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User-Generated Content and SBS


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Presentation given by Georgie McClean and I on user-generated content strategies and issues for the Special Broadcasting Service. It is based on the MA (Research) thesis undertaken through QUT by Heidi Lenffer.

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User-Generated Content and SBS

  1. 1. User-Generated Content and the Future of Public Broadcasting: A Case Study of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) Professor Terry Flew (Creative Industries Faculty, QUT) Heidi Lenffer (QUT/SBS) Georgie McClean (Manager, Policy and Research, SBS)
  2. 2. The Potential of Online News and UGC for SBS <ul><li>SBS is an innovator in multicultural content and an aggregator of international news - still Australia’s principal source for ‘global’ news </li></ul><ul><li>Reliance on global news agencies may limit SBS in future - audiences ‘are not going to come to SBS to get the same thing’ they can get elsewhere (CNN, BBC etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Meta-news-aggregation’ and ‘meta-news-blogging’ - new models of news gathering </li></ul><ul><li>New opportunities in links with ethnic communities in Australia and new perspectives on international events </li></ul>
  3. 3. The Internet as ‘a broadcaster’s best friend’ <ul><li>I think the Chinese Olympic torch relay has been a very interesting issue and news editors around the world would have been able to ignore it, had it not been for the cumulative effect of all that user footage put up online by Tibetan action groups… </li></ul><ul><li>When Scott Parkin and his mates climbed up the Golden Gate Bridge to put up the Free Tibet sign, there was no news crew there, they filmed it themselves, distributed it through their own blog… I pointed it out to our news editor who then got his video producers to edit their footage into our online report. At any other network this would happen every day, but at SBS it’s a big thing and I think that’s because it’s new thing that will continue to happen and only get bigger. </li></ul><ul><li>~ Miguel D’Souza, former Homepage Editor, SBS </li></ul>
  4. 4. SBS as a ‘meta-news-aggregator’ of online sources <ul><li>If you find out that ‘x’ event has happened in Burkina Faso for example, and that a certain blogger witnessed it, another blogger documented it with video, and yet another blogger with images and a report, then that immediately places you right there. </li></ul><ul><li>The next step is- and this is where the old media comes back into it- the editors and producers are the ones that can determine whether this is something SBS should be putting out. Interest in the story alone says that ‘yes’ we should broadcast this. Your Charter should tell you yes or no. </li></ul><ul><li>So you’ve sourced a blogger who’s found a story that no one else is carrying, then that blogger’s report should be then carried on the news site as an aggregated story which become a discussion thread in a sense, more than an actual news story URL. The next step is that this thread will feed into the production of the terrestrial news bulletin which in turn is then rebroadcast online. It’s effectively just a new way of serving up content that you can test against all of the existing aspects of the mandate. </li></ul><ul><li>~ Miguel D’Souza former Homepage Editor, SBS </li></ul>
  5. 5. Scope for SBS to use its ethnic community links to develop new accounts of international news events <ul><li>Alternative to the ‘UGC-free-for-all’ on most online news sites (the ‘Got a good story? send us an SMS’ model) </li></ul><ul><li>Can capture stories reported by those in the middle of conflicts, or impacted on them in Australian communities </li></ul>As with any conflict, governments try to shut down the electronic lines of communication - trying to cut off the country from the internet - which is virtually impossible. So people are always breaching those boundaries and we’re seeing photos that governments don’t want us to see as a result, and to deny our audience that opportunity is just doing ourselves and them a massive disservice. ~ Valerio Veo, Executive Producer of Online News
  6. 6. Challenges of UGC and citizen journalism for SBS <ul><li>1. Organisational and operational concerns </li></ul><ul><li>2. Branding, quality and credibility </li></ul><ul><li>3. Legal and policy implications </li></ul>
  7. 7. Staff views on UGC at SBS <ul><li>General enthusiasm for potential of UGC and online engagement as the future of media platforms/providers </li></ul><ul><li>Unique potential for SBS to expand the possibilities of audience participation in media </li></ul><ul><li>Optimism about the potential to incorporate bloggers and ‘pro-am’ contributors into SBS content </li></ul>SBS is serious about involving our audience’ ~ Jean-Paul Marin, Senior Online producer
  8. 8. The question of online news <ul><li>Culturally diverse SBS audiences a rich resource for innovative online news material </li></ul><ul><li>Charter obligations to provide platform for cultural diversity in online news environment </li></ul><ul><li>BUT </li></ul><ul><li>The news room is ‘where the risks of UGC are most starkly borne out’ </li></ul>If someone’s there on the ground capturing the image that you don’t have - to ignore that is cutting off your nose to spite your face, pure and simple. ~ Valerio Veo, Executive Producer of Online News
  9. 9. Distinction between broadcast and online media platforms <ul><li>Internet seen as primary domain for UGC and audience participation </li></ul><ul><li>TV news and current affairs is tightly packaged in terms of production and has agenda-setting functions as well as SBS Charter obligations - sourcing UGC for TV broadcast was ‘both rare and difficult’ </li></ul><ul><li>Range of international news source material means that UGC is not meeting a ‘content gap’ for TV news and ‘not worth the risk’ </li></ul>
  10. 10. Limited scope for UGC in television news <ul><li>Hyper-local news </li></ul>For SBS, as a world news broadcaster in Australia it’s very hard for us to say to everybody in the world, ‘send us your vision’. There are just too many difficulties of language, technology etc. But for a newsroom in Orange it’s much easier to ask viewers in Mudgee to send through images of the big fire 100kms down the road, because you’re speaking the same language and you’re within in the same market. ~ Mark Boyd, Executive Producer, World News Australia People would feel more connected to the network if they knew their material was being seriously considered to make it probably onto the website, and maybe onto television. It’s a two-way benefit: Non-SBS employees feel like their voice can be heard and it services the need of SBS to find out what else is going on. ~ Peter Charlie, Executive Producer, Dateline Audience input and participation
  11. 11. Some examples of audience contributing to news agenda <ul><li>There was a story I worked on some years ago that came to us from somebody from Korea who’d gone into China and filmed a lot of North Koreans who were fleeing to northern china and living in the hills within mountains and holes in the ground. And that was extremely informative and a moving story that I ended up producing and writing. So that’s one example of a story that came to us not from SBS staff but from people outside the organisation who feel they have an interesting story to tell. </li></ul><ul><li>~ Peter Charlie, Executive Producer, Dateline </li></ul>Material from sources not readily accessible to professional journalists
  12. 12. Professional skills and the question of quality <ul><li>Skills of news production not easy to replicate: context, verification, agendas, narrative, relationship to audio-visual, credibility, ‘in-built cynicism’ of journalists. </li></ul>You need to vigorously test the quality of the information you’re getting. Pick up the phone, email, make contact with people - then publish it if it’s good. As a journalist, I’m thoroughly excited about this, because rather than replacing journalism, quite the contrary, it’s actually placed a premium on our skills and finally made society realise how vitally important journalists are to the functioning of society. ~ Miguel D’Souza, former Homepage Editor, SBS
  13. 13. Editorial function central to brand identity as quality news <ul><li>SBS has wide range of in-house field experts, access to expert opinion (e.g. academics, industry experts), and credible international news agency sources </li></ul>I don’t think there’s every going to be the many-to-many information model that has been talked about where basically citizen journalists broadcast to other citizens without the mediation of journalists. I mean, that may happen, but there will be a lot of deception because unfortunately there are a lot of unethical people out there or even just people that don’t know what degree of accuracy or balance is required to present a good article or news story. So I think for the credible sources they will still need a degree of filtering and mediation, even from people who have the best intentions let alone people who will try and manipulate it for unethical reasons whether they’re purely personal, malicious, commercial, political, whatever. ~ Mark Boyd, Executive Producer, World News Australia
  14. 14. Participatory media drive is strongest for public broadcasters <ul><li>UGC can generate content quickly – news immediacy and reporting-on-demand </li></ul><ul><li>Need for disclaimers: risk to reputation of unfiltered news e.g. CNN iReport story on Steve Jobs’ heart attack Oct ‘08 </li></ul><ul><li>Public broadcasters best placed to maximise vision of participatory media: </li></ul>It’s a refreshing thing to have clear, Charter-driven mandates rather than commercial ones because the charter-driven ones help you hang good content ideas and good content technologies on, rather than merely chasing a share price. SBS is in a fantastic position because of the very fact that our Charter clearly spells out what it is we’re here to do, and it says we need to encourage interaction with our audience, so this gives us a way forward. ~ Miguel D’Souza, former Homepage Editor, SBS
  15. 15. Barriers to participation <ul><li>Content quality and editorial judgement </li></ul><ul><li>Limited number of skilled amateurs willing to contribute free content </li></ul><ul><li>Question of financial renumeration </li></ul>The technology has been out there for a while now and people are probably honing their skills. So I wonder whether they still really want to just get lots of views on YouTube and share it with as many mates as they can, or whether they’re saying, ‘Well wait a minute, you’re a content aggregator, my content’s pretty good, so I want something back from you’. ~ John-Paul Marin, Senior Online Producer
  16. 16. Site moderation and legal risk <ul><li>SBS has legal obligations as well as Charter responsibilities to avoid racial vilification, defamation etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Post-moderation is the preferred option - ‘moderated UGC’ is seen as an oxymoron and kills grass-roots initiatives </li></ul>In an ideal legal world we would have people watching the site and doing live moderation 24 hours a day or pre-moderating content on the basis of a 3-second delay or something like that. Obviously that would be virtually impossible to resource and the whole project would grind to a halt. ~ Sally McCausland, SBS Senior Lawyer
  17. 17. Over-rating the ‘worst case scenario’? <ul><li>The 1% / 99% question with legally problematic content - risk mediation rather than avoidance </li></ul><ul><li>Working moderation and filtering strategies for comments on sites such as Insight , Newstopia and The World Game </li></ul>We haven’t experienced a high level of legal issues to date from our user forums; people are generally responsible and don’t want to go around and defame other people. There are some obviously who try to stir the pot but most people are really just interacting in good faith as they would in any community so it’s not necessarily the case that we’re always trying to pull back from difficult legal issues. For many years SBS have had audience feedback from our telephone call-ins and emails, so we have a very close relationship with the audience as it is. The UGC on our website is very much an extension of that really; it’s not a terribly new thing. ~ Sally McCausland, SBS Senior Lawyer
  18. 18. Key research findings <ul><ul><ul><li>SBS news producers were receptive towards user participation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>SBS news producers asserted the importance of maintaining editorial control over news production </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Moderated UGC initiatives generated unique interactions between users and between SBS and its audience </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Participatory media requires public service media to reshape themselves for the emerging interactive media environment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ </li></ul>
  19. 19. Areas for further research <ul><li>What will guidelines for online participation and UGC look like, and how will they operate in practice? </li></ul><ul><li>How will UGC impact upon and reshape public service media in the 21st Century (e.g. how much editorial control can be relinquished)? </li></ul><ul><li>What potential is there for online interaction to promote cross-cultural interaction and maintain social cohesion in multicultural societies? </li></ul>
  20. 20. Conclusion: UGC and Public Service Media <ul><li>Shift from public service broadcasting to public service media in convergent media environment </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Opening up’ to new media possibilities is a challenge contingent on questions of risk, resources and organisational culture/context – there is no ‘right’ model </li></ul><ul><li>Enthusiasm for UGC is tempered by questions of branding, quality and identity </li></ul>
  21. 21. Conclusion: UGC and Public Service Media <ul><li>How to respond to problems of ‘top-down’ media while maintaining editorial functions and legal/quality controls? </li></ul><ul><li>Who funds online extensions to the public service media remit? </li></ul><ul><li>What unique contributions can SBS make both in Australia and internationally? </li></ul>