Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How Should the BBC Use Bloggers on Election Night?


Last May I was one of three bloggers used by the BBC on their local election night coverage. Feedback showed that despite the relatively short time we were on screen, it was the one part of the evening that worked and brought something new to the party. However, looking at the way the American networks used bloggers to report breaking news and give comment during the primary election nights, there's a lot of scope for the BBC and Sky to innovate and expand their use of blogs for the night of the next general election.

If you were running the BBC election night coverage, what would you do? Would you use bloggers to report rumours of particularly interesting results, even though they weren't announced yet, or would that contravene the BBC's duty to only report double-checked, accurate information? Instead of using one blogger per party, is there a more innovative way to use them? Holding Jeremy Vine's cowboy hat, perhaps?

Or perhaps you think bloggers should stay in their bedrooms and leave the professionals to do what they do, er, best...

45 comments:

This Observer said...

In my opinion, Sky News could, and indeed should certainly milk blogosphere rumours for all they are worth. Sky News is all about ratings and getting news out first - checked or otherwise.

Personally, if the BBC resorted to those tactics I'd be pretty disappointed. When I want excitement and conspiratorial entertainment I'll watch Sky, when I want accurate, verified results and impartial commentary I'll watch BBC election coverage.

Letters From A Tory said...

Nothing would bring in more viewers than seeing Iain Dale dance around on screen in a cowboy outfit.

Simon Gardner said...

“Would you use bloggers to report rumours of particularly interesting results, even though they weren't announced yet?”

If you are saying what I think you are saying, then NO. It’s illegal. [I’m sure most people here have been to counts and thus know the detail - so I won’t bother expanding on that.]

Frankly, the broadcasters already sail extremely close to illegality already. A prosecution one day seems inevitable.

Stuart said...

But the World is changing. Why should I watch the BBC's sanctimonious and patronising coverage when I can follow you, Guido, OH and Dolly?

Don't let your ego get the better of you - if blogging works, which it does - don't fix it!

anarchyintheuk said...

Is this not more of the case of bloggers using the BBC.

If the BBC wish to display my blogging on election night, I would be delighted with the traffic.

The trouble with the big corporates is they don't have a clue when they are the one being used.

Free advertising for films, books and music on the BBC already gets me irritated and now we can expect blogs to be freely available.

Sure, we already have click on BBC news 24 advertising websites, but lets not pretend that bloggers or pundits add anything on election night. It has happened, people have voted, it is now just about counting.

Interesting to watch, but news from the blogosphere as with last time, is nothing but a bloggers ego fest and the BBC corporates thinking they are hip.

As for Sky, well news is a pretty loose term now I guess.

Oliver Drew said...

Yeah why not. I think that the BBC should expand their use of the 'blogosphere' on Election Night - if only to get a wider variety of opinion (from commenters and the like).

I think that rumours of interesting results make the evening more interesting so yes, assuming its legal (until Simon Garner said it wasn't I had not thought about it). So far as I can recall, there are always rumours on election nights, both with and without bloggers.

kerryritz said...

You should take a look at this example of crowd sourced journalism in the US http://blog.twittervotereport.com/

A really interesting mash-up all done with volunteers. some fascinating insights and visualisations.

This is something the both BBC and Sky could replicate--they have the tech skills to do this inhouse

troymolloy said...

"When I want [...] accurate, verified results and impartial commentary I'll watch BBC election coverage."

Yeah me too, but I won't get it!

Half The Story said...

Depend son what bloody ties they wear. nasty ties = no tv time, or replaced with a tub of lard......

Doug said...

It's about context. The BBC itself will often report 'rumours' about a particular count and they should do the same with info from the bloggers but couch it in the same unverified tone.

Jeremy Vine needs to be shot. They simply need to take the issue of their election graphics seriously. I think Dimbleby should be replaced by Andrew Neil. And later in the show they should feel free to drop the light, populist stuff and get into some serious number crunching and detailed look at selected results for the junkies.

Simon Gardner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon Gardner said...

Basically everyone at a count (media, party workers, observers et al) have to sign a legal declaration that they won’t disclose any “result” or what’s going on at the count prior to the official announcement.

I’ve actually done it (disclosed full results just prior to a declaration) for ITN but was pretty careful. There was a fat win bonus vis à the BBC.

Old Holborn said...

The BBC can stick my blog up their collective arse.

I suspect Draper is currently greasing his "wide circle" of influence to make sure only Labourlist gets a look in.

Grovel all you want Iain, but get used to life at Sky.

jamesburdett said...

Why just use bloggers on election night? I think that it would certainly be interesting if every so often they had a random blogger on programs like QT or the like.

Simon Gardner said...

Doug said... “I think Dimbleby should be replaced by Andrew Neil.”

Dimblebore should have been replaced at least a decade ago. But if it’s by Neil, I will continue to boycott the BBC on election night.

Bishop Hill said...

Bloggers should be doing this for themselves. The BBC is old hat.

Roger Thornhill said...

what is a "professional"?

Bloggers have basically de-re-intermediated the media anyway.

titus-aduxas said...

I'm not really sure what to say. I do know that Brown likes to pick them and eat them - especially on camera

Desperate Dan said...

One thing I really hate about election coverage is being told the result before it happens. When, at 10pm on election night, the BBC announces smugly that according to their exit polls X has won it takes all the excitement and anticipation out of the results. It makes it into a programme not about the elections but about whether the know-it-all BBC got it right. So, no, I don't want to hear results in advance.
In fact I think you should resist the temptation to appear on the BBC. They've forgotten how to cover elections and the last one was a joke. The only memorable moments were Michael Portillo putting the boot into the Tories and Jeremy Paxman having a tantrum because he didn't agree with the voters of Bethnal Green and Bow - or was that the time before?

Paul Burgin said...

Obviously, being a blogger myeself, I am somewhat biased, but why not! So long as there are warnings from said bloggers that what they are sometimes reporting is only rumour!

Labour for Europe said...

The bloggers should stay on the blogosphere. If the blogosphere is an alternative to the mainstream it doesn't need to become part of that mainstream - and is it really alternative if it needs the mainstream to shine a light on it?

Make the viewers make a choice - if they don't like the mainstream coverage then they can go to the blogosphere for another way of doing things.

I've never understood this obsession (not you specifically, Iain) of bloggers being happy to provide a watred down version of the 'blog experience' to help thr very broadcasters they castigate make their programmes appear relavant.

Andy said...

Why are you so desperate to be mainstream media?

BrianSJ said...

So TotalPolitics isn't hosting something like a Doughty St studio ? with live video on the interweb co-ordinated with coveritlive and people phoning in with webcams, and you, Guido, OH, etc working together in some sort of network? It would leave Sky and the Information Ministry miles behind.

Old Holborn said...

Brian, I like the idea.

I am however uglier than Jade Goody and a sofa that could accomodate Guido AND Iain's arse has yet to be built.

Newmania said...

What is Luke Akenhurst doing there if that is he ? Hardly a major blogger , nice enough and all that but I can think of about a 100 who are better

John M Ward said...

The BBC and/or Sky (or anyone else in the MSM broadcast sector, for that matter) could utilise a limited by valuable input from a few bloggers on election night to good effect, as some commenters here have indicated.

As others have warned, though, bloggers should not be tempted into the mainstream themselves, through exposure, as that would negatively impact the whole blogosphere, especially teh political section of it.

Awareness of the blogosphere by/via the MSM is worthwhile, of course — but there will be traps for the unwary (and even the wary!) to try to reduce credibility, as they are merely looking after their own interests, and none of us should be lulled into thinking otherwise.

It is for the high-profile bloggers to ensure that the rest of us are not tarred by anything they might do, simply because they are the ones who appear on TV or radio on a regular basis (and there are several, not just one or two).

We all have value, we all have something to offer, despite our comparatively low traffic figures, so that must be borne in mind whenever the MSM seek to involve any of our number in specific events.

I am sure no-one here will easily fall prey to those snares out there, but it was still worth putting it on record in response to this specific question.

somersetgrumpy said...

The thing that annoys me with the BBC election night coverage, is that at the start of the programme they go to the election count reporters, but when the actual result comes in they go over to the count when it is halfway through, invariably because they are too busy interviewing politicians in the studio. For the length of the election campaign and before we have seen politicians spinning away.Election day is the Voters Day when the voters provide the story. I would not have any politicians on the programme until after the results are in. Watching full declarations are one of the joys of election night.
A few months ago BBC Parliament showed the Wilson-Home election night programme. Despite the lack of modern equipment the results came in and were shown on handwritten cards quickly.
Election Night is for the voters not the politicians. They have to listen for a change.
I thought the bloggers last year were very interesting.
Barry Clifton

Conand said...

When the results are being particularly slow one Political Blogger in particular should be put into a Cage Fight with Michael Portillo.

I rather agree with Stuart@10:17 The BBC coverage is so trite and slow at getting results it's only really useful as a distraction from following the election on blogs/webchats etc. So I guess the question really is: 'Should Bloggers use the BBC on Election Night?'

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Some people may be missing the point. Election Night is not serious political coverage. It is a charivari.

If you are into Schadenfreude and the other kinds of stuff that Max Moseley is into, election night is your true home.

It's a farrago of twisted facts mediated by well-lubricated people who say things like "I won't pretend it's not looking bad".

All in all, a great night's entertainment and the one night of the year that us plebs can all pretend there is still a democracy.

Why not have bloggers on? They would be instantly shut up if they had anything remotely interesting to say anyway.

Alix said...

It was a lot of fun, but I was quite surprised they really felt it added so much. The trouble is, to be authentic it needs to be much more of a free-for-all (e.g. a livechat with all bloggers everywhere throwing stuff in at once) and the MSM can't risk that.

Anyway I won't be asked back cos I dissed Jeremy Vine on air :-D

Pete said...

Let the BBC do what *we* do - look at the blogs!

A blogger is more words than person although their personality comes through those words.

So, if ablogger has something of interest to say then blog it and let the BBC put their page on screen...

Luke Akehurst said...

Simon Gardner

the requirement of secrecy that people at counts are bound by is not about disclosing the progress of the count, which is visible to TV cameras etc as the votes pile up, but about it being illegal to disclose or try to identify which way individuals voters have cast their ballots.

jailhouselawyer said...

Isn't that Jon Snow's tie you are wearing?

Desperate Dan said...

By the time blog comments had been filtered through the BBC "team of trained moderators" the election would be over and we'd be half way to the next budget.

Conand said...

Wrinkled Weasel said@12:18

'If you are into Schadenfreude and the other kinds of stuff that Max Moseley is into'

Heeheehee WW sometimes has me in stitches. This is one of those times.

Enough Bl(a)ggers already, let's get the Weasel on the telly come election night!

Simon Gardner said...

Luke Akehurst said... “the requirement of secrecy that people at counts are bound by is not about disclosing the progress of the count...”

Broadly speaking speaking, that’s exactly what it is. It depends on your Returning Officer how cross he may get about it.

TV used to be pretty damn careful about it too. But recently they have strayed the wrong side of illegality.

As I said, it’s only a matter of time before someone is prosecuted.

I trust it won’t be some hapless and ignorant little blogger.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Conand, thankyou. Unfortunately I am not connected to the establishment and I am a humble chicken-keeper - hardly what you call in the loop - so media tartdom is a long way off.

Patrick said...

A slightly different perspective by the well informed would be warmly welcome.. ... As Party spokesmen tend to say the same dull things.... I Cant help thinking that there arent that many bloggers that are worthy of being invited though? Current company excluded.

Luke Akehurst said...

Simon, this is what the law says i.e. nothing about disclosing who might win:

SECRECY REQUIREMENTS

The requirements in Section 66 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 help to maintain the secrecy of the ballot. They apply to all candidates, election agents and polling agents, and to every person attending at the polling stations, the issue and receipt of postal ballot papers and the count. Section 66 is reproduced below in full, for use by candidates, election agents, polling and counting agents.

Representation of the People Act 1983

Requirement of Secrecy

66 (1) The following persons:

(a) every Returning Officer and every Presiding Officer or clerk attending at a polling station;

(b) every candidate or election agent or polling agent so attending;

(c) every person so attending by virtue of any of sections 6A to 6D of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000,

shall maintain and aid in maintaining the secrecy of voting and shall not, except for some purpose authorised by law, communicate to any person before the poll is closed any information as to:

(i) the name of any elector or proxy for an elector who has or has not applied for a ballot paper or voted at a polling station;

(ii) the number on the register of electors of any elector who, or whose proxy, has or has not applied for a ballot paper or voted at a polling station; or

(iii) the official mark.

(2) Every person attending at the counting of the votes shall maintain and aid in maintaining the secrecy of voting and shall not:

(a) ascertain or attempt to ascertain at the counting of the votes the number or other unique identifying mark on the back of any ballot paper;

(b) communicate any information obtained at the counting of the votes as to the candidate for whom any vote is given on any particular ballot paper.

(3) No person shall:

(a) Interfere with or attempt to interfere with a voter when recording his vote;

(b) otherwise obtain or attempt to obtain in a polling station information as to the candidate for whom a voter in that station is about to vote or has voted;

(c) communicate at any time to any person any information obtained in a polling station as to the candidate for whom a voter in that station is about to vote or has voted, or as to the number or other unique identifying mark on the back of the ballot paper given to a voter at that station;

(d) directly or indirectly induce a voter to display his ballot paper after he has marked it so as to make known to any person the name of the candidate for whom he has or has not voted.

(4) Every person attending the proceedings in connection with the issue or the receipt of ballot papers for persons voting by post shall maintain and aid in maintaining the secrecy of the voting and shall not:

(a) except for some purpose authorised by law, communicate, before the poll is closed, to any person any information obtained at those proceedings as to the official mark; or

(b) except for some purpose authorised by law, communicate to any person at any time information obtained at those proceedings as to the number or other unique identifying mark on the back of the ballot paper sent to any person; or

(c) except for some purpose authorised by law, attempt to ascertain at the proceedings in connection with the receipt of ballot papers the number or other unique identifying mark on the back of any ballot paper; or

(d) attempt to ascertain at the proceedings in connection with the receipt of the ballot papers the candidate for whom any vote is given in any particular ballot paper or communicate any information with respect thereto obtained at those proceedings.

(5) No person having undertaken to assist a blind voter to vote shall communicate at any time to any person any information as to the candidate for whom that voter intends to vote or has voted, or as to the number or other unique identifying mark on the back of the ballot paper given for the use of that voter.

(6) If a person acts in contravention of this section he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months.

(7) In their application in relation to an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, the preceding provisions of this section shall have effect with the insertion, after the words ‘the candidate for whom’, in each place where they occur, of ‘, or the registered political party towards the return of whose candidates’.

(8) In relation to an election of the London members of the London Assembly at an ordinary election, any reference in this section to the return of a registered political party’s candidates is a reference to the return of candidates included in the list of candidates submitted by the registered political party for the purposes of the election.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

What would help is they used "real" bloggers rather celebrities who blog (like you Iain). Invite Devil's Kitchen & Guido to come along on the show; as well as some of the other bleeding edge bloggers.

Simon Gardner said...

Luke Akehurst said... “Simon, this is what the law says...”[snip]

All very useful. And every Returning Officer I have ever dealt with has maintained that the disclosure of a result or how a count is going prior to declaration is illegal.

No doubt this is why the TV people used to be super careful about it. But more recently they have got more daring despite paying lip-service to not being allowed to disclose how a count is going etc. Next time, listen to the formula of words reporters use at the count(s).

Indeed I knew of one Returning Officer who insisted the cameras were not to be pointed even at a distance at the gathered and counted accruing bundles.

I will endeavour to discover what this was all based on (possibly departmental advice) but I’m not fabricating how I have seen it interpreted in numerous counts over the decades.

Leaking of the trend of a count before declaration is (these ROs have maintained) illegal. And since their word is absolute at counts, that’s how it’s been viewed.

JMB said...

I didn't see the use of bloggers adding much to the local election coverage except to fill in a bit of time when nothing much was happening.

Ethelred the Unhinged said...

The only thing that would improve local election night is topless darts and News Bunny.

jailhouselawyer said...

Andrew Ian Dodge: Guido a real blogger? LOL. Twunt could not even do Newsnight without making a bigger fool of himself than he already is.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I think there is a danger of doing an ITV in 1997 when in a desperate rush to get a scoop the reported Simon Hughes had lost Bermondsey. I happen to know that a member of the ITV production team that night lived in Bermondsey, had friends in the Lib Dems and knew that Simon Highes would hold on and he tried several times within a short period of time to halt the ITV team from announcing the Labour gain, even reporting to phoning a Lib Dem at the count, still ITV went ahead and announced it only to look stupid less than 5 minutes later.

The trick with using bloggers is to make sure that it is reported as hearsay, not fact.