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Monday, 28 February, 2000, 16:29 GMT
Charities say UK TV neglects world issues
child labour
Child labour in the developing world is one of many untold stories
by BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby

British television's coverage of life in the developing world is much less than it was a decade ago, and much poorer, says a report by a consortium of leading UK charities says.

The consortium, Third World and the Environment (3WE), says factual programmes on third world issues have fallen by 50% in 10 years - not including daily news and current affairs programmes.

Its report says much of what was broadcast was about animals and exotic holiday destinations, rather than issues of life and death to the people who live there.

The group has produced a report, Losing Perspective: global affairs on British terrestrial television 1989-1999, which documents the amount of coverage the developing world gets.

3WE says it was "the first attempt ever to monitor the decline in the quantity and quality of coverage of international issues on British TV over the last 10 years".

'ITV is worst offender'

The report says all terrestrial channels showed a decrease, and it identifies "a widening gap between the BBC and commercial television".

3WE says the worst offender was ITV, which was broadcasting 74% less factual programming on developing countries since 1990.

The report said: "Channel 4, whose remit specifically includes coverage of global issues, has seen a drop of 56%.

"BBC2's output has dropped by 37% and BBC1's by 28%.

"Channel Five was found to have commissioned hardly any programmes on the developing world since its launch in 1997."

3WE says BBC2's coverage was set to overtake Channel 4, for the first time in the decade covered by the study.

The report also complains of "a worrying drop in the quality" of programmes.

'Celebrity presenters'

It says there has been a big increase in the number of wildlife and travel programmes, which often portray Africa, South America and parts of Asia as a mixture of adventure playground and safari park.

3WE says serious programmes on weighty topics were often pushed to the margins of the schedules, with lighter, celebrity-led programmes screened at peak time.

On a more positive point, the report acknowledges "some exceptional international newsgathering, particularly on the part of BBC News and Channel 4 News".

3WE includes Action Aid, Cafod, Christian Aid, Intermediate Technology Development Group, Oxfam, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Save the Children, the United Nations Association (UNA), UNICEF, Voluntary Service Overseas, and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The director of UNA, Malcolm Harper, who chairs 3WE, said: "It's completely unacceptable that in a world which is becoming rapidly more interdependent, British TV coverage has become much more focused on domestic affairs.

"It is not in the public interest to close down our most important window on the world."

The report's recommendations include showing some development programmes in peak hours, and a commitment by broadcasters to transmit more material of this sort.

It suggests TV producers could spend time overseas as part of their career training.

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