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Global Media Forum

“Speed and brevity are very strong trends”

Richard Porter, BBC News, at DW Global Media Forum

We live in a time when the world of news is undergoing radical change. The visual aspect is becoming more omnipresent and also gaining speed. As a news professional, what is your prediction for the future of the industry?

It’s true that imagery is becoming increasingly important in the delivery of news. You see it in many ways - the rise of online video consumption; the development of interactive graphics and animation; even the way in which TV news studios use much bigger screens and have greater visual impact. This is partly to do with the development of technology, and partly because of an increased demand from audiences for content to be produced more attractively – if we don’t engage audiences, then we can hardly be surprised if they go to a competitor which engages them more, even if we think the quality of our journalism is higher. So I think we will see this trend continuing, and we will all have to work harder on the presentation side of what we do, while never losing sight of the real purpose which is to deliver the best quality journalism we can.

You’ll be taking part in the Media Summit at this year’s Global Media Forum. What’s your position in the discussion about whether and how the growing need for information could potentially lead to the trivialization of news programming?

That’s what we’ll be discussing on the panel so I don’t want to give away all of my argument! But I am mostly optimistic – I think there is a growing demand for news, and that it will reach audiences in all forms – sometimes instant and short-form, other times more analytical or revelatory. I don’t think we live in a world where it’s either/or.

Are there alternatives to "more speed, less depth, and more violence" – and what is the media’s responsibility in that respect?

Yes of course there are alternatives, and in any case, I don’t think that is a fair characterization of the overall direction of travel for the media – it’s just one part of the story. Speed and brevity are certainly very strong trends at the moment, but the challenge for us as journalists is to convert interest in short-form into a desire for greater depth. At least, if we believe our mission is to help audiences understand the world they live in.

You recently gave a speech in honor of Dunja Mijatović, who was awarded the Médaille Charlemagne European media prize for her work on freedom of the press. What is your take on the growing limitations to freedom of expression, for example in China?

The BBC supports freedom of expression in the media, and deplores any attempt to prevent our news services from audiences which want to consume us. But it is regrettably true that there are many places in the world where it is harder for us to gather the news, and harder to get to audiences. Also, journalists around the world have come under threat for doing their jobs – some have lost their lives; others are in prison, many face regular intimidation. But it is also true that it has never been easier to communicate with a mass audience, using new technology, and so I am optimistic that it will be possible over time for more people to receive information freely, and to be able to make their own decisions about whose news they can trust.