Mark Byford: Change to ensure continuity

Mark Byford
Deputy Director-General of the BBC, Mark Byford

Another Thursday, another Reports and Reported session and last week (6 November, 2009) Mark Byford spoke to us.

Mark is the Deputy Director-General of the BBC and head of all its journalism. He joined the BBC in 1979, aged 20, as a “temporary holiday relief assistant”. Now 30 years on and Mark is responsible for journalism at local, national and international levels.

Speaking about the BBC, Mark explained that it is necessary to “change to ensure continuity”. Nowadays people can get their news in many different ways.

As Mark said, a key fact that we need to remember is: “The public are now in control of where and how they want news.”

People can read, listen and watch news. They can view it on the television, on the radio, online and via their mobile phone.

This is represented in recent figures regarding how people interact with the BBC weekly. The BBC has an 80 per cent reach in the UK.

Over 10.4 million people either watch a programme, listen to the radio, look at information via their mobile phone or read things online. However, the amount of people changes between each platform. For example, the amount of people watching TV is falling, radio listeners are staying the same and online and mobile users are increasing:

BBC reach

Using the BBC as an example, it is necessary for journalists to stay relevant and change the way they present their information to reflect societal challenges.

My age group are part of the “internet generation” and using the internet is simply part of our everyday life. Now and then I have paused to think about how extraordinary the internet is but, more often than not, I am simply using the internet as a communication tool – as a way of seeing what the news is, connecting to my friends, and staying on track with my postgrad diploma.

However, people do still look at television to provide their news and entertainment. Viewing figures released from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) shows that there is a daily UK television audience of 79.6 per cent.

Whilst it is important to bear in mind the changes in society, in order to keep our journalism fresh and up-to-date, it is worth remembering Mark’s key values for producing the best journalism:

  • Excellence
  • Ambition
  • Creativity
  • Originality
  • Integrity
  • Authority
  • Authenticity
  • Curiosity

As journalists we are serving the public interest, be it whether the public are going to watch, read or listen to our reported information. Simple values need to be kept, regardless of whether we are writing for online, television or print. Responsible journalism is vital to the future of our profession.

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