Musings from Mumbai

Day four of my Indian adventure and the Broadcast News Production workshops at the British Council offices in Delhi and Mumbai are going well. There were more than a dozen at Monday’s session in Delhi, including two fearsomely bright high school girls and a couple of working TV journalists. It was very much an interactive session with questions covering news priorities, the use of real people rather than ‘official voices’ in news pieces and some important areas of journalistic ethics.
In Mumbai there were 29 students – all from media-related courses – at the morning session. Judging by their questions, contributions and responses they were fully engaged with the workshop and the feedback they’ve given to British Council staff bears that out. Again the workshop covered a number of elements but each of these could have been the subject of longer discussions given the intelligent points raised by those attending. It would be a pleasure to teach any one of them back at Birmingham City University.
The afternoon session was made up mostly of professional journalists – newspapers, radio, TV, web TV and online media were all represented. I’m not sure how much they got out of the experience but I learnt a lot. Journalists in India face a range of challenges that don’t arise in the UK, judging by the issues that were thrown up during our discussions. They ranged from commercial pressures on editorial staff, editors’ partiality, the way competition between channels is distorting news priorities and the over use of the ‘Breaking News’ or ‘Just In’ screamers on news channels. One participant was strongly of the view that this practice devalues genuine breaking stories. For what it’s worth I completely agree with her. We also looked at another over used storytelling device – the piece to camera – and the tendency for reporters to spring up like Jacks in the box (should that be on the box?) when letting the pictures and the interviewees speak for themselves among a well-crafted script would be much better.
I ended the afternoon with the clear feeling that Indian journalists – many of them still very – young are meeting all these challenges in a fast moving environment but on without the luxury of having been built on a heritage of TV news practice and conventions. All that seems to make high quality journalism education even more important. 
On a less stuffy note it was good to have the session with the professionals Tweeted live from the room and to have to respond to questions posted by followers. The British Council also filmed both Mumbai sessions and edited highlights will appear soon on their YouTube pages so more people can get a flavour of the event – so watch this space. 
Next stop Bangalore!