BBC call for ‘citizen journalism’

If TV broadcast networks hope to have a future, they must decentralize and "democratize" their most jealously-guarded public service – placing news production literally in the hands of consumers.

So says Pat Loughrey, BBC Director of Nations and Regions, quoted by InternetWeek in speaking on Wednesday at the DVB World 2005 conference in Dublin:

[This] will require network news organizations to willingly enlist consumers while abandoning their traditional top-down elitism. The whole production process was a bottleneck designed to filter out the undesirable. […] News producers must assume the role of gathering, evaluating, collating, cataloguing and broadcasting content that is created by ordinary people wielding a new generation of extraordinary technology.

The ‘extraordinary technology’ he specifically refers to is third-generation (3G) mobile phones:

[This has] created the possibility of gathering the news by 3G mobile [phone] handsets, and delivering by 3G handsets, all wielded by the man or woman in the street, rather than reporters. […] There is a real wealth of creativity and imagination out there and we’re not yet harnessing it effectively. The more we engage the creativity of our audience, the more we gain from it.

Consumers have repeatedly breached the news bottleneck themselves, most recently after the Asian tsunami tragedy in December where virtually no professional news crews were on hand to film the tragedy. Nonetheless, InternetWeek’s report says, the BBC and other networks were inundated with a wealth of video content generated by holiday-makers armed with high-quality video equipment. This phenomenon turned BBC’s news site into a giant message board.

Curiously, InternetWeek’s report makes no mention of blogs and the blogosphere – surely the most compelling example yet of news democracy, aka citizen journalism, already in action.

InternetWeek | ‘Democratize the news,’ says BBC executive