An industry evolving
The UK television industry spends more than £5 billion annually on programming of which more than half is spent on original programming. Whilst this used to be predominately created by the TV channels in house, the past 15 years has seen a significant trend towards independent production companies being commissioned for both TV and radio programmes. The industry now supports more than 7000 businesses, employing almost 50,000 people.
As social media has become one of the primary means to communicate, so called "second screen" behaviours have developed. Encouraged by the programmes themselves, people have been turning to social media to share views and interact on the small screen whilst watching TV on a bigger screen. Indeed the top 10 most tweeted about programmes in the UK to May 2014 amassed a staggering 25 million interactions on Twitter.
This brings into sharp focus production companies' responsibility to ensure accuracy and fairness in the programmes they create. Fact checking has always been critically important before something airs on TV but in a world where social media enables a mistake to be shared and amplified globally in seconds, it becomes even more so.
Swimming against the tide
For independent production companies this should never be overlooked. Simply to do business with the BBC, independents need to become an approved supplier and each is re-checked every three years for compliance. Furthermore every programme created for the BBC requires the completion of a comprehensive compliance declaration, the first point of which relates to potential legal risks. Independents that are unable to complete this satisfactorily are unlikely to be commissioned or see their work on air.
This is not the only risk. OFCOM regularly fines and reprimands companies over factual issues, dealing with around 300 breaches of its guidelines per year. In an industry with a large number of suppliers to a small number of commissioners, it is vital to gain and maintain a reputation for accuracy.
Fact checking checklist
How do independent production companies manage the process of ensuring that on air content is factually accurate? Here is our five point guide:
p.s. 3 ways you can apply this information right now to better understand news monitoring and analytics