On television accuracy within this “New Media” landscape

Since I had some free time I went over to the Old Theatre of the London school of economics and what we found out from that conversation is that people don’t trust television. According to one of the chairs this was at a ratio of 4:3. This is an interesting situation since the question of trust is one that as academics we all worry about.

Any student, whether a primary school child, an undergrad or a grad knows one thing. Get as many sources as you can and from the information you find work out what the reality of the situation is. If you’re starting a research project then find out who’s written about it and compile this information. This is important whether it’s from books, magazine articles or documentaries. That’s the purpose of academic writing; to become an expert in a specific field.

Now I want to ask why it is that people don’t trust television. There have been a spate of fake phone ins, some miss-information and more but what does this really mean. Does this mean that program makers are untrustworthy? In reality most of these problems had two things in common. The first of these is that they’re phone in’s for the most part. In other words their aim is to generate some form of income and to promote audience participation. The second is ratings. With the Queengate, as some call it, the problem was a little error in editing which meant that they woul have to apologise for the editing. At the same time it’s attracted a lot of media interest therefore the promoters may have acheived their aim.

Part of the discussion also focused around the idea of training. If everyone is allowed to apply for media jobs yet none of them need to display their credentials vis-a-vis the ability to research and document their programmes properly  then there is a disparity between the standards that are expected between broadcaster and audience.  This aspect of the conversation was interesting because there are so many runner jobs where the aim is to prepare coffee, tea, get tapes and more yet how many of these running jobs promote the academic riguour you’d expect from university students within the realm of programme making?

As someone who is currently looking for opportunities to work within certain production companies I liked the comment that people should be taking into internships and properly trained to be good researchers and accurate content creators. It seems logical that for those who want to create quality factual programming they should be trained more about accuracy. Maybe there are certain fields of study that take this far more seriously than others.

It was interesting to listen to Roger Graef at this event. I had heard and read about him for so many years that when I saw he was one of the guests it was a great moment to see in person one of these personalities of documentary history. He was asked about noddygate among other things. When asked his opinions on noddies he did say that they’re part of the conventions but that when  noddy is used to fake one person being in location when they are not that is misleading to the audience. One speaker later on commented, quite rightly that the noddy is lazy programme making since there are a number of other ways of transitioning from one topic to another.

MTV have their own style, they take two video cameras, one is a random shot of the room and the other is framed on the interviewee that way there are constant cut aways. That’s a luxury (although mediocre in itself) for the aquiring and use of cut aways.

In thinking about this topic I’m wondering what people mean when they say that television can’t be trusted. Do they mean that it’s a more devious medium than other mediums? If so then why is this. Should television, like the printed press show it’s bias. We know Fox News’s bias but with a body such as the BBC we expect it to be neutral, a great feat in itself. Impartiality is hard to come by and there are documentaries that are so well researched it’s amazing. In some cases I have watched documentaries that may easily have had more than thirty to fourty interviews with well known and respected views on the topics they are discussing and as such provide a great insight into the topic. If you’re watching Panorama do you trust what you see after they have worked on each programme for extended periods of time. Do you trust programs like Hard Talk or Meet the Press. There are a lot of programmes that have high production value but most people do not have the time or inclination to watch the well researched sources of programmes because they are “long and boring” yet they complain because something is over simplified and innacurate.

The audience needs to think about how it consumes the media before it complains about issues of fairness and accuracy. If you can’t sit through heavily fact driven documentaries because you prefer a one minute summary every hour then the complaint is void. In the same way you don’t read the Sun for an informed view of the world so you should not tune into a sensationalist tabloid news source.

My final point takes a look at accuracy on television in contrast to that of bloggers and user generated content. As more and more people may produce and distribute content so some of them will have high production values, making sure to get many points of view across and get an accurate and complete image of what is taking place whilst others will take whatever view is most comfortable and speak about that. There is a great deal of accountability on the web and one of the great things about research on the web is the hyperlink. With every statement you make you may take the time to source that comment and so the audience will understand what bias is relevant to that quote. In so doing there is a great, and practical, method by which to assess how accurate the content you are viewing is.

Over the next few months and years we shall see many more arguments of accuracy and as the audience becomes more media literate so the debate may finally slow down  and a new media landscape will be the norm once again.

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