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Issues within factual programming

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Charlotte Ranson

on 2 April 2015

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Transcript of Issues within factual programming

Access is the opportunity to get hold of something. This may refer to access of information about a certain event, access to locations to film in, or access to actors. Producers may come across issues in trying to access archive footage, or gaining permission to include footage or information. If producers come across issues with access then it will cause them delays in filming and this could potentially cost them lots of money.
Balance is to depict both sides of the topic, however this becomes difficult for the creator as they may be tempted to almost depict one side of the argument in a more pleasant light based on their personal opinions.

Balance is an issue for producers as it is almost impossible to create a truly balanced piece of factual TV, and it is an issue for the audience because they dont know if it is truly balanced, and therefore how reliable it is. They may end up believing one opinion on a topic because they think that they're being told a balanced opinion, yet actually the programme is somewhat biased, presenting one side in a slightly nicer light.
Accuracy is to do with making sure the information you are giving to the audience is correct. Often, producers will dramatize factual TV programming, to make it more interesting for the audience to watch and keep them hooked, however often when the audience realize that they are being mislead by the program, they will stop watching. This is an issue for the producer, because the conflicting possibilities give them a hard decision of producing an entirely accurate programme, or dramatising it to make it more interesting and therefore keeping the viewers more hooked.
Issues in Factual TV production
Issues within factual programming
- Access
- Accuracy
- Balance
- Impartiality
- Objectivity
- Subjectivity
Impartiality is to keep both sides entirely fair, meaning that you depict both sides of the topic equally, and the creater does not show their personal preference to either side.

If you arent impartial, it can undermine the credibility of the tv programme. Tv programming influences everybodies lives, and so a lack of impartiality
- Privacy
- Opinion
- Contract with viewer
- Representation
- Bias
Contract with Viewer
For example...
Objectivity is the use of facts to support at least one argument on a selected topic, an issue for the producer because they have to ensure all of their facts are entirely true. The creator may not be balanced or impartial, but as long as they use facts to support their opinion, they are being objective.
This is the use of the directors personal opinion, not particularly based on any facts or solid evidence, an issue for the producer because it they are misleading the audiences knowledge. The creator should try to avoid this. It is acceptable to state your opinion, so long as the viewers know that it is your opinion and it is not necessarily an opinion the general public should follow.
When initially completing research into a certain topic, it is important to gather both quantitative data and qualitative data. The qualitative data tends to be based around the samples opinions. It is important to keep a balance whilst showing opinions. This is vital when it comes to keeping an argument fair because if you show too many opinions stating they agree with an argument it will make the show seem biased towards that, which is something you try to prevent if you wish to keep a discussion fair. Presenters often dont mention their opinion as it can make viewers believe they’re being biased. An issue for a producer may be the difficulty of producing an oppinionated piece of factual TV, while at the same time not angering audience members who do not agree with that opinion.

Bias is leaning to one side of the argument, so depending on the types of factual programme created, the creator will either try to avoid bias (ie on the news) or they will use their bias to try to sway their audience into thinking similarly (ie in expository documentaries). Bias can often be an issue for audience members, as audiences are often highly influenced by factual TV programming, so it becomes an issue if they do not know that they can trust a source that they rely on to tell them all of the facts, rather than only a selection of them.
Representation is how you depict a topic. Every time that you pick up a camera and point it at something, you are choosing what the viewer will see and what they wont see. This will always have a direct affect on their view of the outcome. Producers might find issues within this, in representing a topic unfairly, but the main issue with representation is the use of stereotyping. Despite stereotyping constantly happening, factual tv creators should try to avoid it as often it winds up to be wrong and unfair.
Privacy can often be an issue for producers as there is a very blurred line as to what can be reported. Every person has a right to their own privacy, but the media often argue that they should be able to report on anything in the publics interest. However, often reporters will step over the line and go to far to attempt to get a story to report, for instance 'The News of The World' were involved in a particularly bad phone hacking scandal. They gained access to a missing girls mobile phone voicemails and were listening to them to create their news story, however the police and the family could see that the voicemails could be accessed, leading them to believe that the girl was still alive.
The contract with the viewer is an unwritten rule of the idea that both parties (the producer and the audience) understand the entirety of how factual the programme actually is. Generally, it is the audiences accepting that what they're being shown is a representation of reality, however there are instances where the factual TV creators are placed at fault for breaking this contract.
For example there was a big scandal when the reality TV series 'The Hills' ended, as the audience believed that they were watching a factual (observational) documentary of these peoples lives, however the last shot of the show ended up panning out from a scene and revealing a massive soundstage with sets and rigged lighting and sound etc. The audience were so surprised by this and were horrified that they hadnt actually been shown real life as they thought. This lead to a lot of anger among the fooled viewers.
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Louis Theroux - a place for arguments
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In Iraq, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), believed that Sadan Hussain had weapons of mass destruction. Iraqis were required to allow inspectors into Iraq to search sites where it was believed WMD existed. Tv programmers followed inspectors while they checked for weapons of mass destruction, but were only shown places where Iraqis wanted to show them. This led to confusion in the general public because it was innacurately reported that there were weapons of mass destruction, a large causal role in beginning the Iraq war.
In North Korea, access for a tv person is very restricted as it is a closed community. This can become an issue for both the producers and the audience as what is being filmed is highly censored. North Korean authorities follow around the crew and only allow them to film certain peices, often for propaganda. This then leads to a misunderstanding in the general public about what North Korea is really like.

Specifically, the BBC sent a group of students with a reporter to North Korea, and claimed that they were on a educational trip. While there, Sweeny, the reporter that went with the students described North Korea as a "Nazi state" that practised the "most extreme form of censorship".
During the Scottish Referendum, there was a very clear cut yes vote or no vote. From a producers point of view, it is very important to remain balanced and give both sides of the argument an equal amount of air time and opportunity to present their arguments to remain credible. Similarly, when interviewing people for each side of the argument, they needed to ensure that the seniority of arguers was balanced (for instance interviewing Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, compared to a junior minister from government who knows little about Scotland) and that representatives from both sides were receiving the same questioning (ie hard or soft questions)
In reference to the upcoming election, news programmes have to be impartial when reporting on election progress. Historically there have been two main parties; conservatives and labour, with a third party being liberal democrats. It is very important to not influence voters for one party, otherwise TV producers may be accused of political bias and undermining democracy in the UK. With the rise of UKIP over past year, this has been tested further, as in the early stages of UKIP it was viewed as an extremist right wing party, whereas now the political commentators need to treat them as a credible option.
'The News of The World' were involved in a particularly bad phone hacking scandal. They gained access to a missing girls mobile phone voicemails and were listening to them to create their news story, however the police and the family could see that the voice mails could be accessed, leading them to believe that the girl was still alive. This is a horrific violation of the girls, and the families privacy causing the family more distress than they really had to go through. It did end with many of the reporters going to prison because of this violation.
During the public trial of Oscar Pistorius, a large proportion of public opinion of Oscar Pistorius was of the view that he had deliberately murdered his girlfriend. It was therefore important that the TV news casts presented the facts objectively so as to represent the arguments for both the prosecution and the defence equally, because if Oscar Pistorius did turn out to be innocent, and the TV news were not objective leading the audience to believe that he was guilty, it could effectively ruin any future chances in life.
Following TV and press coverage of attacks on small children by Pitbull Terriors, the public transpose the danger associated with one dog onto the whole breed, meaning that alll Pitbull Terriors have become known as a danger to small children, whereas the reality may have been that one dog, in certain circumstances, became vicious and attacked a child. If the media had been subjective whilst reporting on this piece, then the public may not be as predisposed in their disliking Pitbull Terriors.
With an increase in obesity in the UK in recent years there have been a reported rise in other health related issues associated with obesity bearing in mind a proportion of the audience may themselves be obese, it is important that the reporters use factual, objective data to support their stories and prove their argument.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human development carried out a study into the effects of day care on young children. It was reported that the more time children spent in day care the more assertive, disobedient and aggressive the child would become. However, it was later discovered that the media decided to hide a very important piece of data - that actually 83% of the children who attended day care did not become more assertive, aggresive of disobedient. This then suggests that the media were biased in reporting only selected findings from the study that supported their argument.
In reality TV, the creators will select stereotypical candidates who they believe will make the audience want to continue watching. For instance in 'Im A Celebrity: Get Me out of here!' the contestants included a typical blonde model (Amy Willerton), a very 'laddish' boy (Joey Essex), who entered a relationship during the show. They also introduced a stereotypical camp man (David Emanuel), the opposite of what the show is about; a posh girl who is afraid of everything (Annabel Giles) and a controversial person to cause arguments and drama (Matthew Wright).
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