Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Media must keep up with the times

It will come as no surprise to anyone that daytime television schedules on the BBC are greeted with underwhelming enthusiasm by viewers.

Reality shows and repeats are big turn-offs, yet that is the kind of scheduling that the Corporation persists in broadcasting. At best it is unadventurous, at worst, insulting to viewers.

The viewers, as represented by the Audience Council, certainly gave the BBC food for thought in their forthright opinions. Interestingly - and this is a challenge for all the media in Northern Ireland, not just the BBC - they are tired of the stereotypical portrayal of the province, concentrating on security and political issues. Northern Ireland is a much changed place since the ending of the Troubles, but its image is often still portrayed as negative.

Of course there are examples of outstanding drama based on past events - Five Minutes of Heaven starring James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson is one - but that was due in large part to the quality of the writing and the acting. National audiences may react better to out-of-date themes than local viewers who know reality here today.

Among the most challenging comments from viewers was that the BBC should be more of a risk taker. At a time when commercial broadcasters, like other traditional media, are facing revenue cuts, the BBC has the advantage of the licence fee budget. For once it is the broadcaster with real clout and it should be more innovative in its mainstream broadcasting. It is no use saying BBC3 or BBC4 with their minority audiences are showing cutting edge shows. Those programmes should be on the main BBC stations which are available to all viewers.

Given the wide choice available in broadcasting and other media nowadays, viewers and readers have become more discerning and more ready to speak their mind. Broadcasters and newspapers would do well to heed what their customers are saying if they want to keep them.

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