Tag Archives: Berlin

Ben Bradshaw’s speech in full: BBC has probably ‘reached limits of reasonable expansion’

Ben Bradshaw’s speech from the Royal Television Society’s binnenial convention in Cambridge last night, his first since becoming the British culture secretary in June. In his speech he criticised James Murdoch’s recent comments in Edinburgh and discussed regulation, regional news and public service broadcasting. The headline grabbing comments concerned the BBC: Bradshaw said that there could be a case for a ‘smaller licence fee’ and also suggested that the BBC Trust model is not ‘sustainable’.

Twenty years ago I had the good fortune and privilege to be the BBC correspondent in Berlin. I had arrived there in the beginning of 1989 – as a rookie reporter from BBC Radio Devon – to a posting considered a bit of a backwater.

Not much had happened in Berlin since the wall had gone up. My predecessor’s biggest story in four years was the death of the elderly Nazi, Rudolph Hess, in Spandau Prison. Within weeks of my arrival, the East Germans were revolting and in just a few short months the Berlin Wall was
down. In career terms – it was very lucky timing.

I’ve been recalling the events of 20 years ago quite a lot recently. Not just because of the impending anniversary, but because of the loud and bad tempered debate in Britain about the future of public service broadcasting in general and the BBC in particular.

 I have many memories of that time in Berlin, personal and professional.

But one of the most abiding is of the stream of East Germans in the days after the Wall came down, who were able, for the first time, to visit the BBC office in West Berlin. They came to say ‘thank you’ for the programmes that had sustained them during decades of Communist rule.

When I asked them why they listened to the BBC, rather than the much better resourced Deutsche Welle, or the West Berlin stations or the Voice of America, they gave a variety of answers, but there was a common theme: “You don’t preach to us. You don’t treat us East Germans as second class Germans. Your news is fair. You don’t pretend everything in your own country is perfect, so we believe what you say about other things. You allow different voices.”

Broadcasting – changing world

The two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall have seen a profound and accelerating change in our media landscape. You know better than most the journey from the analogue world of three heavily regulated broadcasters and a small add-on commercial market, to the digital world where the market is much larger, with a multimedia element, and where the public intervention is represented essentially by the BBC, with a self-funding Channel 4 gingering up the public service end.

It has been a transition from what could be called a command and control to a mixed economy.

In that transition some things have been lost or endangered – plural provision of children’s programming, high-end drama and, across all media, the viability of commercially provided news, locally, regionally and in the Nations.

But the changes have also brought huge gains for the consumer and for the industry. There is a choice of programming and of technology-driven convenience and quality unthinkable back then. Although current trading conditions are tough, the industry is fundamentally healthy both commercially and creatively, winning Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes.

Our production sector makes the UK the world’s largest programme exporter after the US and by far the leading exploiter of programme formats, with over half of the global market.


 This mixed economy has served the interests of the public, both as citizens and as consumers. It would seem to be what people want.

When we do intervene or regulate, we try to do so in a way that best allows the market to grow, to evolve, to expand. And we try to do so in ways that sustain the core values to which the public continue to attach importance – impartiality in news, effective protection for children and so on.

In the last 20 years, the private/public mix has continued to innovate to anticipate and reflect public taste.

Technical innovations such as Sky Plus, High Definition and the iPlayer; an impressive range of innovation in content, from new talent to new formats; new regulatory models encouraging the growth of the independent sector outside London. And – at the centre of public provision – a strong, stable BBC with the security of income fixed for several years at a time to ensure its independence, both politically and commercially.

As we come towards the end of the transition from the old analogue world to the fully digital world, the challenge is to secure a consensus on whether our mixed economy remains the right approach – which I believe it is – and how to maintain it for the long term.

This is an appropriate point at which to thank Stephen Carter and his team for their excellent work in Digital Britain which provides both the long-term framework for government’s policy on the digital economy and our next steps.

Competing visions for future of public service

Just as we are approaching the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall we have just marked another significant 20th anniversary – that of a Murdoch making a speech about the media in Edinburgh.

Murdoch speeches in Edinburgh are designed to be – how should I say – thought provoking. And James’ certainly was. Among his most striking assertions were that profit is the only guarantor of independence; that people are better informed if broadcasting is left to the market; that regulation needs sweeping away; and what he called state sponsorship – by implication the BBC – must be far, far smaller.

Profit the only guarantor of independence? I’m not sure that the market has secured the independent quality broadcasting that citizens in some modern democracies might expect. As for the market informing people better – that has not been my experience travelling around the United States, compared with the more regulated mixed media economies of Europe.

No, I do not believe that the market alone can deliver the plural sources and high standards of independent and impartial news and current affairs, let alone the richness of innovation and quality in other areas like drama, comedy, natural history and children’s programmes for which Britain is envied worldwide. There are important areas of content as well as infrastructure that the public says it values, wants and expects, and that the unregulated market will simply not provide.

Future of public service broadcasting

I challenge James Murdoch’s use of the term Orwellian to describe Britain’s media landscape. Being publicly funded or subject to statutory regulation does not equate with state control. East German TV was state controlled. That’s why those East Germans valued the BBC – it was free, diverse, self critical.

And the British people understand the distinction between publicly funded and state controlled too. Otherwise they would not consistently say they trust the BBC more than any other media organisation – more than ever according to the latest survey, in spite of the summer media onslaught on
the corporation.

So James said things with which I profoundly disagree. But he also did us all a favour by asking legitimate questions and raising genuine concerns that our public discourse has been skirting around for too long. He was right to raise questions about the BBC’s size, its remit and its impact on the rest of the British media industry.

In the 20 years since I was reporting Berlin, the BBC has gone from being a service of two television channels, four national radio stations, a local radio network, a teletext service and some videotape sales, to a BBC with eight linear TV channels, several interactive and high definition channels, nine national radio stations and a dominant local radio network, the iPlayer, a world-leading online presence, and a commercial publishing, DVD , television and multimedia empire of some scale.

And if it were to continue on anything like that trajectory, the rest of the industry would be right to be worried and the mixed economy would be seriously imbalanced. 

Since James Murdoch’s speech the BBC has another review of itself, including, we are told, looking at its size.

And then Sir Michael Lyons comes up with his £5.50 ‘give-a-way’ and appears to be arguing he would rather the licence fee were smaller than the BBC share any of it to save regional news. What’s to be made of this? Is this really about the long term interests of public service content? I would just like to point out that the £5.50 is not the BBC’s to give away.

It was agreed on top of the current licence fee income for the BBC to fund help with digital switchover. However, Michael, if you want to return £5.50 from the BBC’s share of the licence fee to the public – or more if you wish – let me know and I’m sure it can be arranged!

This is not a serious or sensible way to have a debate about something as important as the future of the BBC and public service broadcasting. 

I happen to think the BBC probably has reached the limits of reasonable expansion.

 I believe the corporation is right to be looking more carefully at what it pays its stars and executives.

It is time for the BBC to allow the National Audit Office access to its accounts. 

I’m also concerned about the regulatory structure of the BBC.

Although the Trust has performed better than its predecessor, I don’t think it is a sustainable model in the long term. I know of no other area of public life where – as is the case with the Trust – the same body is both regulator and cheerleader.

And finally, there may indeed be a case for a smaller licence fee. But there is a proper timetable for determining that. One of the unbroken conventions adhered to by successive Governments, to avoid the suggestion of political interference in or pressure on the BBC, has been to respect the multi-annual settlement system. I resolutely believe that to be right. Any attempt to break that convention would rightly be seen as a direct assault on the BBC’s independence.

However, there will need to be a decision in around two years time on the licence fee after 2012. During the next Parliament the shape of the new Charter with the BBC will need to be agreed. This will beg even bigger questions than those I’ve already just posed. Do we as a nation still value public service broadcasting? Do we want the BBC to survive and, if so, what do we want it to do and how do we want to pay for it?

These are very profound and hard questions to answer. Harder than at any time since the BBC was born given the speed with which the media environment is now changing. They cannot and should not be resolved by the BBC reviewing itself. Nor by speeches by media moguls or politicians. The public also needs to be heard in this discussion. They pay for it after all. They are the customer.

This means that the process, the discussions and consultation in the run up to the end of this licence fee and charter period will need to be even more open, even more fundamental than those we conducted before the current settlement. A proper national conversation, certainly not a stitch up behind closed doors between BBC management and politicians. Only that way will whatever is agreed have the legitimacy to withstand the onslaught from the BBC’s enemies and critics and stand the test of time.

The regulatory structure

I have spoken about one way in which government intervenes in the market for public benefit – public service broadcasting, now let me turn to the other, regulation.

There are those who argue that because of the revolutionary changes to the broadcasting landscape the traditional approach to regulation is outdated. I agree: but our approach is not traditional. At the same time, however, this does not mean to say that we can or should do away with regulation all together.

It is often those who call loudest for deregulation and non-intervention in areas that affect them who are quickest to call for intervention and regulation where it benefits them. The fact that we have some of the lowest wholesale broadband prices in Europe is not an accident or the product of the market. It is the product of regulation that has enabled vigorous competition – including from new entrants.

There is a serious point here about the right kind of regulation. When it comes to regulating for convergence, it is worth remembering that in establishing Ofcom Britain led the way in Europe by bringing content, delivery and wireless spectrum regulation together in one place. Ofcom has done so with two-thirds of the staff and lower costs then the five bodies that preceded it. And it is our approach to wireless spectrum, of liberalisation, deregulation and market mechanisms that have become the new European model.

Of course regulation needs to evolve as consumers’ habits change. The key is to move with the public. They expect broadcasters to have a duty of care when running phone-in programmes. They still value the watershed. They still expect protection against offensive material beamed unbidden into their living room, as opposed to what they actively go and get from walking to the newsagent or surfing the internet. They enjoy the rumbustious opinion and style in the print media. But they trust the impartiality of broadcast news.

This is the strength of the mixed economy. However, that does not mean we are interested in regulation for regulation’s sake, which is why I want to change our approach on product placement. We’ll consult on this shortly and would hope to have any change in place in the New Year.

To the critics of our regulatory structure I ask the simple question: if regulation were a problem in itself, how is it our media market is amongst the most successful in the world? It is because we have got the right balance between public and private. We have stayed ahead of the game and, as our Digital Britain plans show, we are determined to maximise the future potential of the broadcasting industry.

A draft Digital Economy Bill is taking shape, ready for the next session of parliament. In addition to tackling unlawful file-sharing it paves the way for universal broadband – future-proofed – and for delivering digital radio and next generation-mobile services. Digital Britain commits us to a new remit for Channel 4, building upon the vision of Next on 4, moving it firmly into the digital age.

Andy Duncan was, of course, the driving force behind Next on 4 and I’m very grateful to Andy for the leadership he has shown Channel 4 through a period of unprecedented change in the media world. He has been instrumental in repositioning  Channel 4 for the digital age and I’m sure we all wish him all the best for the future.

This time last week the switch to digital TV reached its millionth home. The analogue system is only three years away from being switched off entirely. Three out of every four sets in the country now receive multichannel television – nine out of 10 households. And the Switchover Help Scheme we established has now helped more that 100,000 older and disabled people to switch, providing equipment, installation and aftercare.

Next month we will have many of the most influential global figures around the table at the inaugural c&binet conference – our Davos of the creative industries – aimed at identifying and supporting the most effective way of protecting, producing and commercialising creative work.

Regional and local media

I mentioned earlier the threat to plural news programmes in the regions and nations. As a former local newspaper and local radio journalist I would be acutely aware of the importance of good local news to the public, even without my constituents reminding me on a regular basis.

The high viewing figures for regional news are no accident. People want to know what’s happening in their patch. It helps maintain a sense of local and regional identity and pride. It plays a vital part in a democracy at holding local authorities, the NHS and other public organisations to account. It’s reporters and presenters have a far more intimate relationship with the viewers than those on the network.

When in the South West earlier this year Carlton amalgamated its former two news regions into one – based in Bristol – my constituents were not happy. They lost their dedicated ITV evening news programme produced and edited from Plymouth with an even more local opt out from Exeter. While the Carlton journalists do a valiant job of reporting their vast new region with limited resources, we all know that the economics of local and regional news are getting less and less sustainable. The poll we published yesterday showed 84% of the public think it’s important to have a choice of sources of regional and local news.

Seven out of 10 people want regional news on more than just one channel. And one cannot will the ends without the means. Two thirds of those questioned supported our idea of using the equivalent fraction of the licence fee that’s currently ring-fenced for switchover to secure plural regional news for the future. We said when we announced this in Digital Britain that we thought this was a fair, transparent and sustainable solution, but that we were open to other ideas.

We still are. I note Mark, your interesting suggestion of floating some of BBC Worldwide and I look forward to hearing more about this proposal. But we are determined not to lose plural news provision in the regions. It seems crazy that people all over the world can access the brilliant BBC website if we cannot provide a choice of quality regional news to people here at home.

The consultation closes 22nd September – after which it’s essential we press on with plans for three pilots of local news consortia, one each in Scotland, Wales and an English region, which we hope can begin in the course of next year.

Skills and talent

Plurality is not the only virtue of the local news consortia idea. They will also provide a valuable opportunity to find new skills and talent, opening up opportunities in the media to young people in cities like mine.

I very much hope that the Government can help you help the next generation of local journalists using not just these new consortia but in all the good work you already do to encourage young people and build skills.

The creative industries, the digital economy and the media are areas where this country is by nature and history strong. They make a large and increasing contribution to our national economy and will provide a significant proportion of the employment growth in the future.

That’s why, as part of the Government’s future jobs fund – my colleague Yvette Cooper and I have agreed to fund between 5,000 and 10,000 new jobs in the creative sector. I know some of you are already involved in this venture and I would urge more of you to come on board. The scheme will not only help thousands of young people whose employment prospects have been the worst hit by the global down turn – but they will help you and us find and nurture the creative and media talent of the future.

Conclusion

I have argued tonight that public service broadcasting has informed, entertained and enriched Britain, and generations of Britons. The BBC has been central to that in the past and I hope will continue to be in the future.

Equally, the market has brought huge benefits. When those East Germans were streaming through the Berlin Wall 20 years ago, there were no mobile phones, let alone blackberries or multi-channel digital televisions. High-speed broadband, downloads and video-on-demand were glints in the eyes of the visionary few rather than central to all of your business models. It is the market that has driven and delivered this change.

This mixed economy – free but regulated, public service and private – has served Britain well.

In his Edinburgh speech, James Murdoch described it – actually you, Britain’s broadcast media – as the ‘Addams Family’ of the world’s media. I don’t know how you felt about that. And I assume he didn’t mean it kindly. But aren’t the Addams family a well-loved, long running, world-wide hit? And haven’t you, this British Addams family, won seven out of the 10 international EMMYs two years running? And don’t you export £1 billion of TV content every year? So, maybe on this definition of the Addams family, I finally find something on which James and I wholeheartedly agree.

Thank you.

Adam Westbrook: 6×6 audio for freelance journalists

This is the fifth post in a series of six blog posts by Adam Westbrook, each with six tips for the next generation of freelance multimedia journalists, republished here with permission.

Follow the series at this link or visit Adam’s blog.

Audio
Audio is one of the most powerful mediums available to the multimedia journalist. Whether it’s radio, podcasts, on video or audio slideshows, audio brings a piece to life. So why is it almost always an afterthought? Too many good films and audio slideshows have been let down by bad quality audio. Here are six tips to make sure that doesn’t happen to you:

1) Let sound breathe

“[A]s soon as a voice comes out of the speakers, the listener attempts to visualise what he hears to create in the mind’s eye the owner of the voice (…) unlike where the pictures are limited to the size of the screen, radio pictures are any size you care to make them.”

Robert McLeish, Radio Production

In other words, with audio your limit is the size of your imagination. Last time I checked, that was pretty big.

So for the love of God, show audio some respect. First off a piece of audio does not have to consist entirely of voices with no gaps in between. In fact that sucks. When you’re out recording, take a moment to listen for sounds – in radio it’s called actuality and it is a key ingredient in bringing sound to life. Doing a story about some people on a boat? We want to hear the water lapping up against the bow. Is your scene in a cafe? Let’s hear the cups clinking, the chatter of everyday conversation, the whoosh! of the coffee machine in action.

This more often than not is recorded as wildtrack. After filming, taking photos, interviewing, whatever, record at least 60 seconds of actuality. It’ll make editing a lot easier too.

Let the audio breathe. Give it a few seconds just to play in your listeners’ imaginations and don’t talk over it. It’ll do more to paint a picture than overladen voice over will.

2) Invest in a good microphone
Audio is so often an afterthought for video and photojournalists alike. This is mostly manifested in using a crap microphone. VJs – don’t use your camera’s onboard mic unless you’re lucky to have something nice like a Canon XL2, Sony EX3, Z1 etc. If you can, buy an external microphone to attach to your camera’s horseshoe. For interviews, it is worth investing in a lapel mic.

Rodemic do some pretty decent offers, including a camera mic for under £100 ($180). For radio journalists, or photojournalists doing audio slideshows, there are a good range of digital audio recorders you can look at. The Marantz PMD620 is small, easy to use and so reliable you’d let it babysit your kids. I took it out to Iraq earlier this year and it was great. It starts at around £300/$500.

The Edirol R-09HR (£211/$349)  has had produced some great sounding audio for freelancer Ciara Leeming and journalists are raving about the Olympus DS-40(£82/$135).

3) Get the mic in close
Microphones do not have selective hearing like our ears do: they won’t pick out the voice across the room you’re pointing them at. So get in close to your interviewee – really close – like a little under their chin (if they’re ok with that). It eliminates a lot of background noise, like air conditioning, traffic, squeaks of chairs and all that. And more often than not it gives the recording a richness and an intimacy.

Compare, for example, the effect of these two recordings: the first with a mic held too far away in a large room, the other with it right in close.

Another great tip I picked up: if you can, record your interviews outside – it eliminates that shallow echo you get in peoples’ offices and living rooms.

4) Let the characters talk
A bit of a personal bugbear this, but often the temptation with multimedia projects is to talk all over them, y’know, like they do on the TV and that. But new media means new ways of doing things. And I think one of the great new trends emerging is the silencing of the journalist/reporter voice over.

If you’ve recorded some great audio for your story, let it breathe – let the characters tell their own story. We don’t need to hear you saying, ‘Angie is a mum of three struggling to make ends meet’, when we can hear Angie saying, ‘Things are really hard right now, tryin’ to support three kids, y’know, payin’ the bills… every day’s a struggle.’

This takes some planning in the interview stages – most of all, you need to ask open questions, so your interviewees’ answers start as full sentences. It has been industry practice for many years to ask interviewees to include your question in their answer:

Why are you finding it so hard to make ends meet?

I’m finding it so hard to make ends meet because….etc.

5) Use pauses
If you’re new to using audio, especially if you’re moving from print or photojournalism, the first thing you will notice when you listen back to your interviews is yourself. Going ‘uhuh, yeah, hmmmm, sure…’ all over their answers.

Ask a question – then keep shtum. This pays dividends in some interviews – especially emotional ones – where your interviewee finishes their point. There’s a pause… you would normally fill it by asking a question… but don’t. Stay silent – and let the interviewee fill the pause. It’s a bit mean, but it gets them to reiterate their point, and in the process show what they’re really thinking.

And then keep those pauses in your piece. They are a natural part of speech and often reveal more about your character than their words.

6) Take them on a journey
There are times when it’s right to bring yourself into the piece. But try not to use it just for dry voice overs recorded in a studio. Your voice is best when you’re somewhere your audience wants to be, and you can show them what it’s like.

To achieve this, you’ll need to be very descriptive in your writing. Tell people where you are and what you’re doing in vivid detail.

For the best examples, we have to go way back, to the first broadcast journalists:

“I began to see what was happening to Berlin. The small incendiaries were going down like a fistful of white rice thrown on a piece of black velvet. The cookies – the 4,000-pound high explosives – were bursting below like great sunflowers gone mad.

“And then, as we started down again still held in the light, I remembered that the Dog still had one of those cookies and a whole basket of incendiaries in his belly. And the light still held it, and I was very frightened. I looked down, and the white fires had turned red. They were beginning to merge and spread, just like butter does on a hot plate.”

Ed Murrow, on a bombing raid over Berlin, 1944

Or:

There were perhaps a 150 of them, all so thin that their skin glistened like stretched rubber on their bones. Some of the poor starved creatures whose bodies were there looked so utterly unreal and inhuman that I could have imagined that they’d never lived at all. They were like polished skeletons, the skeletons that medical students like to play practical jokes with.

“At one end of the pile a cluster of men and women were gathered round a small fire. They were using rags and old shoes taken from the bodies to keep it alight.”

Richard Dimbleby at Bergen Belsen, 1945

The BBC’s Alan Little is one of the finest radio writers, still alive – here’s his advice:

“Try to use old words, words that reach into the very core, the very oldest part of the language. They have the most impact (…) beware of adjectives. This is a rule I keep breaking and I have to exercise great vigilance to rein myself in. Adjectives are fine in moderation and when they genuinely add to the meaning or clarity of the image being conveyed.”

The final word…
From award-winning multimedia producers Duckrabbit, the combo of a great photographer and a great audio producer:

“Many great photographers make really bad audio slideshows because they treat audio as afterthought, or they try to do a voiceover without having any presentation skills. They might as well not bother.

“Actually I’d go further then that. When you put your photos together with poor audio you actually diminish the value of your photos. Good audio is like a bad dog. It gets its teeth into you and won’t let go.”

Alan Rusbridger (@arusbridger) on why Twitter matters

Twitter got a big mention in Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger’s ‘Journalism Matters’ speech last night. Repeating his ‘future of newspaper’ Twitter recommendations made in Berlin in April (@amonck, @niemanlab, @jeffjarvis and @cshirky) he praised the way it could be used as a personalised filter for information consumption.

He used Guardian technology writer Jemima Kiss as one example of why to use it – she’s probably in labour, and twittering it, ‘as we speak’, he joked. Journalism.co.uk didn’t put its hand up to say ‘err, no – she’s already had all 10lb 6oz of it’ (we learned via Twitter, obviously).

He also mentioned @GuardianTech with its impressive 900,000+ followers, and showed how journalist Paul Lewis (@http://twitter.com/paul__lewis) had used his account to report from the G20 protests.

Before Rusbridger was reborn as @arusbridger he thought it was all a bit, well, ‘silly’, but now he’s well and truly converted. In fact he thinks all Guardian journalists should use it: “I”m trying to get everyone to twitter”. He told this to a room of newspaper journalists in Norway and they asked whether he, as editor-in-chief, would have to moderate all those tweets?…

John Mair’s report on last night’s Media Standards Trust event here, and tweets from @journalism_live, and others captured by the #journmatters tag, below.

‘Breaking News’: a play by a company that’s not a company

“Breaking News might be documentary theatre. It might be more technically absorbing than (strictly speaking) poetically engaging or playful. It might, in truth be a very long way from Aeschylus. But Aeschylus was an inventor, a radical maker, two and a half thousand years ago, of a new thing called drama. In all their work, and most ambitiously to date in Breaking News, Rimini Protokoll have created live spectacles that are similarly new for the media-orientated 21st century.” (James Woodall, Breaking News programme, 2009)

A friend recently went on holiday and emailed another of our friends an update: she had redefined the trip as ‘educational visit’ and now was enjoying it much better.

I undertook a similar exercise at the theatre at the weekend: once I’d redefined ‘Breaking News’ as two hours (without an interval) of informative, rather than necessarily entertaining, activity, I was much more settled in my seat at the Theatre Royal in Brighton last Saturday.

Rimini Protokoll is the German company (‘the sort of outfit that probably could come only from Germany’), except they don’t call themselves a ‘company’, which produces Breaking News, their latest ‘documentary’ theatre endeavour – visiting Brighton for its UK premiere.

“[G]enerally, they use neither actors nor published texts; and because they do not really consider themselves a company. So what is left? What are they? What do they make?”

Good question from theatre critic, James Woodall, in his introductory notes in the programme. On this occasion, Rimini Protokoll have brought together eight international ‘news people’, all based in Germany, onto one stage, to live-interpret the news from their variously angled satellite dishes. The ninth contributor is an exception: Ray, from Ship Street in Brighton. Perhaps they found him in the Cricketers.

The company improvises in a ‘arrangement of stage spontaneity’ – and this is the first time it has been done in English – their reactions to, and interpretations of, the news on various international news channels that they consume at their individual televisions, or computer (in the Icelander’s case). Intermittently, they take turns to ascend a podium to read extracts from Aeschylus’ The Persions.

breakingnews

So, what did I learn from my educational excursion to the theatre? These are some of the nuggets gleaned:

  • Iceland likes a giggle during its news: The Icelanders take the end of the news bulletin ‘lollypop’ very seriously: for Saturday’s performance, we caught an item on the success of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra’s Maximus the Musical Mouse. It’s very important that ‘you don’t leave your news audience depressed’, explains Simon Birgisson, who was once an investigative journalist for the DV newspaper. I was also tickled by Iceland’s TV channel history: its first ever station, Sjónvarpið, translated directly as ‘television’. Its second was called 2.
  • Al Jazeera has its critics: Djengizkhan Hasso, a Kurdish interpreter, and president of the Executive Committee of the Kurdish National Congress, criticised the channel for its emotive use of language in some of its reports. He also added that it would be very difficult to perform a play like Breaking News in an Arab country. Hasso’s performance was particularly memorable for the role-play of the time he met George Bush. He told the other actors what they had to say, and they solemnly repeated it back, so the audience got each segment of the conversation twice.
  • What counts as a high ‘alarm’ story for press agencies is very subjective. Andreas Osterhaus, a news editor at Agence France Presse (AFP) in Berlin said he raised such an alarm on the day of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, but his colleagues thought he had acted a little hastily. Previous alerts included the Princess Diana car crash, the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, and the capture of Saddam Hussein.
  • We also learnt that Sushila Sharma-Haque, who watches various Indian and Pakistani, as well as German, news channels, goes to bed at 10pm promptly. She did just this on the night of the performance, making at an early exit from the stage at around 9.30pm. She did, however, pop back to take a bow.

Related links:

Rusbridger on the future of journalism: “I don’t think we would ever go back to having a little pool of elite commentators”

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger’s (@arusbridger) thoughts shared with the web this week:

  • And a video of Alan Rusbridger at the Institut für Medienpolitik in Berlin on April 22, speaking on the future of journalism and explaining how the Guardian opened up its site to a wider pool of contributors. Some extracts:

“I don’t think we would ever go back to having a little pool of elite commentators, who help appeal to themselves.”

“(…)Bad things are going to happen where newspapers are going to die. There are going to be fewer journalists and the really pricey business of quality journalism is going to require subsidy from somewhere. It’s a broken model.”

On Twitter: “You harness this brilliant pool of knowledge out there. It’s a fantastic marketing tool. It’s a fantastic journalistic tool.”

He says reading Clay Shirky, Adrian Monck, Jeff Jarvis and the Niemen Foundation, via Twitter, is like receiving a personalised wire feed on the world’s press each morning – a service you’d have paid a consultant a lot of money for, in the past.

(NB: We’re glad to note that he’s following @journalismnews too…)


Alan Rusbridger on the Future of Journalism from Carta on Vimeo.

SND.org: World’s Best Design Awards for five papers

“In its 30th annual ‘The Best of Newspaper Design™ Creative Competition,’ the Society for News Design has named four newspapers from Europe and one from Mexico as ‘World’s Best-Designed Newspapers,™” the organisation’s website reports.

This year’s SND30 five top ‘World’s Best-Designed Newspapers™’ are:

  • Akzia, Moscow, Russia, biweekly, circulation 200,000
  • Eleftheros Tipos, Athens, Greece, daily, circulation, 86,000
  • Expresso, Paço de Arcos, Portugal, weekly, circulation 120,000
  • The News, Mexico City, daily, circulation 10,000
  • Welt am Sonntag, Berlin, weekly, 400,000

Full story at this link…

Online Journalism Scandinavia: Mecom’s Danish arm may ditch costly CMS for Drupal

Berlingske Media, Denmark’s biggest publisher of daily newspapers, is considering making free open source software Drupal its online publishing system of choice.

Former Mirror-boss David Montgomery’s Danish lieutenant, Lisbeth Knudsen, is contemplating the move, which could save a substantial sum of money – but it does not come without risk.

Berlingske Media already runs some of its sites on Drupal – a long-time favourite free content management system (CMS) of web hacker-geeks – but many consider the open source solution more vulnerable to hackers than proprietary systems.

“Our sports portal, launched early in June, is developed in Drupal, and we will use this for more sites. We are in the process of evaluating future online solutions, and will make a decision on this later this year. So far we have chosen Drupal for some of our smaller sites and Saxotech online for the bigger,” Knudsen told me.

But is Drupal up to the task?

The Danish newspaper publisher is in the process of integrating all its titles into ‘verticals’ that deliver copy across platforms and titles, and its sports site carries material from several of Berlingske’s titles.

Henning Sund, head of digital development for newspaper publisher Edda Media, is sceptical about how well Drupal is suited to such large-scale projects.

”I think part of the reason Berlingske Media is considering Drupal is that they are so desperate to get away from Saxotech Online. That is a desire I understand perfectly,” he said, explaining that Edda Media, Mecom’s Norwegian division, is also in the process of replacing Saxotech Online, but Drupal is not a candidate.

”I do not feel the security in Drupal is well-documented enough. We want a provider that can take responsibility for this, something we will not get with Drupal,” said Sund, adding that you also have to spend a lot of money on developing the desired functionality in Drupal, as it is not ‘plug and play’.

Berlingske-owned AOK.dk, a city guide for Copenhagen that runs on Drupal, has used an east European company to develop extra functionality in Drupal – a concept that has been exported to Berlin and Mecom Germany.

However, Sund does not think that Mecom boss Montgomery will impose Drupal as the standard CMS throughout the company should it be a success:

“Montgomery has made it very clear that as long as you reach your budget targets, you can choose the solutions you see fit. However, if you do not reach these targets, you will get Montgomery breathing down your neck, and that is something you would do anything to avoid.”

For more news on newspapers harnessing open source read about The Jewish Chronicle’s launch of a beta site using Drupal.

Innovations in Journalism – Imooty.eu

Image of imooty website

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?

Hello. I’m Kristoffer Lassen. I’m the co-founder of Imooty.

Imooty is an interactive compendium of news stories from across Europe. It provides direct access to the latest breaking media coverage from the most important newspapers and media organizations based in the European Union, Switzerland and Norway.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?

Imooty makes it possible for users to compare and contrast vast amounts of information.

By clicking the European map, readers may browse through a particular country’s major and minor papers and blogs in English and local languages.

One can easily search for a particular term across all European papers or simply navigate by the common news topics such as politics, science, or business.

MyImooty allows users to create their own media universe. By collecting and saving the most frequently accessed news topics, you may collect your favourite sources on a single customized page. Each time you return to your page, the news is updated and sorted by subject, search terms and titles.

3) Is this it, or is there more to come?

The technical and conceptual goal of Imooty is not only to provide access to the latest breaking news, but also to enable a convenient way to review news archives.

With its integrated search engine, users may find specific content located in several different databases and retrieve them through a single business transaction. We’re also in the process of adding Podcast and IPTV modules.

4) Why are you doing this?

I’m Norwegian and co-founder Blaise Bourgeois is French but we are both expats living in Germany.

We are both interested in commentary and analysis of current events; however, keeping up to date on both the media landscape here in Berlin, as well as in our respective home countries was unmanageable.

So we set out to create a platform that could solve this problem. We believe that as the European Union continues its development, more people will migrate and follow news and current events in different languages from nearby countries.

5) What does it cost to use it?

Access to the latest news is free and we simply redirect traffic to the newspapers. As mentioned, also archived news will be searchable on the platform and such content will be displayed in the same format as the latest news (headline with a teaser text below it). Access to this information is a premium feature.

6) How will you make it pay?

Our business model is based on a combination of sales commission and advertising revenue.

Image of imooty website also