July 2015 Newsletter
Welcome to IBT’s July newsletter with a brief update on our work and relevant news from the media industry. (Print this Newsletter)
Last month’s briefing – with BuzzFeed and New Statesman online
Paul Hamilos from BuzzFeed told us how the UK site is expanding and hiring new specialist correspondents. There’s a strong appetite amongst its audience for both short, pithy news pieces and longer in-depth reports. Buzzfeed does both. Caroline Crampton from New Statesman told us how the website is run – completely separately from the magazine – with its own team of reporters and its own agenda. In terms of commissioning content, there was an emphasis from both on original journalism and stories with a strong human interest element. It was also clear from both editors that NGOs need to think carefully, when pitching, about the sites and their particular audiences. A detailed note on the briefing can be found on the members’ page of the IBT website.
Our AGM took place last week. Those present noted the wide range of IBT’s work over the last year – covering climate change, HIV/AIDS, media attitudes to aid and development and much more. It was agreed that IBT should lobby in the coming months for a clear commitment in the next BBC Charter to the global purpose ‘bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK.’ IBT was instrumental in securing this global purpose when the present Charter was being negotiated.
The future of the BBC
In a letter to IBT, John Whittingdale, the new Secretary of State at DCMS has promised that the Charter renewal process will be (in his words) ‘as open as possible.’ He said he would welcome input from IBT. This is good news, although since writing to us, it appears almost certain that the Chancellor will use this week’s Budget to try to transfer the cost of free licence fees for the over-75s from the Exchequer to the BBC. This is a huge blow for the BBC as it will now have to find a further £650m of savings. This sum represents roughly a sixth of the BBC’s current licence fee income. In other developments, the BBC Trust has approved plans for BBC3 to move online and Tony Hall, the BBC Director General has announced that 1,000 jobs will go so that the organization is ‘simpler, leaner and more effective for the future.’ We will be meeting Tony Hall later this month to talk about the future of the BBC.
Channel 4 has been told by Ofcom, the media regulator, that it needs to make efforts to enhance its international coverage. Ofcom has just published its review of Channel 4 in which it praisedChannel 4 News for its distinctive approach and its ability to attract hard to reach audiences (18-34s and BAME viewers). The review also noted that the number of hours of international content outside news has fallen, and the range of genres covered has narrowed. Channel 4 has responded by saying ‘we are continuing to explore ways in which we can further harness our international credentials.’ IBT has been in discussions with Channel 4 about its international content and we hope to meet the Chairman of Ofcom to discuss this further. In the meantime, Channel 4 has announced the launch of a new foreign language drama channel to be called 4WorldDrama. And, if you missed the recent Channel 4 series The Tribe, it’s well worth watching on All4:
Changing viewing habits
Ofcom’s recently published public service broadcasting review has noted some significant changes to viewing habits. Although live television remains hugely important, catch-up TV watched over the internet and content premiered online is increasingly important, particularly to younger audiences. For 16-14 year olds only 50% of their viewing is live TV, compared to 69% for the population as a whole. Viewing of TV news has dropped considerably. 45% of young people now consider the internet to be their primary source of news. One of the major sources of news for young people, according to Ofcom’s analysis, is short form video content from media organisations such as Vice News.
The changing role of UK-based NGOs
Bond has published a useful think piece, analyzing how the aid and development landscape is changing and putting forward proposals for how NGOs should respond. The proposals include a call for greater efforts at public engagement with ‘a more nuanced narrative around development.’ The report’s main conclusion is that ‘British INGOs have a crucial role to play in promoting global development – but to do this they must change their strategies and approaches.’ The report notes that the legitimacy of NGOs is increasingly being challenged and argues that ‘securing better public understanding of aid and development is a key element driving the legitimacy of UK-based INGOs with their home audience.