Posted by: paulacunniffe | 09/13/2010

Convergence – pie in the Sky?

Sky News is a 24 hour news network which broadcasts in the UK and across Europe. It is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch and is part of the Sky group (they have various TV channels and sell satellite boxes –like Cox). The station and its website are examples of convergence culture in the creative industries.

Their website dedicates an entire section for users’ videos and photos and every hour broadcasts some of these videos and photos as part of their newscast. They even rate the videos in a poll, picking the Top 5 of the hour.

There is also a blogs section, written by the station’s editors. Within this section is a blog written by ‘eyewitnesses’. The eyewitness blog is a prime example of citizen journalism. The role of audience as receiver of news becomes blurred as they also take on the role of producer.

Eyewitness blogs

Another interactive element of the website is a discussion board where viewers discuss political and social issues. Interestingly there are ‘house rules’ for posting comments which prohibit commenting on cases in the courts etc.

However, the media professionals are still controlling what is posted online. Take this example. A user called Kingdomoffife starts a thread about a British politician who was accused of using racial divisions in his constituency to get elected. Two users try to reply giving the name of the politician but both of their comments are removed. Obviously such an accusation could be considered defamatory and Sky News is avoiding litigation. Nevertheless I think it illustrates Deuze’s point about control still lying largely in the hands of the media.

This blog on The Guardian’s website talks about Sky News’ ‘experiment’ with citizen journalism as part of media production. It was published in 2007 and so I admit isn’t current. It could now be updated to Sky News ’embracing’ citizen journalism. Nevertheless, it does show how Sky News has been embracing convergence culture. The example given is Sky News asking ‘consumers’ to post videos that demonstrate local climate change- acting as reporters themselves. Julian March, executive producer of Sky, is quoted as saying that these people had ‘something sensible to say’ and ‘thanks to the technology…could say it in a meaningful and engaging way.’

In a more practical sense, I’m sure it also made Sky’s life a lot easier to have people send in videos instead of sending out reporters to cover the story nationwide. Plus, as Deuze says, it allows Sky News to ‘increase revenue and further the agenda of industry while at the same time enabling people…to enact some kind of agency regarding the omnipresent messages and commodities of this industry’ (pp 247)

Sky News is a good example of media’s participation with ‘consumers’ – their website allows the audience to produce content and engaging in discussion with other users. It is much more interactive than other British news stations, even the BBC for example, which is mainly top-down professional driven content.

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Responses

  1. Sky News’ eyewitness blog is an interesting form of citizen journalism. While users of the website are both consumers and producers just as Deuze said, I found myself wondering if contributors to the website can really be called complete “producers” because I would think that not everything submitted to the website is posted. The discussion of the “house rules” for the forums and the removal of comments regarding a thread about a British politician reminded me of Hess and his discussion of YouTube. While I agree with citizen journalism as a means of keeping users involved with the news, I worry about the credibility of some of the submitted entries.

  2. Blogs and discussion boards of Sky News are great convergent examples for “interactive journalism”. But I do not know why I felt the active users who provided discussions and involved in blogging were being used because the content published are selected by the media professionals. It seems to be fair enough but the freedom of speech is not guaranteed on this website. I am sure media professionals in Sky News are not only ones doing this. I wonder if there is an interactive website where the content is not controlled.

  3. http://kayleythomas.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/convergence-marketing-creativity-creating-in-the-market-at-cafepress/#comment-41

    http://sunnyuf.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/convergence-a-case-study-of-fan-community/#comment-19

    http://sadiecone10.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/convergence-culture-a-look-at-fanfiction-net/#comment-27

  4. You say you thought “it also made Sky’s life a lot easier to have people send in videos instead of sending out reporters to cover the story nationwide.” But do you think this UGC really replaces trained journalists and the stories they would choose to cover?

    I’m not saying the UGC is worse. I’m just saying it’s different. People who are not journalists are not likely to jump into a war zone and start shooting video, for example (unless they live in the middle of the war zone).

    The BBC might well be less interactive than Sky on a day-to-day basis, but they are good at sucking in the UGC and using it online during a crisis event.


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