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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 17:30 GMT
TV graphics - help or hindrance?
By Mike Kavanagh
Head of Presentation, Television News

Graphics on News 24 - a help or a hindrance? Some BBC viewers say they "clutter" the picture and "detract" from the picture. However, Head of TV News Presentation Mike Kavanagh argues that today's news watchers expect this kind of information on screen.

The graphics and astons (the term for information graphics in the lower third of the screen) are used to convey the information in a clear and concise way.

Research has shown that increasingly, especially in digital homes, people are watching TV as background and are doing other things (in a way that people traditionally use radio).

Most of the viewers to BBC News 24 and to the continuous news channels do expect this text information on screen.

If we ever do obliterate the picture, then that's wrong and we need to talk to our directors about it.
Mike Kavanagh
They want it because it aids them in the way they use the channel. In view of this the graphics are increasingly important, we need them to grab the attention of the viewer and draw them to the story.

Interactivity, astons and regular headlines are a key part of the tools that a news channel needs to inform its audience. People use the channel to dip in to get the latest headlines.

Audiences like to be able to use the channel in a different way - the extra graphics features enable more people to get what they want from the channel.

Those watching at home, particularly in daytime, won't have full focus on TV and don't want to have to sit through 15 mins plus of news stories to get the news they are after or to find out some breaking news so, again, the graphics can give them important information.

Tickers and other on screen graphics also enable us to carry on giving the wider headlines whilst focusing on one big or breaking story as and when necessary.

Those watching out of home need as many visual clues as possible as they often don't have sound when watching, so it's a given for them that we have to put on visual headlines etc.

I think the architecture of the channel is done in such a way to aid the viewer, to aid the story-telling, to get the headlines and to get the background information.

In fact, for an audience that has been brought up on television and video games, some people might say that BBC News 24 is quite sober in its on-air presentation.

However the astons shouldn't obscure the main picture. If we ever do obliterate the picture, then that's wrong and we need to talk to our directors about it.

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