobacco farms in the US which employed children as young as 12 – he spotted this story on a news list from Human Rights Watch.

Michael highlighted a number of foreign stories which he had run recently: a science piece on malaria; a return visit to the Bangladesh clothing factory; a trip to the Central African Republic; a story on the ivory trade which involved filming in Hong Kong and Africa.

Michael likes dealing with NGOs and says that they can be vital to gain access to difficult stories and also help to reduce the cost. Travelling to difficult locations is easier and cheaper with NGOs – as it can mean avoiding paying for commercial flights. Often they require an invitation to go to the country, which the NGO can help facilitate. NGOs can also provide vital on the ground knowledge, and help with security. However, ITV News would not want an NGO to pay for their flights – they would want to pay their own way.

Michael emphasised the importance of NGOs keeping in touch and telling him what they were up to. He’s happy to be called on his direct line – best time to call him is between 10 and 4. He also would like to know if NGOs are planning any filming trips – it’s much better if he can discuss what might work for him before a trip than be presented with material once the filming has taken place. If the filming is of good quality it could be packaged in London by a reporter and it may also be possible to do a separate interview to accompany the piece on the lunch time news.

If you are shooting material which you plan to offer him, he gave a few basic tips. Shoot long shots (as if you’re taking still photographs) and avoid pans and zooms. Do lots of interviews to get first person testimony. Use a decent camera, not your phone. The material has to be broadcast quality. Think of what the narrative is and try and find images to tell the story.

There was a discussion about upcoming foreign stories. He is sending a team to Syria later this month. He’ll be doing a piece in November to mark the 10th anniversary of the tsunami. He’s unlikely to do a piece to mark the anniversary of the Philippines typhoon – he’s not generally keen on anniversaries. However he may cover the Philippines if On Assignment decides that it wants to.

On Assignment and Tonight

Delilah is the series producer for the new ITV monthly current affairs strand, On Assignment – the half hour show goes out once a month after News at Ten. It was launched two months ago. Each episode has three stories, typically 7 minutes long, but the lengths may vary. They are all original stories, specially shot for the show. Some may be off agenda; others may focus on an angle or aspect of a big foreign story that has not been covered. Cost is a key issue so costs will usually be shared with ITV News – for example their royal reporter was in Australia with William and Kate and stayed on to shoot a story for On Assignment. That’s sitting on the shelf waiting to go out. So far, they have covered Rwanda (20 years on); oil in Norway; legalisation of cannabis in Connecticut; and a story from Hart island, New York. More on what they’ve covered here:

There are 10 episodes of On Assignment a year (with a break in August and December) and both Delilah and Michael emphasised what a good opportunity this was for NGOs pitching their ideas – especially as they would get 7 minutes of air time rather than the usual 2 or 3.

Delilah has worked extensively with NGOs and she was positive about these relationships. She worked with CAFOD on a story which involved returning Rageh Omaar to Somalia; with Age UK on a look at the cost of elderly care; with MSF on a film in Syria.

However the MSF film on Syria did not get made – it was for Tonight but the commissioning editor turned it down.

Tonight is the weekly ITV current affairs show which goes out at 7.30pm on a Thursday. ITN makes 10 episodes a year and Delilah manages this output. The show gets an average audience of 3m – more than Panorama, Dispatches etc. It is very consumer focused and predominantly domestic. They’ve also done a lot on the weather as this subject delivers good ratings. Some of these films are very fast turnaround – getting made in just a few days. In the past, Tonight has done the occasional foreign film, but it appears that this is increasingly rare and it is unlikely that it will do many foreign films in the future. On Assignment is being viewed as the foreign strand – all the stories it has done so far have been foreign ones.

A number of On Assignment films are made in advance and Delilah is particularly keen on timeless stories. She’s interested in going to the Philippines for the 10th anniversary of the typhoon. Rageh Omaar is doing a film in Nigeria whilst he’s covering the missing school girls story. Delilah emphasised that she did not want extended news pieces – the films had to feel very different from what viewers had already seen on the news.

Both Michael and Delilah said they were happy to be contacted by phone or email.

Mark Galloway
May 16 2014.

Briefing Notes: BBC World News

Andrew is BBC World News Editor and he is in charge of all bringing in all foreign content for BBC radio, tv and online for audiences in the UK and around the world, including World TV and the BBC World Service.

Before he became World News Editor he was Editor of the World News Channel for four years. He had a lot of involvement with INGO’s while at World News and regularly ran reports in response to reports released by INGO’s. Before that he was bureau chief for the BBC in Brussels and Washington. He originally comes from New Zealand.

As a large result of the integration of the World Service into the main BBC News operation, there have been a lot of changes in the way in which foreign news is gathered at the BBC in the past year. He has 600 staff in the field to utilise in comparison with the 150 who worked under his predecessor, Jon Williams. His team work closely with all of the BBC’s local journalists around the world.

The 27 language services of the World Service are now also broadcasting on television and online.

Reporting is becoming more diverse with local reporters being used on English output as well as having to service their local World Service language service. They are known as ‘bilingual’ correspondents and are the backbone of the foreign news operation.

As a result of the integration of the World Service the BBC has brought on a lot of new local talent both in front of the camera but also technicians.

Andrew suggests that IBT members should interact with the local bureaux in the countries where they operate and build relationships with them. The local bureaux feed stories into the foreign desk in London constantly. If you approach the foreign desk in London, they are likely to send the story onto the local bureau to get their opinion of the story anyway.

It is still complex and often difficult to get non-breaking news on air and budgets, as ever, are tight, however Andrew believes that foreign coverage is still a very important aspect of the BBC’s delivery – it is what it is known for around the world and is not under threat. In next twelve months or so there will inevitably be less space, however, for international stories because of the Scottish referendum and the General Election.

If a story is dangerous or expensive Andrew says he needs buy in from the programme editors on the main bulletins or Newsnight, for example. If not, he commissions stories from the bureaux himself.

There are numerous daily meetings with the editors of the main news output on the English service and weekly conference calls with the bureaux usually on a Monday.

For Andrew stories which are about to become important are crucial for him. He wants to know about them.


He suggests avoiding diary dates – he is trying to avoid anniversary stories unless they have a 0 on the end, ie 10 years minimum.

The foreign team work with INGO’s especially where access is needed. For example, Lyse Doucet was in Damascus with an NGO recently. This became the lead story on UK output as well as in the BBC’s international output. They now have an entirely Arabic team in Damascus and this has changed the way they cover the story in Syria. Another story they covered was a Save the Children Fund story in South Sudan about infant mortality where access provided by local Save the Children Fund staff was crucial.

Africa is very important to the BBC at the moment – it is a key area of interest for their World TV and World Service output because a key audience for them is in the Asia Pacific region and this audience is interested in Africa. Africa Business Report has been launched (being produced out of Johannesburg) in response to this interest and the programme covers stories about the development of Africa rather than just disaster news which is a good outcome.

They are trying to update the African language services to make them feel more modern and snappy – so shorter items and sounding more like Newsbeat than The Today Programme.

The BBC has extended its operations in South America largely because of the World Cup and Olympics. Andrew is not sure that they will have such a significant presence in 6 years’ time.

Eastern Europe is busy at the moment with the Ukraine story but it is unlikely to alter the BBC’s presence long term.

The Middle East – especially Syria, Egypt, the Middle East conflict and North Africa – is essential.

South East Asia – the BBC will continue to maintain its presence as it stands. The explosion of media in India and now Pakistan has influenced the way the BBC works in the region. In Pakistan there are 10 news channels alone, but they are all privately owned, so the BBC has invested in its Urdu service which is running its own TV show every evening to ensure that audiences there have access to impartial news. This has led to a huge resource in Pakistan which the foreign desk has never had before. The BBC Hindi service is launching its own daily TV programme as well as a version of Newsround in Hindi. This is being launched to engage a younger audience.

The BBC’s move increasingly online is going to progress. The promotion of video online is growing and there is the potential to get huge audience figures for video online from 1 to 3 million viewers who tend to watch the whole story rather than dip in and out. The BBC’s Youtube channels are worth watching as well as checking out local reporters’ Twitter feeds.

All the local bureaux are listed on the BBC News site under the country pages so they are easy to contact. Phone them and build relationships with them.

Andrew says that audiences are increasingly less interested in geo-political stories and more interested in stories where there is an issue which resonates – such as healthcare, science, technology, culture and sport. He cited a story which did really well recently about water bottles which purify water using sunlight. It went out across all the bulletins. Audiences are also interested in stories which affect us all such as corruption, healthcare and policing. They do seasons – such as the cost of childcare (break up of families around the world made this an internationally relevant story), the cost of feeding your children (came out of the baby milk crisis in China). They may do another food season – perhaps focussing on wastage (lack of refrigeration in Africa and India, for example).

There are relatively new Editors in place on all the major news programmes now and they are all broad­minded about the talent they use. Jamie Angus, for example, who is Editor of The Today Programme, previously helped launch a number of new World Service language services and then moved to Newsnight. Nomsa Maseko is the most recent hit with the 6 and 10pm bulletins. She covered the Zimbabwe elections for them and it was the first time as far as Andrew is aware that the BBC had an African woman reporting on a major story. Until a few years ago she was a policewoman.

There was a Q and A and some specific points emerged:

  • Andrew said the BBC would use NGO footage if they are on the scene of an event before the BBC crew. There is a whole team at the BBC which works on user generated content now, verifying it and checking it.

  • They also might use footage which is branded over a guest speaking it the studio to illustrate a story.

  • Use Twitter and Facebook to broadcast your own material and contact the BBC to let them know it is there to whet their appetite.

  • UN Days on their own don’t interest the UK services but they do interest the World Service and World TV.

  • When you pitch an idea use a short sentence that explains the story and makes him want to find out more. He describes the skill as being ‘headline writing’. You have to be able to sell the story in brief terms.

  • Celebrities per se are not interesting. Angelina Jolie doing a trip isn’t enough to engage a BBC crew but William Hague going to the DRC to talk about rape was.

  • If you are asked to do an interview avoid doing it in a radio car – go into the BBC and try to ensure you get interviews on the BBC News Channel and for World TV as well, outlets which are always looking for interesting guests.

  • Off agenda stories are difficult and their success always depends on the strength of the story. If it is something surprising in someway and somewhere which is unreported but was interesting to the audience previously. The World Tonight, Today, PM and the 6 and 10pm bulletins are the best places to pitch off agenda
    stories to.

    • Getting stories onto World TV is a good way to get TV content into the system. It will appear on the News Channel and maybe even get picked up by the 6 and 10 if it is a story which appeals to them. It will also go up on the website.

    • Business programmes are a good place to pitch ideas – Singapore, Mumbai and Dubai all have business units, as does Johannesburg and London has the biggest unit.

    • Anna Williams is the lead planner on the Foreign Desk. Her email You should ensure you pitch to her as well as the local bureaux.

    • Online interviews don’t do well – raw footage, packages and real local people speaking do well.

    • Audience feedback suggests audiences want a broader agenda which is good news.

    • On NGO trips the BBC will pay its own way but will use an NGO for access.


Sophie Chalk
March 5 2014

Briefing Notes: This World


Twitter: @nigelsboot (personal) and @BBCWorld (corporate account)


This World

Sam gave some background on how This World was set up in 2003 as a documentary strand to cover global stories. There has always been a tension between news/current affairs and documentaries with his BBC News colleagues wanting him to cover the news agenda. He has resisted that and, since he took over a year ago, has adopted a documentary approach. There are 12 episodes a year, and most of the time they play at 9pm on BBC2. It’s important for him that This World is at the heart of the schedule and aimed at a mainstream audience. It should be interesting and enjoyable to watch – not a duty.

Sam’s approach is eclectic. Some films will have a presenter; others will take an observational documentary approach. He is interested in covering big themes (population, the rise of the East) through small or quirky or less obvious stories. The approach is story-led rather than issue-led.

He spoke about how competitive the peak time schedule is. It’s important that he gets decent ratings but he is sometimes up against big dramas like Sherlock or 24 Hours in A and E, so it’s tough. The current series has done well in terms of ratings, including (to Sam’s surprise) Hans Rosling’s film about population.

Sam doesn’t usually tackle issues head on and he likes to find a way in that surprises viewers. So, for example, he wanted to do something about the way India is changing, the fact that not everyone is poor. He thought about looking at wealth but decided against as he felt his audience wouldn’t watch – they’d feel that they knew this already. Instead, he decided to focus on obesity and to look at children who were becoming obese. He chose a populist title India’s Supersize Kids and the audience came to the subject.

He wanted to look at population and he commissioned 3 films: Don’t Panic – the Truth About Population (a personal view by Hans Rosling); No Sex Please, We’re Japanese (which looked at attitudes to sex in Japan and reasons for the falling birth rate) and The World’s Busiest Maternity Ward (which looked at a maternity hospital in the Philippines but also looked at how that country is changing at a rapid pace).

He also spoke about Dan Snow’s History of Syria which he said did well in audience terms, whereas other documentaries about Syria had not done so well. He felt there was an audience appetite for this historical context which was lacking in the news coverage. This was followed up with Dan Snow’s History of Congo.


The strand still does investigations. The Shame of the Catholic Church looked at the way the Church in Ireland had dealt with child abuse. The film won a number of awards.

America’s Poor Kids was an observational doc looking at the lives of poor children in the US, made by an independent production company, True Vision.

Sam was asked to explain how ideas got commissioned. He said he received lots of ideas from independents but 95% were binned straightaway. He gave the impression that indies didn’t really get This World and that they were pitching more conventional news or current affairs stories. They hadn’t understood that This World takes a more angular approach.

Sam said he would welcome NGOs suggesting stories to him – just a short email – and he would try to reply. He liked hearing about small stories as they often provided a way in to bigger issues. But, on the whole, he wanted all his films to deal with the big issues of the day. Sometimes he works with indies to develop projects; other times they are developed in house. He doesn’t have a development team. This World is just himself and a series producer.

He was reluctant to talk about what was in the pipeline or which countries or issues he was interested in. He said it wasn’t as simple as that; ideas evolved as a result of lots of conversations and snippets of information.

On presenters, he has no set view. Sometimes a presenter emerges; on other occasions it’s someone like Dan Snow who is part of the BBC ‘family’ of presenters.

He spoke about two films coming up: Robert Peston would be looking at China’s success story and asking whether it was all going wrong; and there would be a film about affluence in Brazil with access to The Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio. There were a lot of Brazilian programmes in the pipeline on the BBC, such as Welcome to Rio.

Some of the films were made by indies but there was no set rule and there were no particular indies that Sam worked with regularly. A company called Wingspan made the Hans Rosling film as they had worked with him before. NGOs could pitch their ideas for This World to indies producers if they had good relationships but it might be better to pitch them directly to Sam.

Working with NGOs

Sam said that his teams often work with NGOs. He’s responsible for the Simon Reeve travelogues and he said that in Indian Ocean with Simon Reeve the team worked with many charities, particularly environmental ones. In India they worked with a charity involved with a turtle rescue project; in Madagascar they worked with WWF; they worked with a charity involved in shark protection in


Mozambique; with a charity working with refugees in Somaliland; with a human rights charity in Sri Lanka.

Sam is also responsible for Toughest Place to be… a format which he came up with, that involves sending a British worker to do his/her job in a foreign country. This series regularly works with NGOs behind the scenes. Sam said that the series had now come to an end but there was a new series in the pipeline featuring a London taxi driver, Mason McQueen, who featured in an episode of Toughest Place to be…

Sam showed 3 clips from sequences in films where the producers had collaborated with an NGO. He said there were strict BBC guidelines which stated that the BBC could not be seen to favour a particular NGO or to endorse it or to solicit funds for it. The guidelines state that: ‘We must retain our impartiality when we cover the work of charities and not appear to favour one charity.’ Nevertheless, Sam said that when his teams worked with charities they would help to publicise the charity if it fitted in with the editorial content of the film.

The 3 clips he showed were:

Indian Ocean with Simon Reeve – this featured the work of a small NGO, Blue Ventures, in Madagascar. It’s a conservation group working on overfishing but it was featured for an innovative family planning project which it was also running in Madagascar, alongside its conservation work. The work of the family planning project was included because it was felt that it fitted in editorially. Blue Ventures were very happy as they received several name checks.

Tropic of Cancer with Simon Reeve – this series covered the issue of child labour and featured a UNICEF-run centre for working children which enabled the children to study, play, get a decent meal, have a shower etc It was featured because the producers thought it was interesting that a major charity like UNICEF was working with factory owners and had accepted child labour as a necessary evil, for the moment at least, because they understood that the families needed the money which the children earned. The focus of UNICEF’s work was to teach the children skills so that the cycle of poverty was broken. Again, UNICEF received a name check and one of their members of staff was interviewed by Simon.

Toughest Place to be a fisherman – this film was made in Sierra Leone with a great deal of help from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) but when the film was shown there was no mention of EJF as it did not fit editorially. There was a ‘with thanks to EJF’ in the end credits. Once the film had been made, EJF used it successfully to lobby the Sierra Leone government to enforce a no fishing zone that had previously gone unenforced causing much hardship to local fishermen as big foreign trawlers were overfishing in the area. Sam then commissioned a follow up film in which the British fisherman went back and in the follow up he was able to cover the lobbying activities of EJF.

Sam’s aim in showing these clips was to acknowledge the enormous help that NGOs often gave film crews behind the scenes but to make the point that the NGOs could not be given name checks within the body of the film unless this could be justified editorially. The BBC’s position is particularly tricky, given its strict guidelines. Other broadcasters are not subject to such strict rules.


The future

Now that Toughest Place to be… has ended Sam is on the lookout for a new format. The Mason McQueen series may work for the moment but a new format will be needed in the long term. There are more Simon Reeve travel shows in the pipeline. This World will continue to be eclectic and story-led. Sam said he welcomed ideas from NGOs but it’s clear that these ideas need to tackle issues in an imaginative and creative way – and surprise audiences.

Mark Galloway