For IBT members, engaging children, even as young as pre-schoolers, with the world outside the UK is essential if they are to grow up with a rounded understanding of how the world works and their place in it. IBT believes children need access to information about the lives and cultures of people in other countries and television has a vital role to play in providing this.
Recent research by Childwise showed that one in three British children aged nine to 16 said they were more worried about conflict in the world than anything else.
While many children are now watching video online, TV is still crucial because, unlike online, it is regulated to protect us from harmful content and has a statutory duty to be impartial and accurate. This is more important now than ever with the rise of fake news, identified in IBT’s recent report, Faking It – fake news and how it impacts on the charity sector.
For the past 15 years the quantity of TV programmes for children in the UK has declined steadily after quotas for the non-BBC public service channels (ITV, C4, Channel 5) were dropped. Now, most new content produced for children in the UK is broadcast by the BBC and the BBC can’t deliver enough content on its own. There are lots of pay TV channels for children but these mostly show US imports and don’t provide British kids with information relevant to their lives in the UK.
A wealth of research indicates that high quality programming can have a positive effect on children’s development and stimulate their interest in the world around them. This has always been a key element of the public value behind programmes like Blue Peter, Newsround, Magpie, Rainbow and How!
The list of entertaining, informative shows in the archives is a long one, but the list of such programmes currently being broadcast is much shorter. Newsround still plays a hugely important role but Blue Peter, while it runs excellent campaigns on sustainability and provides engaging science content, is largely domestic. International episodes of My Life on CBBC and the recent CBeebies series Where in the World are notable, but they are not the norm.
We want more content like Where in the World so that our children grow up aware of what is happening in the wider world and become engaged global citizens.
IBT is calling for more content for British children on TV which provides them with a window on the wider world, explaining different cultures, putting international events into context and providing a rounded understanding of where we fit in the scheme of things.
In December the government announced the launch of a £60 million fund for the production of kids’ content for UK TV channels and Ofcom is considering whether to introduce extra regulation to increase the amount of children’s content on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. IBT is calling for the Contestable Fund to prioritise international content for children and has supported the introduction of extra quotas for the commercial public service channels to provide more content for children.
If you wish to support our campaign please get in touch.
Sophie Chalk, IBT Advocacy Consultant
This is one of the issues considered in our new report, Faking It – fake news and how it impacts on the charity sector. The report finds that charities are struggling to cope with the impact of fake news. Both Save the Children and MSF have been the subject of fake news, falsely accused of colluding with people traffickers as they conduct rescue efforts in the Mediterranean.
The report quotes Sean Ryan, Director of Media at Save the Children as saying:
“In the Mediterranean, our search and rescue operations have been falsely accused of colluding with traffickers. It started as a report in the Italian media and then Defend Europe, the far right group, hired their own boat to try and stop what we were doing. We had to fight this propaganda without any resources. We just had to keep repeating that we only worked with the Italian coastguard.”
MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) have come under similar attack. Their head of press, Gemma Gillie, is deeply concerned about the impact of fake news on their reputation:
“Fake news delegitimises MSF and criminalises the vulnerable which in turn facilitates anti-immigration policies.”
Much has been written about fake news but Faking It is the first report that has looked specifically at the charity sector. Its findings are deeply worrying and illustrate how life has become much more difficult for charities, particularly those involved in international development. In an increasingly strident online environment, it’s harder for charities to be heard. It’s also easier for them to fall victim to false accusations, which often originate online but gain traction through mainstream media.
The report cites one example of trolling in which Girish Menon, the highly regarded CEO of ActionAid was falsely accused of being an ISIS agent. In Girish’s own words:
“We discovered that the message originated from a fake news site hosted in the US. In the heat of the moment there’s no analysis of what’s fake or not. If it had been picked up by other media what would we do? There are only so many times you can issue a rebuttal. Reputations are so brittle, what would our supporters think? And of course ActionAid works in many countries that have an ISIS footprint.”
Dear IBT members,
We need your help. Today we are launching the IBT award for the outstanding international television programme of 2017 and we need you to nominate your favourite programmes.
Despite the growth of social media, television remains hugely important as a way bringing global issues to mainstream audiences.
Who can be in any doubt as to the influence of television on the public – and even on some hard to reach politicians? If you read The Times today you will have seen its report that Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, is now a passionate advocate of tackling plastics pollution, having watched the final episode of Blue Planet 2 and, according to the newspaper, been ‘affected’ by what he saw. Congratulations must go of course to Sir David Attenborough and the team behind this amazing series.
No one can be unaware of Blue Planet but of course there is much television that goes uncelebrated. That’s why we are launching this award. A shortlist will be drawn up based on nominations received by IBT members, so please get in touch and tell me your favourite international programmes from 2017. To be eligible a programme must have an international theme and have been broadcast on radio or television, in the UK, in the calendar year 2017.
We are running this award in conjunction with VLV (Voice of the Listener and Viewer), the influential audience group. It will be presented at a special awards ceremony in the spring.
Of course there are many other TV awards – the BAFTAs, RTS, Grierson, Rory Peck, Amnesty and One World. So why a new award? There’s one simple reason. These awards are all judged by media professionals. The IBT award is different as it will be nominated exclusively by our members, who will have a very different set of priorities.
So let me take a personal look at some of the international programmes that have stood out in 2017. It’s been a good year for the traditional presenter-led format, with memorable examples such as The Ganges with Sue Perkins, Russia with Simon Reeve, Joanna Lumley’s India, Reggie Yates Extreme Russia and Stacey Dooley Investigates. The BBC’s Partition season had some memorable shows, notably My Family, Partition and Me and Dangerous Borders – A Journey Across India and Pakistan.
All the programmes I’ve mentioned so far come from the BBC or ITV. Channel 4 nowadays broadcasts far fewer international programmes, but what it does is always worth watching. This year there was The Fight for Mosul and Syria’s Disappeared: the Case Against Assad. And of course the inimitable Unreported World which in 2017 took us to so many countries that would otherwise not feature on television at all – Peru, Mexico, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Samoa, to name just a few.
When you review this list, it does seem that TV commissioners have settled very much on the presenter-led format. It’s a shame that there is not more experimentation. A few years ago we had Welcome to Rio on BBC2 and The Tribe on Channel 4. There is, however, one important exception. Keo, the producers of Welcome to Rio, brought us Exodus – Our Journey Continues. There is so much coverage of refugees in the media that we think we know all there is to know, but Exodus brings the human drama into our living rooms in a way that keeps you awake at night. It’s another reminder, along with Blue Planet, that television has a huge impact on the way we see the world.
We hope the IBT award will become a regular fixture and will encourage broadcasters to commission more high quality international content. This will only happen if you, our members, nominate your favourite programmes now. There’s no nomination form, just email me with your suggestions. The closing date for nominations is January 14, 2018.
Mark Galloway, IBT Director