Sunday, December 08, 2013

From Fact to Fiction

I believe there's a split going on in broadcast, not so much on distribution lines but far more between those people working on fact and fiction. It is not a new idea. In 2011 Peter Bennett Jones called for a BBC split between journalistic fact (which has to be neutral if is paid from public funds) and what he termed entertainment, anything which thrives on being different, sharing opinions, pushing the envelope. I wholeheartedly agree.

Watch the full speech here. One year later Armando Iannucci referred to Bennett Jones in his opening, speaking about the way fiction production has changed - and how American telly now dominates the world in epic filmed entertainment. Both point out that these sectors are very different beasts.

In The Netherlands my experience has been that broadcast discussions are split along very different lines. It is either public versus commercial, or PSB versus publishers. It is nearly always about distribution and who is going to pay the bill. There are public funded production companies like AVROTROS and VARA/BNN who produce current affairs as well as entertainment. They are membership organisations, though I can't find the open dialogue between public and public broadcasters about content issues, along the lines of the UK's Voice of the Listener and Viewer or Our Beeb. Production companies like the AVRO run their membership clubs rather like a charity campaign or the BBC Shops that folded a few years ago. For 10 Euros a year I get a "free" magazine, can come to TV recordings and other "activities". But I never get the feeling that I am somehow influencing the discussion about future programme production.

The NOS, which provides cross media news and sports bulletins is an organisation without members, but no remit to keep an ongoing discussion between itself and the public. So all the discussions about the future are hidden behind government appointed committees and industry lobby groups. May be that's the reason Reuter's didn't include The Netherlands in its European survey of how news production and consumption is changing. Because innovation is being stifled by legacy structures that don't put audiences at the heart of everything they do. So there is little progress. Meanwhile audience habits are changing and the incumbent broadcasters in the Netherlands, public and commercial, are not adapting fast enough to that change.

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