Victoria Derbyshire and the future of television media

The BAFTA-winning Victoria Derbyshire Show is to be axed by the BBC due to spending cuts.  Praised for being progressive and female-led, the show has become a nation favourite for younger generations, who have become more withdrawn in attaining headline news from traditional media outlets.

In 2018, the BBC faced criticism for grossly underpaying their top males.  Claudia Winkleman was the highest paid female at £450,000-£500,000 as opposed to Chris Evans, the highest paid male at a salary of between £2,200,000 and £2,249,999. The decision to cancel the show has been thought to be an extension of institutionalised sexism. However, this news does not come at a loss to only females, but to many who have felt disregarded by society; the show was renowned for scoops that championed underserved communities.

Derbyshire was shown disrespect, finding out that her own show had been stopped by reading it in the newspaper. The show had been told that it needed to grow its digital figures, which it had done. Derbyshire tweeted: “We were NEVER asked to grow the linear TV audience. Ever. We were asked to grow our digital audience – we did – our digi figures are huge (our successful digital figures appear to be an inconvenience to those making the decisions).” For an organisation attempting to “modernise” its newsroom, the approach to cutting a show achieving 12.5 million digital figures a month does appear to be, to some, backward.

Its remit was to provide ‘original journalism…reaching underserved audiences [and] growing digital figures’. This paved the way to highlight uncommon stories about the vulnerable and marginalised. On one occasion it broke the taboo around male rape, and sexual abuse, by interviewing footballers who had been sexually abused by the former Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra coach, Barry Bennell. Another story that made real political change was when Jeremy Hunt launched a review into vaginal mesh, after Kath Sampson appeared on the show to raise support for the Sling The Mesh campaign, helping women impacted by the Vaginal Mesh Scandal.

The BBC was once regarded as being at the forefront of news broadcast but has faced criticism over its impartiality and absence of representation, silently being controlled by Westminster. Academic studies have proven that there is systemic prejudice in news coverage, including over the Scottish independence referendum, the 2008 financial crisis and the second Iraq war. After the independence referendum, Professor John Robertson published findings giving evidence of media bias, to which the BBC refused to broadcast but instantly complained about corporate disrepute. In an interview with openDemocracy about his book, ‘The BBC: Myth of a Public Service’, Tom Mills commented on the broadcasters’ independence: “Governments set the terms under which it operates, they appoint its most senior figures, who in future will be directly involved in day-to-day managerial decision making, and they set the level of the licence fee, which is the BBC’s major source of income.” On the other hand, the BBC is largely allowed editorial autonomy, enjoying some freedoms but, in a wider context, remains under a line of political control. It appears nonsensical for a show to be removed reporting on popular yet underrepresented stories.

Younger generations are by no means news illiterate. In fact, schools are now focusing on teaching children to be able to detect fake news and identify bias. Our appetite for news has grown and how it is consumed has had definitive change, with news apps and social media proving popular sources. While some young people may have a television, it will be more likely that this will be used to watch Netflix, rather than the news. Now in lectures it is common that a series of notifications appear at the same time a BBC news story breaks. This means that most will know headline news but do not seek further information into a story.

In the future, it will be important to allow a shift to deeper understanding of stories by faster means, perhaps by increasing the number of shorter videos available on social media for breaking stories. The Victoria Derbyshire show was one of few day shows that engaged young people, making their content accessible and “attracting a working class, young, diverse audience that BBC radio [and] TV progs just don’t reach.”

The BBC is at risk of becoming more dominated by right-wing media, particularly as Boris Johnson has a say in the appointment of the new director general. Thus, it becomes more important that shows like Victoria Derbyshire remain prominent features in the organisation. Few today give such depth coverage to important and topical issues, providing a platform that had previously not existed to many. The response from the public is a testament to how important the show is to its viewers: a petition calling for its reinstatement has collected over 66,00 signatures so far. Perhaps, the BBC should question their morality in cutting programmes that are both hitting their targets and doing social good; and not the salaries of overpaid individuals.

Image: The Radio Academy via Flickr.com

 

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