Broadcast journalism extends news to radio and television. The first broadcast journalists came from other media including newspapers, news and photo magazines, theater newsreels, motion pictures, documentary films, and radio, and the mix of media influenced the development of broadcast journalism. For example, job titles came from newspapers (reporters and editors) and from motion pictures (directors and producers), along with some original coinages (such as anchor).
In the United States, CBS, NBC and a few other television stations offered news programs before World War II (Conway 2006), but the service expanded after the war, when television diffused to a larger population. Some local stations limited expenses by hiring a few employees to read wire copy into a camera, to make phone calls on local stories, and to take occasional pictures with a silent film camera. Other US operations such as WFIL (Philadelphia), WBAP (Fort Worth), and WPIX (New York) invested in a team of photographers and reporters to blanket the coverage area and fill newscasts with local coverage. More viewers turned to network and local television news until it eclipsed newspapers in the 1960s as the most popular source of news in the United States.
In England, Japan, the Netherlands, and other nations that employed a user fee to pay for television, broadcast journalism tended to focus more on public affairs news. In countries such as France, the government kept television under close watch, turning broadcast journalism into more of an official service. After Nazi Germany used the airwaves for propaganda, the Allies set up a public broadcasting system (ARD, later joined by ZDF) not under government control, but under broadcasting councils with representatives from labor, churches, industrial groups, and government. In India and other parts of the world, UNESCO first introduced television as a communal information source especially for rural areas.
Although television is highly visual, film (and later video) photographers rarely make editorial decisions about what to cover or how to present stories. Early television news marginalized photographers because network news managers came from print or radio backgrounds (Frank 2003). Professional training programs repeated the pattern, so that television photojournalism rarely had its own courses or sequences, except as a vocational skill. As a result, local television photographers typically earn less than reporters and news producers.
As the lines between news and entertainment began to blur in the 1980s, the US Congress cut back government regulations that forced stations to present public affairs programming and increased the number of radio and television stations each corporation could own. News programming then had to compete with entertainment for viewers, which reduced political and government reporting and increased emphasis on crime news and features, presented with shorter sound bites and flashy graphics. In local radio news, owners cut news staffs and offered cheaper generic programming. Local television news became a profit center for stations, which made newscasts more frequent but increased the pressures to economize. Market-driven journalism presents the least expensive news acceptable to advertisers and consumers (McManus 1994). News departments unable to hire enough reporters for local stories instead relied on newspapers, wire services, and public relations firms for story ideas. Public broadcasting established a small niche of news programming, but politicians constantly threatened to cut funding.
The influence of government or advertisers has colored the way broadcast journalists do their jobs. In Hong Kong, the Netherlands, the Pacific Islands, Spain, Taiwan, and the United States, broadcast journalists rank at or near the bottom among their peers in autonomy to choose what stories to cover and how to interpret the news (Weaver et al. 2006).
In Asia, Taiwan has distinctly western news, with local versions of popular US programs such as 60 Minutes and Meet the Press, despite the mostly eastern influences on other television programming. In China, the government determined the direction of most news programming through the 1980s, when it began loosening some restrictions. The most popular program each year on China Central Television (CCTV) is the Spring Festival Eve Gala, with more than nine out of ten families watching. The four-and-a-halfhour program celebrates national unity, partly by ignoring the country’s 55 minority groups (Zhang 2004). Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, has adopted US news practices such as heated political debate, dramatic visuals, live coverage, and criticism of government decisions, altering the news landscape in Middle Eastern nations that previously stifled dissent.
In the twenty-first century, broadcast news across the globe ranges from stark public affairs programming, through 24-hour live coverage, to sensational tabloid shows (24-Hour). Advertiser-based systems have moved away from the public affairs model, and publicly funded services are adopting a flashier approach because of pressure from either nearby or satellite commercial stations.
- Berkowitz, D. (ed.) (1997). Social meanings of news: A text-reader. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Browne, D. R. (1989). Comparing broadcast systems: The experiences of six industrialized nations. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press.
- Conway, M. (2006). The birth of CBS-TV News: Columbia’s ambitious experiment at the advent of U.S. commercial television. Journalism History, 32 (3), 128 –137.
- Frank, R. (2003). Oral history interview with Mike Conway, August 14, Tenafly, NJ. Videotape recording, Early Television News Oral History Collection, Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
- McManus, J. H. (1994). Market-driven journalism: Let the citizen beware? Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Weaver, D. H., Beam, R. A., Brownlee, B. J., Voakes, P. S., & Wilhoit, G. C. (2006). The American journalist in the twenty-first century: U.S. news people at the dawn of a new millennium. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Zhang, W. (2004). Staging unity, celebrating Chineseness: Textual analysis of 2002 CCTV Spring Festival Eve Gala. Asian Communication Research, 1 (2), 67– 83.