Keeping Current

The rapidly approaching millennium is providing plenty of news opportunities for producers of Britain's current affairs shows. Sian Kevill, editor of BBC's award winning Newsnight, which provides in-depth coverage and analyses of today's news, science, technology and many other issues, is...
December 1, 1999

The rapidly approaching millennium is providing plenty of news opportunities for producers of Britain’s current affairs shows. Sian Kevill, editor of BBC’s award winning Newsnight, which provides in-depth coverage and analyses of today’s news, science, technology and many other issues, is among those news gatherers who are eagerly gearing up to produce unique programming for the big 2000.

‘As the millennium approaches, we’re covering social change quite extensively,’ says Kevill about her show, budgeted at approximately £9 million per year. Newsnight will celebrate its twentieth anniversary in January. ‘Britain is experiencing a massive social upheaval, so through engaging, witty and interrogative content, Newsnight is providing its audience with a better understanding of the world.’

To achieve that goal, Kevill and her team have produced a series of films about the latest social trends in the U.K. The films will air during the final weeks of 1999.

‘One film concentrates on the decline of the manufacturing industry and the emergence of a redundant [coal mining] pit as a tourist attraction. We learn about the decline in manufacturing and we discover that tourism is one of our biggest industries. The tour guide, who takes people around the pit, has a second job as a line dancer, so we see another change in social trends – normal people maintaining two jobs and working longer hours.’

Other films in the series include a look at an office worker who enjoys extreme sports such as bungee jumping in his spare time, and a report on the increasing number of missing people.

‘We’ll focus on a man who spends his time looking for missing people – so we’ll explore the impact this trend is having on Britain at the end of the millennium,’ Kevill adds. ‘And, at the end of this year, this series will hopefully culminate in a big studio debate featuring people from the films.’

Meanwhile, Joanna Ross, the editor of Talking Point – a new 55-minute show simultaneously broadcast live on BBC World and on the BBC News on-line internet site in both audio and video once every week – is also looking forward to the many story opportunities posed by the millennium.

‘In early January, we’re having a special program devoted to those people who will recount their experiences of the millennium and the millennium bug,’ says Ross, whose show (budgeted at £178,000 per fiscal year) has featured guests such as Pakistan cricket captain, Imran Khan, and U.S. astronaut, Buzz Aldrin. ‘When it comes to science topics, we’ll cover food safety, cloning, genetically modified foods, while our arts coverage will feature on-line interaction with people from the entertainment industry. I can’t mention specific names at this point, but hopefully people will be able to pose questions and comments to big celebrities.

Roy Milani, editor of BBC’s Newsround, an eight-minute news program geared towards children aged 8 through 14, anticipates exciting developments in the New Year.

‘Aside from sending reporters to various news spots throughout the world, we’ll hopefully develop an integrated news room and studio,’ says Milani, who works with a budget of approximately £2 million. ‘We’re also redesigning our website, so kids will air their views about world events via an on-line discussion forum, and access breaking news reports on-line.’

‘In addition, they’ll have the opportunity to air their views about the show and world events via telephone messages, faxes and e-mails. As a result, they’ll hopefully understand that they’re making a solid impact on our work.’

The British school curriculum is an important source of coverage for First Edition, a news show geared towards children aged 9 through 13. The show is broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4 network.

‘Citizenship will become a mandatory part of the school curriculum next September,’ explains First Edition producer Lea Sellers. ‘So we are now covering many aspects of citizenship within the show. For instance, we tell children how to take a stand on controversial issues, we allow them to question government ministers, we teach them about democracy and we tell kids how to become a responsible part of a rapidly changing world.’

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.