It’s a time of great opportunities for television journalists, according to Dorothy Byrne, head of Channel 4 news and current affairs.
She told students at the University of Lincoln: “Now is one of the best times to be a TV journalist. For many years we struggled to make people interested in foreign stories. Now programmes about Congo, Haiti, the Ivory Coast and Afghanistan are ‘pick of the day’ choices in almost every paper, including the tabloids. And they are given two-page articles in the TV Times. That didn’t happen before.”
Among the public there’s a “great appetite” for foreign news. After documentaries such as The Killing Zone, hundreds of viewers rang in, the vast majority offering praise. Even a programme on the Congo “caused a buzz”.
Yet viewers were also much more likely to complain than in the past.
The spread of the internet had encouraged them to see there was a multiplicity of views and so they were more sceptical about the dominant line.
During the David Kelly affair, many critics argued that the BBC had erred in attempting to set the news agenda rather than simply report it. But Byrne argued that it was the journalist’s responsibility to look beyond the main agenda and set a new one.
By Richard Keeble