webinar480Wednesday 15th July 
webinar, 15:30 CET / 14:30 GMT

So how has regional broadcasting done so far? What can we learn from our experiences covering the pandemic? As concerns grow about the possibility of a second spike in Covid in the autumn and winter, this was the question regional editors came together to discuss in the latest Circom webinar.

Discussions amongst the eight countries present focused on some key questions. Firstly, did staff have the right knowledge and skills to be able to interpret information which very often was in data or statistical form? The group acknowledged that often journalists came from an arts background, having studied languages, politics or history. But overnight, they needed people who could find the stories in the figures and translate them into good television. Having strong relationships with outside organisations and experts knowledgeable in specific areas would be key to success.

Another key question discussed was how well stations had served audiences on digital platforms. Were online and social media teams strong enough and well organised enough to know how best to engage with audiences? The webinar was joined by David Tracz the Head of Social Media for BBC England. He explained how analysis of social media use showed how unprecedented numbers of people quickly joined Facebook groups and turned to social media to find out what was happening in their area. They wanted hyper-local news; more local than a regional television station could traditionally supply simply due to the large areas they often cover. So ‘social listening’ by teams at the BBC – that is being across conversations on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – meant they were able to pick up great stories at a hyper local level. These stories could then be fed back into television output and help broadcasters build close ties with local communities.

In turn, participants felt that the use of social media had built trust with audiences. Despite the presence of fake news and sometimes confusing government narratives, regional television and its digital services had proved a valuable source of trustworthy news for huge numbers of people. Audience numbers across the board had increased for all broadcasters.

But overall, there was a feeling that teams had adapted quickly; much had been learnt that could be useful as we head into the latter part of the year; support staff who need new skills, make good contacts with outside organisations and specialists, invest in digital platforms and use them to listen to audiences and to find great stories. Recognise audiences want hyper local information. So despite the difficulties, everyone agreed this is a time to learn. As one colleague now famously told us, ‘Don’t waste a good crisis!