News – rehash, reprise and reminder

Discuss these with your friends and write down your combined thoughts – or your own if you think you know better!

Some hints in the box opposite.


What is news? How would you define it? What is included? Where does it come from? How does it get to the network?

Recent stories of general or particular interest that have a bearing on the viewers’ lives or are regarded as important by ideological authorities. / All sorts of stories. Around the world but particularly those ideologically or culturally closest to us.

News agencies: AP; Reuters; UPI; government sources; regular sources. Satellite; phone; e-mail; videophone…


What counts as news and how is it decided upon and who by?

Selection process; News values; editors; journalists; director of e.g. BBC news Helen Boaden and gatekeepers appointed by her; deputy director general and DG of the BBC; also commercial interests; channel owners and channel ethos.

Tuckman said that journalists routinely apply a set of conventions in choosing and selecting news:

Gatekeeper Studies

This is the attempt to discover why a journalist chooses one story over another. Original term coined by Kurt Lewin in 1947.

Stuart Hall notes that ‘journalists speak of “the news” as if events select themselves.


What do you think are the guiding precepts governing what goes into a bulletin? (ie. What factors affect what is broadcast?

Balance; impartiality; truth; ideological values; cultural values; time of bulletin; target audience; scheduling constraints; PSB guidelines; charter obligations; social homogenieity;

Galtung + Ruge’s News Values definitions originally applied to newspaper stories, reinterpreted to fit TV News.

Impartiality in Britain of BBC and ITN is a legal requirement

British Broadcasting Act 1990 ‘… any news given in its programmes is presented with due accuracy and impartiality.’

Became famously known as New At When after becoming a moveable feast but retaining its name resulting in disastrous audience decline. ITN told to reinstate it because loss not in the public’s best interests.


What happens to news to make it into a ‘created reality’?

Selection; timing of item; editing; codes and conventions that have to be followed; juxtaposition; camera angles; running order; apparent ‘transparency’…

Schlesinger called it: “putting reality together

Far from being ‘reality’, TV news production is a process which re-presents the world to us with particular ideological messages


How is news made to appeal to viewers?

Studio mise en scene; choice of items; presenters; length of time given to items; human interest dominance; Distension; humour; soft news…


How is film editing, camera work and reporting location important to the overall impression given in a news story?

Close ups; fly on the wall; juxtaposition; outside broadcasts to lend legitimacy and immediacy to items; editing of items to give particular impressions.


What aspects of news are actually borrowed from other genres?

Urgent music – drama; human interest – soap; fly on the wall – documentary; crime stories – mystery; episodic – serial; fast and dramatic – action adventure e.g. car chases

Iyengar’s research suggests that the ‘episodic’ way most news stories are framed (such that they focus on the events themselves rather than the causes or history of those events) makes it difficult to understand the social causes of issues like crime or poverty and instead attribute blame only to the individuals themselves.

John Fiske showed the similarity between news and soap opera – open ended narratives, heroes and villains, stock settings, same issues, running stories and regularity.


Taking one channel’s news, e.g. BBC / Sky / Al Jazeera, how do they build brand identity?

Al Jazeera e.g. often uses no voice over or narration but allows the images to speak for themselves; particularly in the early days of the Iraq war the station would always sign off the evening’s broadcast with a ‘now we leave you with pictures from Baghdad.’ They bend over backwards to be impartial such that they have been criticised by the Arabs, Palestinians, Jews and the Americans for being partial to each of the others! They have been targeted by the Americans, bombed by them and prevented from attending allied briefings about the progress of the war.


To what extent can broadcasters be considered guilty of pandering to the lowest common denominator in their audience?

Ratings; types of items included in broadcast; presenters’ style of delivery; ‘and finally’; obsession with celebrity; dumbing down – lack of political stories or always made to be of human interest; human interest dominance.


Explain how the BBC may or may not be influenced by the government.

Licence fee; impartiality; charter BUT DG and board of governors (replaced in 2007 by Trust) appointed by government. Iraq war stance by BBC criticised; resignations of Greg Dyke after 45 minute dossier debacle and subsequent inquiry…

Outside influences: Jon Simpson, criticised by Labour Gov’t for being ‘pro-Serb’ and ‘gullible’ in the Bosnian war.


What are current affairs programmes? Name some and some of their presenters past or present (use a TV mag!)

Programmes which concentrate on one or two issues of interest but not necessarily of immediate importance. Tonight with Trevor MacDonald; Frost; The Andrew Marr Show; Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman and Kirsty Wark

Panorama and Greg Dyke – after 47 years it was moved from Prime Time Monday to late Sunday, graveyard slot, because Dyke wanted to increase ratings to compete with ITV Monday – some argued that he was ignoring PSB remit of BBC


In what ways do you think news broadcasts fulfil and fail to fulfil their responsibilities to their viewers?

Fulfil: Made more interesting; accessibility; more bulletins e.g. even BBC has them on the hour in the evenings now! More interactive; more viewer friendly; less of the ‘news is good for you but don’t expect to enjoy it’; presenters and style; studio mise en scene; outside broadcasts even when not really relevant.

Fail: dumbing down; selection of facts and story type; omission; obsession with certain kinds of news; bias; spin;

Impartiality is to some extent in the eye of the beholder,Chris Shaw Ch5 controller of news 2005, ‘if you’re black, Asian or poor your definition is different from white, middleclass…’

Audience pleasures: McQuail 1972

    Diversion – escape from routine

    Personal relationships- to feel companionships – Reginald Bosanquet ITN newscaster 1960s (viewers switched on to watch him and considered him a friend.)

    Personal identity – reinforce own values – feel we are right in our opinions!

    Surveillance – need to know what is happening in world


Who is news primarily made for and aimed at? How do you know?

White middle-aged, middle-class men; look at the dominance of men’s stories, men in the item, male reporters and male experts; also age of those men! And issues tend to be middle-aged interests – look at the way youth is presented, always negatively and threatening;

Maleness of news: Sue Curry Jansen – women’s issues not considered newsworthy and women represented in traditional female roles.

    Hard news – stories with important public implication – assigned to men to report and cover e.g. guns, missiles, murder and war.

    Soft news – linked to female responsibilities – e.g. grieving widows and mothers,


Discuss the differences between different channels and bulletins.

This should include: BBC; ITV; C4; C5; BBC5; Sky; News 24; and any other; also studio mise en scene, presenters conventions and expectations, news values, length of bulletin, content etc



Who can dissatisfied viewers complain to? Where else do people go for their news?

Ofcom / internet / radio / papers

In UK most of the news people get is from the TV / use New News Old News to support with numbers


What are the obvious differences between scheduled bulletins and 24 hour rolling news? And what has been borrowed by terrestrial bulletins?

Distension; breaking news; more technological hiccups; special sections devoted to e.g. entertainment, business, hard-talk interviews with prominent people; repetition; quicker to use new media technologies.

Headlines half way through; updates; technology; more use of o/bs; interviews in studio; short sections within on e.g. climate change, the housing crisis, the NHS etc


In what ways has news changed over its history?

Interviews; presenters; language; content; interests; attention span of audience; technology; accessibility of the world…

Anna Ford was the first of a new breed of newscasters, a ‘star’; many have been criticised for other things they have done on TV which has diminished their reputation. (sung / danced e.g. Angela Rippon…)


What criticisms are levelled at news today?

Dumbing down; obsessed with celebrity; simplicity; bias; inaccuracy; partiality; fallibility; appearance obsessed (presenters!); lack of seriousness; emotional content; infotainment; ageism and sexism; globalisation; trivialisation; sensationalism; banality

Glasgow Media Group suggested a bias against trades’ unionists

Lewis and Philo suggested that TV news can be important in creating or reinforcing simple associations like Saddam with Hitler

Hartley: ‘Infotainment is just as active in reaching people as was the serious press. The only difference is that its forms belong to TV.’

GlobalisationGurevitch 1991

‘international stories are told in ways which are rendered familiar and compatible for different national audiences’. The ‘domestication of the foreign,’ and assumes similar world view and news values e.g. democracy, equality, capitalism…

Jon Birt controller of BBC before that was accused of heavy handed ness with regard to news and that ‘BBC news and current affairs programmes were Birtised into banality,‘ Tom Bower Media Guardian 2002-

News presenters accused of ‘prancing’ by Chris Mullin MP May 2006, in attempt to make news more lively and dramatic!


To what extent are they justified? Consider each in turn.

In 1996 Martin Bell called for abandonment of neutrality in war reporting… in favour of a ‘journalism of attachment

Andrew Goodwin suggests that ‘the real issue is whether the range of biases represented is fair

John Fiske notes that ‘News, of course, can never give a full, accurate objective picture of reality nor should it attempt to, for such an enterprise can only serve to increase its authority and decrease people’s opportunity to “argue” with it, to negotiate with it.

Daniel Chandler cites that a correspondence has often been reported between the order of importance which the media give to ‘issues’ and the order of significance attached to them by the public and by politicians.

George Clooney (2006) did a news report from Darfur, Sudan, promoting a piece his father was reporting on but giving it a higher profile because of his own celebrity status.

Arguably the Ethiopian Famine of 1984 would never have got such a wide recognition if Bob Geldof hadn’t been so affected by the original report by Michael Buerk.

Poll for New News said 68% of viewers considered celebrity news a turn off – despite this Big Brother regularly makes it on to the ITV news running order. Look at how often politicians enlist the help of celebrities to promote their image.

Celebrity: News presenter Donald McIntyre hired to front McIntyre Uncovered on BBC – although popular with public for his methods not so with colleagues but ‘He has huge screen presence and audience appeal’ and he was hired to help revive interest in news.


What quotations or theories can you cite in discussion of any of the above?

Schlesinger ‘putting reality together.’

Some narrative theories:

    Levi Strauss – binary oppositions – light / dark; good / evil; e.g. in cultures that are represented as ‘other’ like China, Iran.

    Barthes – in TV news enigmas are set up in the opening sequence ‘ later…’, tasters and sound bites of later stories are introduced.

    Todorov – disruption of equilibrium…resolution …restoration…


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