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PM Programme reaches 40

April 6, 2010

David Hendy, prize-winning author of “Life on Air: a history of  Radio 4”, talks about the PM programme – it’s place in the schedules and how it was received.

Dr Hendy  is Reader in Media and Communication at the University of Westminster, and was previously a producer for the BBC. To hear his comments on the programme go to:

OFCOM rules on Sky Sport

April 6, 2010

University of Westminster Professor of Communications Steven Barnett writes about the OFCOM ruling on Sky and the wholesaling of its sports channels.

BBC axe falls on Asian Network

March 16, 2010

Coverage of the BBC’s announcement to close the Asian Network  has largely ignored one key aspect.

While the impending demise of BBC’s only radio station for ethnic minorities may further erode the multicultural credentials of a public service broadcaster, the closure may be connected with the success and accessibility of Indian media products among the British Asian population. In the past decade, the digital revolution has transformed the ethnic media landscape in Britain.

Today, South Asians in Britain have access to myriad media outlets – from Bollywood and Bollywoodized entertainment, to dedicated sports channels, as well as news and current affairs networks and religious programming.

What is more, these are increasingly available in the different languages of the sub-continent. Commercial stations such as Sunrise Radio have a huge following among older South Asians, while the social media scene is thriving among a generation growing up with the YouTube and Facebook. The academic community has not kept up with this excitement and innovation in the media industry.

Despite the exponential growth of media in India,  academic study in that country remains at an early stage, while in Britain it has yet to go beyond exoticism or tokenism. The University of Westminster – which pioneered Media Studies in the UK and hosts the top media research department in the country – has taken a major initiative by setting up an India Media Centre to study this phenomenon in a global context.

Launched on March 9, the India Media Centre of which I am Co-Director with Rosie Thomas (Head of CREAM), is to create a locus for research and scholarship on media in India and its globalising tendencies.

Dr. Daya Thussu

Professor of International Communication and Co-Director of India Media Centre

Those BBC cuts

March 3, 2010

by Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History.

The BBC Trust had been battling away at the need for the BBC to focus and get out of every platform.

However someone leaked the document…..but it could all be quite wise as the politicians have got into the habit of thinking that doing things to the BBC is fine as the Mail likes it and ditto News Corp.

But they may have forgotten that the British public likes, uses, takes for granted BBC web and everything else and there may be and is a big political reaction.

BBC throws digital lambs to the slaughter

March 2, 2010

Proposals by the BBC to cut back their digital radio offering along with large sections of their website look pretty alarming, writes Matthew Linfoot

There may be some succor in the annals of media history, as the BBC had to mull over the possibility of swinging cuts in the past. During the 1970s for instance, the axe nearly fell on either Radios 1 and 2, and BBC Local Radio because of one financial crisis or another.

Of course they were spared but the political forces marshalling now, alongside the commercial opposition make drastic changes to the BBC’s output look pretty certain.

Westminster University Professor Jean Seaton in the Guardian points out that the time is nigh for the BBC to work out what it’s for, and to cut its cloth accordingly. ( But whichever way you look at it, the sacrificial lambs on the altar are hard to justify.

The removal of the two digital stations, 6Music and the Asian Network, would leave two groups of listeners out in the cold. If a digital station has got to go, you can’t help wondering why these two communities have been singled out – why not BBC7 or 1Extra? They may not be huge audiences in terms of numbers, but then the services don’t cost that much, comparatively, to run (6Music £7million; Asian Network £9million). And the commercial sector certainly can’t or won’t cater for either of these audiences. Xfm is the closest you get to 6Music (and that’s the station that tried to phase out its presenters a while ago: 6Music’s presenters are one of the keys to its distinctiveness). And commercial Asian stations regularly fall by the wayside (Club Asia was the latest, shutting down in August 2009).

From a university and training perspective, 6Music would leave a big gap. Our students do very well with work placements on programmes like Tom Robinson, and the station has provided first destination employment for Westminster graduates too. Equally worrying, looking further afield, is the proposal to ditch the Blast website, which caters for teenagers and those in their early twenties. Blast runs workshops and placements within various areas of production at the BBC and provides a useful stepping stone into the world of media for young people of different backgrounds and experiences. Surely this kind of access to media outlets is what the licence fee should be supporting? What can be the justification for cutting adrift the next generation of producers, reporters, editors, presenters, web writers?

There’s also one more serious implication of the severance of 6Music and the Asian Network, which is harder to avoid. That’s the future of digital radio in the UK. The BBC and the commercial radio industry, with great government encouragement, have promoted the DAB system. But frankly it’s not working. The technical quality isn’t that good (there’s not even decent national coverage), it’s expensive to broadcast on and other countries are adopting a different technology (DRM – Digital Radio Mondiale).

Global Radio cut back on their digital offering, and if the BBC does the same, there must be a very big question mark over the whole enterprise in its current form.

One glimmer of hope might be the ‘realpolitik’ of this kite flying: perhaps the government will tell the BBC that the digital enterprise is too valuable to lose and will ask it to look elsewhere for money-saving ideas. Meanwhile fans of 6Music and the Asian Network will take to their Twitters and Facebooks to persuade the BBC to stop picking on radio.

Building the future of learning environments (video)

November 27, 2009

In this short video, David Gauntlett was interviewed at the BCSE World Learning Environments Conference, 12 November 2009, where we invited delegates to build representations of the key ideas or values that would be embodied by an ideal learning environment.

This is part of ongoing research where we give people different kinds of tools to communicate their ideas. These are sometimes online, Web 2.0 tools … at other times, it’s more hands-on and physical. Here, to give a voice to diverse delegates at the conference, and to share ideas, they are building their ideas using the familiar medium of Lego. Clip courtesy of Gleeds TV.

Also, and more crucially, you can view photos of the models that were built. They are helpfully labelled by the people who built them. Six appear below, and you can view the complete set on Flickr.

Media Training – providing First Aid.

November 23, 2009

The journalism department’s commercial arm WestMedia extended its range on Saturday working with St John Ambulance young volunteers to give them media training.

The youth and enthusiasm of the 20 or so “pupils” we had for the day was refreshing.

The organisation’s Media Day was to teach these young volunteers how the media can be used for profile-raising and recruitment. I had not realised quite how big SJA is, or indeed how many young people it covers and the range of skills it teaches. As well as the obvious First Aid, it works with young carers as well as teaching  teamwork and “soft” skills.

Given their age profile (from 14 to 20) we created a different type of course for the day with much more emphasis on the internet as a means of communicating as it is in that generation. David Gyimah author of View Magazine, and one our Senior Lecturers, gave an all-singing, all-dancing presentation about how the web can be used, even creating a video in the lecture theatre to put online.

Simon Fyles, the editor of our Harrow community site TheHA1, reached back to his experience in news radio to put some of the youngsters through a radio interview in our studio at New Cavendish Street. What impressed me was not only how media-fluent the interviewees were already, but how quickly they took on the lessons we taught.

Organised through the youth department we were supported by the the St. John Ambulance PR department who were excellent at providing supporting details behind the key messages they wanted these students to understand. For many of the young people it was perhaps the first time they had been able to see the wider picture of the organisation and appreciate its truely national role.

Overall I think it was an excellent experience for those of us teaching and I think the trainees got a lot from it too.

Geoffrey Davies