U.S. television is about earning profits, but European broadcasting has historically been governed as public service, indirectly or directly operated by the government. Substantial changes occurred in the 1990s. Privatization and the United Kingdom’s Independent Television franchise auction stimulated commercial developments throughout Europe. Even public service broadcasters lost their traditional characteristics, adopting routines making them almost indistinguishable from commercial competitors.
Television remains the number one news source overall. Research shows news adheres to similar, recurring and predictable elements; an anchor team balances the broadcast and its various elements, following a formula of friendly personalities, visuals and sound bites.
This study examined American news consultants’ role in the development of television news in the UK in the 1990s. American news consultants’ work abroad is important because they spread the U.S. model - the origin of today’s on-air news style – and changed television news on a global scale.
Limited research has been conducted on the consultants’ European work and how they operated, largely because of proprietary material. This study was based on 2359 pages of archival material from Frank N. Magid Associates’ European archives. In addition, 24 interviews with Magid staff and UK journalists allowed for a comprehensive examination.
Magid truly infiltrated UK television - from the headquarters of the BBC and ITN, to the regions. A major finding is the extent of Magid’s penetration with research services, storytelling and performance training. During the franchise auction, Magid worked with ITV clients in 11 of the 16 regions.
This study examined how Magid played a role in the development of television news. It analyzed key concepts integrated into UK news and how those are similar or different from the U.S. The importance of good storytelling permeated the findings. Tell a story well – tailored to the culture, medium and viewers – and it will attract an audience. In turn, that attracts advertisers, making news profitable. Change theory guided an analysis of societal forces. Driving forces, such as privatization and technology, spurred on development of television news; restraining forces, such as fear of Americanization, slowed it down.