In the U.K. the broadcasting channels are very different than in the United States. The news stations that I am familiar with are Fox News, Channel Four, CBS and CNN. While there is a slight hierarchy to all of these news stations and their viewers, there is not one that monopolizes the nation. In addition, these stations are typically affiliated with a certain political party and their respective beliefs, and are independently funded and owned. However, in the United Kingdom lies the BBC news channel, the British Broadcasting Company.
The BBC is the central news source for all of the United Kingdom. The biggest difference here is the source of funding and ownership; the station is owned and funded by the U.K. government. As explained to us, the elected leaders understood the importance of having a central news source, and wanted to ensure its success and continuation. This leads to question of power, and the important principle of freedom of speech. However, an employee could reassure that though the government has a large hand in the wages and allotted budgets, the type of content being released cannot be tampered with. In one instance, there was a scandal in the construction of a government building when the original budget had mysteriously doubled. When reporters heard wind of this, government officials demanded that all records of this be deleted from history, and the story not be published. The members of the BBC stood their ground and refused to do so, insisting that the company worked only for the people. This specific instance occurred in the BBC Scotland location.
There are multiple BBC locations tailored to English viewers, Scottish viewers, and Northern Irish viewers. We walked by the London location, and had the chance to visit the Glasgow, Scotland location. There we had the chance to see and learn about the building itself that can be transformed into one large studio. We also had the opportunity to see the ins and outs of how the station worked as journalists gathered and researched content, and the final product of the live broadcasts. What is interesting about the Scotland location is it is tailor-made for the people of Scotland alone with its local geography and culture. In some ways it is a completely separate entity from the headquarters location in London.
Although there are several locations, the London BBC is the focal point of the broadcasting company. The company itself produces daily news, television programs, and a host of radio channels. I found this very interesting seeing as in the US the radio is no longer a frequently used media tool. Although it is fairly common, it is nowhere near as popular as it still is in the U.K. today. Several reporters begin their career as radio journalists and work their way up to television from there. My thought is that the continuation of the radio is directly related to the age and level of tradition found here in the United Kingdom. Several older generations grew up listening to radio news and programs, and still prefer this method of communication.
This theory of audience-based communication is proven even through today’s generation, exemplified in the decline of scheduled TV programs. With the explosion of the Internet and Netflix, my generation is known for receiving our programs from largely online streaming. Even in the test of creating a television show that was specifically targeted for the young London crowd, the show concluded as unsuccessful; the age of streaming news through the Internet has taken hold of young generations, while the radio broadcasts are still prevalent among the older generations.
Another big difference to note between American and British broadcasting houses is the typical political party affiliations. In the U.S., each station is generally understood and being biased towards conservative or liberal views. In the U.K., several other media groups including the Guardian are also swayed towards a left or right bias. However, the BBC contends that their content is produced without bias, and all sides of every story displayed for the audience to make their own decision. This is a hard concept to grasp as several people criticize the BBC for being conservative because of its affiliation with Parliament. However Jean McKenzie, a reporter from the British Broadcasting Company, informed us that this statement isn’t true. They uphold their goals to report without bias, and either way they receive equal criticism that they are both too left-winged and right.
The BBC can proudly state that they are not only a United Kingdom company, but an international brand with journalists set in locations around the world. Reporters are sent all over the globe to retrieve breaking news and personal interviews. In addition, various shows and radio broadcasts are elicited in several different languages to adhere to the large audiences that tune in to the British Broadcasting powerhouse.
Competing multimedia groups like ITV have risen against the BBC, however the age old broadcasting house has remained on top of the media here in the U.K. Even when we visited the ITV studio, several of the employees there had a background working for the BBC. Basically, if you have any interest in breaking into the media world in England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland, you set your sights on the British Broadcasting Company.
The BBC is something to marvel at, as the media group successfully took off and followed the evolution of media as it changed forms. A large part of its continuation is the government support, which is both a blessing and a curse. The fact of its funding reassures the success of the company, however it may also be its downfall. Even one employee admitted that he does not know how long peace between the government and the unbiased broadcasts will last, and if they will be able to find funding if the agreement comes to an unfortunate end.
Nonetheless the employees who work at the BBC, in my observance, are passionate about what they do and they work hard to make sure it gets done. That is something not all media companies can boast about.