Cast your net wider

“I counted them all out, and I counted them all back” is one of the most memorable broadcast TV phrases of the century.  It was uttered by Brian Hanrahan, the BBC foreign affairs correspondent who was reporting from the Falklands War in 1982, as a clever way to get around reporting restrictions to tell viewers British jets had returned safely.

It’s hard to imagine that at the time of the Falklands War thirty years ago, TV footage took two weeks to get back to the UK for broadcast.  According to Nigel Baker, CEO of Thomson Media Foundation, speaking at The Global Broadcast Landscape – Power, Influence and Opportunity in 2012 conference in London, it wasn’t until the Gulf War in the early 1990s when it became possible to get foreign footage on-air within 24 hours. And, only in 2003 were broadcasters finally able to show footage in real time for the first time – leading to an influx of news channels, particularly in the Middle East.

The conference, organized by the PRCA and Markettiers4DC  had a strong line-up of speakers and TV presenters who gave their take on and personal experience with how the broadcast landscape has changed immensely over the past 30 years as digital technology has advanced, along with the quality of satellites delivering better live videos.

There is no doubt that the plethora of sources from which we consume our daily news dose has expanded exponentially over recent years. This has had a huge impact on the number of new international broadcast players that have emerged. And with 2012 being such a historic year for Britain, with the Diamond Jubilee this past June and the long awaited Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, this too has fueled an influx of overseas broadcasters building a local presence on the ground here in London, bringing with it great opportunity for communications professionals to drive global news stories from the UK.

Please see below for some tips for ensuring you have all outlets on your pitch list, and what types of stories they’re most interested in:

  • Al Jazeera – an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation first launched its English language channel in 2006.  Al Jazeera has an audience of 280 million viewers worldwide according to Ben Raynor, Executive Producer, and prides itself on being different by reporting hard news from the scene. It’s aimed at those with an appetite for hard-hitting and in-depth news.  It has a split of news /programs of around 60/40, so you can consider pitching your story into one of their program slots if it doesn’t fit their news output.  The team is particularly interested in CEO interviews and opportunities to film from the scene live. Al Jazeera also is expanding its focus on sport stories
  • France 24 – launched in 2006, under the presidency of Jacques Chirac, this state international news and current affairs channel’s mission according to John Maguire, Director of International Development, Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France is to “cover international current events from a French perspective, while pushing French culture and fashion.” France 24 differentiates itself by its investment in multi-platforms to push out content while simultaneously putting a large emphasis on citizen journalism. In 2012, it reached 245 million households worldwide and it might surprise you that it isamong the top 10 watched channels in the Middle East and North Africa. France 24 is always keen to hear from PR represntatives who have stories geared towards the development of emerging economies – health and food production in particular
  • Channel Seven – Australia’s most popular TV network. Anchor Martin Frizell, the husband of Fiona Philips and dubbed the brains behind GMTV’s past success, now reports live out of London at Sunrise most weekdays, against the specially created backdrop of Tower Bridge and Big Ben.  Frizell covers Australia’s obsession with all things Royal, so if you have any kind of quirky news relating to this, ex-pats or travel that would be of interest to a consumer audience, he may be your man. Channel Seven will consider press trip opportunities and apparently they have a famous weather forecaster, who is open to reporting from different countries, so there could be an opportunity for a multi-country branding program or tourism client when trying to reach an Aussie audience
  • China Central Television – commonly abbreviated to CCTV, the English channel of China’s State broadcaster was launched in 2010 and is expanding rapidly with major offices in London (Camden), Washington and Nairobi, all reporting to its HQ in Beijing. CCTV reports live from London several times a day, so is a great way of getting your message out to a massive Chinese audience.

When you next sell-in a story that you want proliferated to a global audience, don’t limit yourself to the usual suspects. There are numerous opportunities from London alone to cast your net that much wider. Of course, you shouldn’t limit yourself to earned editorial – go straight to your audience via your own ‘editorial’ on platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and Audioboo.

Thirty years following the reporting that made Brian Hanrahan an icon in news broadcasting, many established organizations face budget constraints and cutbacks in the face of challenging economic conditions and the advent of new technologies. Yet others are expanding and emerging players are helping to usher in an exciting future for news broadcasting.

With so much progress in such a relatively short period of time, what do the next 30 years hold? It’s clear that to survive and thrive as consumption habits evolve, broadcasters will need to continually invest in technological innovation. I expect those still standing will be the ones who do this, while also differentiating the way they bring us into what is happening in the world – when, where and how we want it.