Dorothy Byrne: Shorter Dispatches will make C4 more 'fleet of foot'

Channel 4’s flagship investigative journalism series Dispatches is to switch from 30 mainly hour-long programmes a year to 40 half-hour programmes.

The broadcaster also this week revealed details of a £250,000 in a scheme to provide training for 20 people in broadcast investigative journalism over two years.

Full details in the press release here:

To meet the evolving demands of viewers, Dorothy Byrne, Head of News and Current Affairs, announced that flagship strand Dispatches will increase from 30 to 40 programmes per year; with the majority as half-hour long films – ensuring a near constant presence in the schedule.

Byrne commented: “We’ve undertaken research with our viewers and they tell us that their appetite for heavyweight journalism is as strong as ever but that they want faster, more reactive content available across a number of platforms. “

“With 40 shorter programmes a year we can expand the range of subjects we cover and increase topicality. We can be fleet of foot, getting to air quickly with an original take on a story. With an increase in the volume of Dispatches we will also have greater flexibility to return to the issues viewers feel passionate about.”

There will be scope for a number of one-hour investigations for issues which require a longer examination both within the Dispatches strand and as one-off films – such as the follow-up film to Jon Snow’s Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields – Sri Lanka: War Crimes Unpunished which will air in January.

Deputy Head of News & Current Affairs and Dispatches Editor Kevin Sutcliffe announced an investment of £250k for the Channel 4 Investigative Journalism Training Scheme. He said: “At a time when investigative journalism is under greater scrutiny and facing more challenges than ever before, Channel 4 is investing in training to both safeguard this vital public service and to help grow the next generation of journalists.”

The scheme will offer bespoke training for twenty people over two years. They will be recruited from different media backgrounds and will be at different stages in their careers.

The channel is inviting tenders from four production companies to provide paid work and mentoring as the central part of the scheme. The contracts with the production companies will also include output deals of delivering a minimum of eight programmes – enabling the successful companies to establish a team dedicated to Dispatches who are able to make fast-turnaround films as well as longer investigations. At least one contract will be awarded to a production company in a nation or region.

The training programme will also include week-long in-house training courses, mentoring, regular master-classes and digital training at Channel 4.

Sutcliffe said: “We are making this substantial investment in investigative journalism because it is a specialist area of film-making, currently there are only a limited number of production companies and experienced producers and directors we work with. We want to increase the pool of talent to ensure greater diversity of supply in the long-term – providing fresh new ideas, angles and stories.

“Crucially, as well as training in the fundamentals, our scheme will train journalists for a converged world, ensuring they know how best to utilise and interactive with new technology and social media.”







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