Expert view: Thinking outside the gogglebox

For charities that are debating the merits of TV coverage or weighing up the pros and cons of entering into a relationship with a broadcaster, the medium of TV has emerged as a less than attractive partner - or, at least, one that should be approached with caution.

I can't think of a time when the standing of television executives has been such a subject of public interest and discussion, or has been so closely scrutinised by the media industry itself.

Sure, there have always been bust-ups between government and broadcasters over matters of principle. They go back all the way to the 1926 General Strike, when the government of the day thought the BBC should blindly support it. John Reith, the BBC's first director general, thought otherwise, and the BBC's worldwide reputation for impartiality was firmly established.

But the reports that emerged this summer are different. They've thrown the spotlight on programme content that pays scant regard to the facts and on mismanaged phone-in competitions.

Lessons must be learned from the recent debacle, but we also need to get some sense of perspective. None of this is meant to justify recent events, nor the behaviour of the broadcasters involved in these scandals. However, there is the danger of a witch-hunt and of confusion between fraud and legitimate devices that are used to produce programmes.

For example, after an interview shot on one camera, it is common practice to shoot 'noddies' - shots of the interviewer nodding sagely that are inserted into the interview later. There's no intention to deceive; it's simply a method of shooting two people talking to one another with only one camera.

For third sector organisations trying to get their voices heard, TV is an unparalleled window into the country's living rooms and a powerful way to capture hearts and minds. From online video content to documentaries, news and even soaps, charities need to think big when it comes to getting their stories across. Moreover, the brave new digital world offers many smaller channels and new audiences.

It can be increasingly difficult for smaller organisations to get their stories covered on TV, but if doors are closing and opportunities seem scarce, think about other communication channels outside the traditional TV box. The internet has opened up a raft of channels, from user-generated content, video downloads and blogs to social networking sites and podcasts. There are limitless opportunities for organisations to get their stories out.

  • Peter Weil is director of production and digital media at Media Trust Productions and the Community Channel

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