Global Voice

This weekend I got the chance to read Global Voice, Britain’s Future In International Broadcasting, a book that has been glowering at me from my in-tray since Richard Sambrook, the Director of BBC’s Global New Division sent it to me some weeks ago (though it doesn’t appear to be on sale at Amazon, so I don’t know how you get a copy). It’s a collection of essays, a kind of published version of the PR round-table many of us organise to help give our clients a thought-leadership platform. It’s got some great stuff from people like Hilary Benn, the UK’s Secretary of State for Development and Will Hutton, Chief Executive of the Work Foundation, but the pieces from two big broadcasters really caught my eye. Not surprisingly, Richard Sambrook in the foreword makes the case for international broadcast media very eloquently.

He claims that 9/11 and now global warming are the tipping points that have made many people realise that their destiny’s are largely shared; “no one any longer doubts that the future of our children and grandchildren is now at the mercy of global forces.” He goes on; “This broadening of public perspectives has not simply engendered a new thirst for enlightenment. As people see their fate becoming ever more bound up in world events, they are demanding more of a hand in the shaping of those events”.

It’s not surprising either that as the author of the much quoted “the audience is now on the pitch” phrase, that Richard expands on the role of citizen generated media: “News has always required eye-witness testimony, and increasingly, much of this will come from our own listeners and viewers through emails, texts, camphone pictures or video uploads. We have always enabled the public to participate in our services through phone-ins, letter and and so-forth. The arrival of user-generated content, blogs and much else will allow us to expand this involvement dramatically.”

Chris Ahearn, President of Reuters Media is equally robust in his view of the developing role of international broadcast media (it would be odd if he was not I guess) but is also very forthright about how that role is changing fast; “Mainstream news providers no longer control the flow of information to the public, and news transcends national and other boundaries. Broadcasters who want to survive have to learn to accommodate these changing realities”.

He goes on: ” We now have a truly engaged audience model. The audience decides what they want to watch, arrange for it to be saved and pull it up with their remote devices at times of their choosing. They declare a desire for a specific kind of sport, news or comedy and demand that it be satisfied. ” If this was Jeff Jarvis speaking we might not be surprised but Richard and Christopher are leaders of two of the most powerful new organisations in the world. Perhaps this is why they are also two of the most successful.

On the role of search, Christopher says: “The great search engines of the world should be given great credit for the way in which they enable people to get a comprehensive view of a story, event or thought. This is something the world’s traditional media do not do very well. Why is it that such algorithms can provide a path to Reuters, New York Times or Wall Street Journal perspective of the same news event, and yet the publishers and broadcasters of the world do not”?

He also suggests a new ‘pro-am’ model; “It ought to be possible to integrate professional journalism with the insights of amateur contributors in a valuable way. News providers will still need to perform the traditional professional job of letting people know what is happening, but they have the opportunity to do more. They have the capacity to engage their viewers, listeners and readers more directly and put them in touch with the raw material from which news stories are derived.” He finishes: “News providers need to seize this moment and harness what technology can offer to engage everyone who wants to participate.”

Wadah Khanfar is the Director General of Al Jazeera and offers a terrific insight into the setting up and running of the Arab World’s international news voice. He has this to say on the infamous al-Queda tapes issue; “the tapes we receive are treated like any other news and are subject to a vigorous editorial process of authentication and determination of what their news value is. Sometimes we get very long tapes but only show a few minutes of newsworthy material. If we decide that a segment of a tape has news value we air the segment and contextualise it with analysis and commentary from specialists and experts around the world…… addition our code of conduct generally limits us to from showing strong graphic images………when it is ascertained that there is a strong editorial necessity of showing some of these images they are pixelated and there is a warning for the audience”.

Given the advent of YouTube and the easy-to-access to images of executions and brutality that can be witnessed now with no news organisation getting between uploader and viewer, the debate at the time about Al Jazeera’s airing of hostage tapes and beheadings seems very dated now.

Top read this book.

[tags]International Broadcasting, Richard Sambrook, Chris Ahearn, Wadah Khanfar, BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, PR [/tags]

Categories Technology

1 thought on “Global Voice

  1. It is pertinent to consider the view of
    Wadah Khanfar named as third most powerful Arab. It is very educating to check Arabian Business World’s ranking of the Most Influential Arabs. While the survey may nor be definitive neither conclusive yet the publication is suggective of the individuals anticipated to rise in influence in the Arab World.

    The fact that the top three happen to represent the public, private and civic sector reflects a rearranging of the dynamics when it comes to
    reflect who is being represented on the mosaic of diverse and dynamic Middle East.

    Three years after the recognition accorded to Al Jazeera as the world’s 4th most popular brand name and best-known Arab news brand, acknowledgement
    has been accorded to its Director General Wadah Khanfar. By all standards it may not be an easy undertaking to take decisions on what gets aired affecting the opinions of hundreds of millions of people.

    Khanfar was managing director for two years before taking the top post in 2006, and is credited for much of the company’s restructuring. After taking the job, he said: “Our statistics show that most Arabs look up to Al Jazeera as their most reliable source of news. The masses watch us; the rulers and the elite find us an important source of information; they’re concerned about what we cover. Al Jazeera has changed the political landscape in the Middle East forever.

    People now receive the opposition’s discourse directly. Al Jazeera opened it up for intellectuals, thinkers and critics to speak their mind. It was the first democratic exercise in the region. The Arab world is changing. Reform, democracy and freedom of speech are issues integral to this period of transformation.”


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