BBC Radio 5Live – Breakfast: Social Media at its height?

BBC Radio 5 Live is a station that embraces social media. 5 Live Breakfast uses 4 types of social media to connect with its audience.

Besides the regular Breakfast show, the daily Breakfast phone is dedicated to listener conversation and comment.  According to Steve Bowbrick, editor of the 5 live blog, the success the programme is largely down to the interaction with the listeners.  Social media allows the programme to stay in contact with its audience, whilst also monitoring popular themes and topics which can become programme content.  Listeners become part of the show, and when the programme goes off air, listeners can continue to debate.  No longer is a show’s content limited to the its broadcast time slot.

Social media is actually crucial to 5 Live a lot. Being a talk radio station, presenters are constantly repeating ‘call 0500 909 693. Text 85050. Email via the website:’. The station depends through out its schedule on conversation and comment with its listeners. Regular debates and discussion programmes are a key feature of the station’s programming and therefore demonstrates the importance though the phone-lines, emails, blogs and Facebook groups (Listening to Livesey as an example) can play.



March 21, 2010 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

Jason on Social Media: the end?

I have certainly learnt a lot from our SMiLE investigation. To me, social media has become an increasingly valuable tool as a journalist , both in collecting news and in news output.

–          Faster news is now a reality through social media.

–          Accuracy though still needs to be maintained.

–          Nurturing your community? Yes I agree! Despite being a relatively unknown journalist, I have 60 followers on Twitter, including Cornwall Council, Toyota and Grant Shapps MP!

–          Certainly social media has become an integral part of many programmes…BBC WHYS and BBC Radio 5 Live’s 6-0-6 are just two examples which are based entirely on the use of social media; without them, these programmes would simply not exist, or be able to function.

Social media though is constantly evolving…who knows what future will hold. I suppose General Election 2010 might give us a few clues.


March 21, 2010 at 11:40 pm 1 comment

“Put it on a post-card and send it to last week…”

…may have been some people’s experience of customer service. But according to a survey done by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), more and more customers are voicing their complaints through “social media”.

One third of the customers who were surveyed said that they dealt with bad service, by writing a bad review on the company’s website.

When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. The process of making a customer complaint gives rise to a highly confrontational situation. Not only are you making a criticism of that company TO a company rep, you’re also voicing anger or dissatisfaction to a person who you’ve never met before. I’m not surprised that it may make a fair few people feel uncomfortable or nervous.

Doing it via the internet takes away the conflict element of the complaints procedure. The outcome may also be less personalized, and therefore less satisfactory, but it gives shy customers a way in.

What are the implications of this for social media and the news? Well, I think that shows us a key point about the psychology of the internet, useful for news-gathering. The relative anonymity of social media means that nervous people may be more willing to speak up, or get in touch to talk about an issue, if first contact is made online. For news-gathering, this provides a new way of getting good interviewees to come forward, when they may have otherwise felt a little startled by being phoned up or approached in person.


March 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm 1 comment

Forget The Sun… Facebook could be the new election clincher

We’ve heard about Webcam, (cringe) and Sarah Brown’s tweets, dear ol’ Mr PM and his youtube attempts… But they seemed to me more like amusing follies, and unlikely to really make or break an election campaign.

But today, Channel 4 has been talking about the upcoming national voting session as “the first Facebook election”. It’s running the story because tomorrow Facebook is launching a page called “Democracy UK”, which will detail campaign news from each of the major parties.

When I was researching my PFW documentary, I asked a lot of young people about how they think Facebook could get young people more involved in politics. The general response was this: it worked for Obama, but it mainly  because he got young people to do a lot of canvassing via social media. This meant that it was young people talking to other young people through “young people’s” media. In contrast, the majority of people thought that Webcam was ridiculous, and that it seems like an embarrassing after-thought for politicians to shamelessly hunt votes by awkwardly jumping onto the social media band-wagon.

When I asked the same group of young people ways in which they would suggest getting British youth more involved in politics through social media, they all seemed to recognize the potential, but not one was able to suggest means of doing it. And I think that Democracy UK might well be right on the money!

Being able to inform yourself on party policy – by doing a simple search onto a Facebook page, whilst you’re chatting to your friends and admiring the glossy picture you have of yourself at the top of the screen – really brings policy to where the people are. The main reason that young people don’t vote, is because they’re not informed enough. (If you have any doubts about this, I’ve got an 8 minute documentary of pure radio genius to convince you of the point… :-D) If it’s not the over-arching reason, it’s certainly a factor. And I think that being able to casually peruse for party policy all within the comfort and safety of your own Facebook account, means there’s a good chance that young people at least will be more knowledgeable and more therefore perhaps more likely to vote in the coming election.

As channel 4 nimbly makes the point, there are 24 Facebook users in the UK. Almost as many people as the number who voted in the last election. Facebook could really make for some shiny electronic political capital.


March 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm 2 comments

Trusting the Source

The death of Alexander McQueen is a prime example of how the news media has become so fast in delivering news to its audience.  Within minutes of the press release announcing McQueen’s death, Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets and blog posts throughout the world ‘re-announced’ his death to their followers. It is only through recent technological developments and social media that this flurry of information (or Twitter storm of information) has been able to take place.

Previously it was the race between the news agencies of who could release script to the news broadcaster first. This race continues, but now in cyberspace. AP, Reuters, BBC News, Sky News, ITN News all have twitter accounts (and some also Facebook accounts) and quickly release information to their audience. As soon as the death was announced, news providers quickly tweeted the tragic death of the fashion designer. We, as journalists as well as members of the public, knew about it almost instantaneously…no need to wait on a website update or TV bulletin broadcast.

However, we were trusting reliable sources. AFP began operations in 1835, AP was created in 1846, Reuters in 1851 and BBC News (the largest broadcast news operation in the world) began TV broadcasts in 1954.  All share a wealth of impartiality and reliability.  But would you trust a citizen journalist or a simple blogger?

Although social media has opened up the opportunities of the news industry to embrace its audience and for ordinary members of the public to provide new sources of information and news, independent editorial control must still be maintained. Information must be still checked, facts still verified, before a trusted source (such as a major news agency or broadcaster) transmits the news to the wider public, especially if the source is an unknown citizen.

Though social media is an excellent source for providing new news and information, trustworthiness from an audience point-of-view will always rely on the prominent news providers ensuring accuracy. If information is not checked by the output editor, confidence in the news provider will soon diminish and audiences possibly become sceptical over the reliability of the news provider if the info is proved to be wrong.


March 21, 2010 at 8:40 pm 2 comments

Al-Jazeera’s Listening Post – another example of Conversation & Comment

Al-Jazeera’s Listening Post is another example of how conversation and comment plays a role news output. The show is a weekly insight into how the news is covered by the world’s media.

An important item of the Listening Post is Global Village Voices.  Similar to BBC WHYS, the programme invites its audience to interact with the show through email, Facebook and Twitter. Through webcams, mobile phones and video messages, Listening Post directly connects with its audience and features viewer’s opinions in the show.  Viewers are also encouraged to submit possible stories to be covered in the show as well as suggest a movie for Web Video of the Week.

Below is an example of how the Listening Post incorporated its audience’s views of the controversal Iranian elections of 2009.


March 21, 2010 at 7:00 pm Leave a comment

BBC World Have Your Say comes to Falmouth: a Social Media review

During February 2010, I had the opportunity to take part in the production of an edition of BBC World Have Your Say (BBC WHYS), the daily live conversation and comment radio programme from the BBC World Service.

The programme (whose podcast series can be listened to here) that we broadcast was a special edition of the show as it featured prominent Harvard University academic, Professor Michael Sandel. Prof. Sandel specialises in political philosophy and has run the popular Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do? lecture series for many years.

Impact of social media

Right from the start of the day, it was evident how much the show relied upon social media. Following a production meeting with a live telephone link with the BBC in London, Falmouth’s MA International Journalists were split into groups of two and each assigned a region of the globe, i.e. Pakistan & India, Africa, China, South America and the Middle East. We were all set a task to find bloggers in our assigned region to join the show and debate live with Prof. Sandel. (The BBC team knew they had a large audience in America and that they would automatically call-in).

I and my friend Alex were set the task of contacting bloggers in China that were able to comment on the subject. We searched the Internet, including Twitter, blogspot and Facebook in order to contact possible guest/contributors. We were though racing against the clock (not least that the programme went on air in 7 hours!) as China is GMT+8 hours. Helen (a producer on BBC WHYS) was also able to provide Alex and I with a list of guests who had previously contributed to BBC WHYS. Armed with a list of potential leads, we hit the phone-lines.

It was unfortunate that we were unable to secure a guest from China. As Helen said, we were ‘really up against it’. We did try our hardest though, making contact with people both in China and in the UK and Europe, both bloggers and academics.


I volunteered for the task of ‘tweeting the show’, a regular feature of the programme to keep BBC WHYS in touch with its audience. As the clocked ticked towards 18:00 GMT, I was already twittering away, informing our audience of over 1,700 followers of the location of tonight’s broadcast (incidentally at Gyllyngvase beach café). During the show, I kept the followers up-to-date of the show’s discussion and debate; it was essentially a running commentary of the programme (with a few additional tweets thrown in!). The BBC’s Heba also had responsibility for social media. She monitored the programme’s blog and consistently feed Ros (the BBC WHYS presenter) with blog posts and comments from listeners. The whole show was geared toward to audience participation and interaction and was truly reliant on engaging with its listeners.


In conclusion, it was clear from my time with the WHYS team how important social media was. I remember Sheetal (Output Editor) commenting that without the evolution of social media, the show could simply not function. For this programme, the BBC is fully reliant on social media; for cultivating and nurturing its online community as an audience and as participants. Through the blog, the Twitter feed, the YouTube channel, the Facebook group and the telephone lines, social media technology plays a prime role in everything the programme does.

Note: During the BBC’s time in Falmouth, the WHYS team also posted a series of videos on their YouTube channel which can be viewed here.


March 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm 1 comment

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