Report issues 'wake-up call' for foreign news provision

International news coverage is in danger of disappearing completely from British television screens in the next four years unless urgent action is taken, according to an Oxfam published today.

The Great Global Switch-Off research by Oxfam, journalism thinktank Polis and the International Broadcasting Trust has claimed that a lack of strategy and clear leadership has led to confusion and complacency in foreign news.

According to IBT research, international coverage on ITV has fallen by more than three quarters in the past five years, with just five hours of programmes from the developing world shown in 2007.

The report’s author, former BBC executive, said: “The lack of creative commitment and the failure to translate promises about international coverage into meaningful actions means that British television is sleepwalking towards a global switch-off.

“This report is a wake-up call to senior decision makers to act before it is too late.”

Harding interviewed senior executives, controllers and producers across the industry about their assessment of the future for international news.

One executive producer replied: “Without some form of compulsion from Ofcom and the DCMS then broadcasters will commission more programmes about freaks in Fishguard than they will films like China’s Stolen Children, The Transplant Trade and Dying for Drugs.”

The study proposes a 10-point plan to address this, including making the BBC World News channel available to British audiences, and expanding the BBC iPlayer to include more international programming.

Oxfam chief executive Barbara Stocking said: “The decline of international coverage is a real cause for concern. We live in an interconnected and dramatically changing world.

“Now more than ever we need stronger broadcasting commitments so that everything from current affairs to Coronation Street consider their global responsibilities.

“We hope that the recommendations will be seriously considered and those that care about international issues wake up to the world disappearing from our televisions.”

Media regulator Ofcom is expected to announce the findings of its long-running review on public service broadcasting on Wednesday.

It will be followed by the publication of the Digital Britain report by communications minister Stephen Carter.

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