BBC World and CNN International

Both BBC World and CNN International agreed that the fundamental factor behind choosing the lead story is the news value behind the important story. They also agreed that footage that is visually good is important since at the end of the day, it’s television and the appearance is equally important. While BBC World admitted that this boiled down to a budgeting reason, CNN International didn’t feel this restriction as they often air video clips sent in by the public. BBC World in return, included an extra reason of time zones as they felt that airing a crucial story is important, but it’s not always effective if the main audience interested in the story is asleep because it happened during their night time.

The difference in time zones led to another interesting point about where the shows are aired. CNN International has a Hong Kong bureau where on an average weekday, 5 hours of news time is aired from Hong Kong. But with BBC World, everything is aired out from London with occasional airwaves bouncing from Singapore. England felt this gave CNN International the upper hand as she felt that airing a show from half way around the world makes the audience feel detached and remote from the news. Shum on the other hand did not think it was an issue since he doesn’t think the viewer knows nor should have an affect on a viewer. There is no empirical data to show whether or not the airing location has an affect on the audience, but neither BBC World nor CNN International took this as a serious factor when making decisions.

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While both felt the rival channels had more advantages, both stations produced the same lead stories throughout the week, although the week sampled may not have been the most reflective since President Musharraf recently bestowed a state of emergency and so the focus was largely on Pakistan. However, as I continued to analyze the shows, I noticed several trends. BBC World tend to have fewer news stories and constantly repeated the same ones again, especially the lead story.

This was mentioned by England during the interview. Contrastingly, CNN International had more stories, prioritizing a few main stories including the lead to be developed with depth of the news coverage but also had plenty of shorter stories which brought more news to the viewer. BBC World also focused more on international news while CNN International brought substantially more than BBC World on regional news coverage. As the focus is on Hong Kong viewers’ coverage, regional includes news located in the Asian region, including Pakistan and India. As illustrated by England, BBC World tends to focus more on British and European news as it’s closer to home and less costly to produce and hence more international news from an Asian viewer’s perspective.

Interaction was a tricky one to evaluate as it is hard to quantify being such a subjective matter. England persisted that interaction between anchors, reporters and guests is frowned upon as journalists have the responsibility to present news professionally and objectively while Shum felt that some interaction can enhance the show overall since it makes the audience more comfortable when viewing the news.

He further explained that interaction is only really used during the transition of two distinctly varying stories and on light hearted news stories like kickers. Shum didn’t feel this was considered as sensationalizing since the news value of those stories weren’t as serious and grave as hard news and so a little interaction and easing the viewers’ minds could be beneficial. He did however, admit that as an American network, they are obliged to air some stories that may not be as news worthy but are well produced since the bulk of their resources are in Atlanta, but he downplayed this to a result of sensationalizing.

From observing the news, there was very little interaction from the BBC World shows. There was one noticeable time which was when they did the ‘hugging’ story where the anchor joked about hugging the viewer next to you when watching the packaged piece. CNN International on the other hand, had more noticeable interaction but the interaction in no way degraded its professionalism or news content.

The female anchor interacted more when interviewing guests and during transitional phrases with her warm smiling aura. There was also natural interaction between the male and female anchor when they were on the same set on Tuesday. As a viewer who watched both the news on Tuesday from BBC World and CNN International, I did feel that the natural interaction between the two anchors delivering the news felt easier on the ears than one anchor firing the news stories one after the other.

The use of technology in the shows is also an important factor to be taken into account since at the end of the day, the show is produced for the viewer to see. CNN International’s use of squids also made it easier for the viewer as the bullet points appeared on the screen as the anchor read them, which made it less stressful hearing figures or dates in particular. CNN International on the whole also employed more technological aid in their shows, using satellite as well as broadband live feeds, beeper phones and videos or clips from civic journalists sent in. BBC World also used some videos from civic journalists, but they mainly relied on satellite live feeds only.

Conclusion BBC World is a public broadcasting service which aims to inform and educate the public with their news without the pressure of reaping profits and ratings to stay in business. CNN International is a commercial channel without government support and gains profit to keeps its business going. Despite the opposing differences in its approach and goals for producing evening news shows, the choices made when producing a show are quite similar. The audience that views BBC World and CNN International are generally the same, native English speakers and both stations take into an account that the audience does become a factor when making editorial board decisions but attempt to not let it interfere too much to compromise the news worthiness or quality of the news show.

There are also other factors at play which contribute to the decisions made such as the importance of a major story in its most visually presentable state and for BBC World, the time zones and the amount of money available to produce shows and therefore resulting in the usage of live feeds more than packaged pieces. All these factors influence the choice on which story will lead the show, but the weight of the news value in the story is the most prominent determining factor. These factors were reflected in the choice of stories aired in both channels from the week sampled although BBC World did generally air more international stories for the remainder of its show whereas CNN International often balanced the number of stories between regional coverage and international events.

Evaluation Upon reflection, I realized I should have sampled the news coverage on a different week since the state of emergency in Pakistan meant that the focus was continuously around the turmoil and so there wasn’t a clear comparison with how different stations choose their lead stories on less stressful days. It would have been interesting to see if BBC World would have done any regional stories if there was not martial law imposed since all their regional stories were on Pakistan. However, there is no way to forecast whether or not a major crisis somewhere in the world is going to break out so there is no systematic way to avoid an issue like this to ensure a better set of sampled tapes.


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