How INGOs can embrace the changing media landscape

The pandemic has transformed the media landscape, accelerating the shift to digital and remote story gathering practices. Chloe Choppen, author of IBT’s latest report The Media: Where Next? outlines some of the key recommendations for INGOs hoping to take advantage of these changes.


Reshaped by shifting priorities, tightened budgets and a conveyor belt of changing lockdown restrictions, newsrooms and media organisations all over the world have had to adapt to survive. All of these changes have major implications for INGOs wishing to use the media to tell their stories. In our new report, The Media: Where Next? we have tracked the changes that have taken place and identified some key ways that INGOs can take advantage of them to engage more effectively with audiences. Here are our top five recommendations:

1. Embrace change

The pandemic has accelerated key trends that were already taking place across the media. This includes the faster adoption of digital, a move to remote storytelling techniques and a drive towards formats that build stronger connections with audiences online, like digital subscriptions, podcasts and newsletters. Keeping on top of these trends and adapting new storytelling techniques will allow INGOs to tap into the increased potential for engaging more deeply with audiences.

2. Create space for more voices

Worldwide travel restrictions have forced the media and INGOs to move away from relying on UK-based staff to gather international stories. Communication and media teams have successfully adapted, working with a wider range of freelancers, in-country talent, and user-generated content. When the UK’s travel restrictions are finally lifted, it is important that we don’t return to the old methods of gathering stories and instead use this as an opportunity to continue to collaborate and create space for a greater variety of voices.

3. Prioritise how stories are told

Think carefully about how you represent people in your stories. Comic Relief has responded to the ‘white saviour’ row and revised its approach, challenging others in the sector to rethink long established fundraising techniques. To do this effectively, it’s crucial to consider both how stories are told and how they are gathered. Establishing robust, informed consent gathering processes will ensure best ethical practice as well as promote more nuanced storytelling. In an increasingly distrusting media landscape, NGOs must work harder to signal their credibility and transparency to audiences.

4. Take advantage of new formats

Social media moves fast. To improve digital engagement organisations must be willing to adopt more flexible, trial-and-error approaches to storytelling. This is especially true of quick turnaround video platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels where establishing processes that allow social media teams to react quickly to trends are vital for reaching audiences. Meanwhile, formats like podcasts and newsletters provide an opportunity for INGOs to demonstrate their expertise, credibility and deepen audience engagement.

5. Collaborate with the media

INGOs should encourage more collaborative relationships with the media, rather than the transactional approach that has developed over recent years. In the changing media landscape, where broadcasters are increasingly limited on resources, INGOs have a lot to offer. Whether that means leaning into the sector’s wealth of experience in interpreting scientific data, or working together to provide a platform for more diverse voices as broadcasters come under pressure to achieve wider representation.


The Media: Where Next? outlines in more detail how events over the past year have impacted the media landscape, what this means for the INGO sector, and how charities can take advantage of the accelerated shift towards digital and embrace new storytelling formats.

The report is now available to download for IBT members.

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Children’s TV – crucial decisions ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Sophie Chalk, IBT Advocacy Consultant

Fake news and its impact on the charity sector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

IBT announces its new international TV award

Dear IBT members,

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

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

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

What’s your favourite international TV programme?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Galloway, IBT Director