UK media giants in pledge to showcase volunteers' work

Dominic Wood

A televised competition to find Britain's local heroes was among several commitments made by media moguls to boost the Year of the Volunteer at a meeting hosted by Chancellor Gordon Brown last week.

A campaign by the Media Trust to convince the UK's biggest media bodies to provide support for the Year of the Volunteer culminated in the meeting at 11 Downing Street, where pledges were given by ITV, Channel 4, Sky, MTV, the BBC, Capital Radio and newspaper groups.

ITV has pledged to launch its competition, Britain's Local Heroes, to find people who have given their time to create a positive impact on their communities. The search begins with 11 regional news broadcasts asking for nominations from 28 February. The winners, whose chosen charities will receive cash prizes, will be announced on a nationwide show on 19 April.

Sky TV has launched an employee volunteering scheme, which offers staff 16 hours' paid time off per year to volunteer in their local community. Channel 4 will show programmes about volunteering during Volunteers' Week, which starts on 1 June.

"With the media industry's creativity behind the Year of the Volunteer, community action will have the recognition it deserves," said Caroline Diehl, chief executive of the Media Trust. "I look forward to pledges being delivered over the year."

MTV has promised to use its creative skills to attract young people to volunteering, while Trinity Mirror and News International newspaper groups have said that they would cover more human interest volunteering stories, provided they are supplied with press releases by the voluntary sector.

The BBC reiterated its commitment to providing cross-channel support by linking its programmes to the Community Channel, and Capital Radio Group said it would use its regional radio stations to reach local communities.

A Media Trust spokeswoman defended the vagueness of some of the commitments by calling the event "a brainstorming session and a starting point for the media industry support for the Year of the Volunteer".

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