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13 June 2006

Less reality TV, more global reality

John Barrett, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, today called on ITV and Channel 4 to improve their coverage of global issues after a new report accused both stations of ignoring factual global issues.

The report, published by the University of Westminster found that Channel 4’s output of factual foreign coverage had fallen to just 36 hours a year, while ITV were accused of having “almost evacuated the area completely” after reality show Celebrity Love Island accounted for three quarters of factual programming about developing countries.

Mr Barrett, a member of the Commons International Development Select Committee has written to the Chief Executives of ITV and Channel 4 calling for more time to be devoted to coverage of global issues.

John Barrett said:

“Our terrestrial television channels undoubtedly make a major contribution to the UK’s culture, economy and communities. However, there must be real concern that so little time is devoted to issues of real global importance.

“When Celebrity Love Island makes up three quarters of a channels factual programming on developing countries then serious questions have to be asked about the content balance and focus of terrestrial television.

“Too often we see stations opting for lowest common denominator programming with countless reality and TV makeover shows. I simply do not accept that the British public are not interested in issues of a wider global significance.

“As a member of the International Development Committee I am well aware of the excellent work many television crews have done to bring the plight of famine, droughts, and war in poorer countries on to our TV screens. Often aid has followed when the public have had these images brought into their own homes.

“It was the reporting of Michael Beurk in Ethiopia that triggered Live Aid. It is important that the dedicated journalists and TV crews on the ground have the backing of the decision makers at ITV and Channel 4.

“I look forward to hearing what both companies will be doing to redress this current imbalance in programming content.”


Notes

John Barrett has written to Andy Duncan Chief Executive of Channel 4 Television, and Charles Allen, Chief Executive of ITV asking them to devote more air time to issues of global importance.

Mr Barrett has also tabled a number of parliamentary questions to the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, asking what her department is doing to encourage terrestrial broadcasters to focus more on global issues.

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This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.