Communications: How TV can raise profile of volunteers

The BBC is to look at developing programmes that will raise the profile of the voluntary sector following the first Citizenship Conference, organised in conjunction with the Charity Commission.

The conference, held on 21 November, was chaired by David Dimbleby, presenter of Question Time, and speakers included Mark Byford, the deputy director general of the BBC, Kevin March, editor of Radio 4's Today programme, Geraldine Peacock, chair of the Charity Commission, and other representatives from politics and media.

Issues explored at the event included how to encourage audiences to be more active in their communities through volunteering, based on partnership with the voluntary sector.

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: "We discussed issues such as why there aren't more charity sector leaders on the news or programmes like Question Time and looked at ideas about the contribution the individual can make."

Although ITV's Coronation Street featured a storyline about volunteering earlier this year to tie in with the Year of the Volunteer (Third Sector, 15 June), the BBC has yet to follow suit.

"You never hear any mention of any charity in soaps such as EastEnders, except for Children in Need," added the commission spokesman.

A number of ideas for specific programmes emerged from the conference, two of which have already been commissioned by Andy Griffee, controller of BBC English regions. One has been dubbed 'Playground to Playground' and will involve schools linking up so that children can use each other's play areas. The other is based on the idea of creating an "inter-generational heirloom" where members of the public would record their experiences, using different forms of media, for future generations.

Griffee says: "It was fascinating to see such creative ideas come about from the conversations between our guests and BBC staff. It felt like a partnership in action."

Although neither of the commissioned programmes have an obvious voluntary sector angle, a spokesman for the BBC explains: "The idea is getting people to get off their backsides and do something."

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