The International Television News Agencies: The World from London

By Boyd-Barrett, Oliver | Journalism History, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

The International Television News Agencies: The World from London


Boyd-Barrett, Oliver, Journalism History


Paterson, Chris. The International Television News Agencies: The World from London. New York; Peter Lang, 2011. 183 pp. $33.95.

The international television news agencies report news by video from all parts of the world, distributing packaged news stories, streamed breaking news, and even raw footage to most television stations, big and small, wotldwide. They are the offspring of longer-established print news agencies, such as Agence France-Presse (AFP), Associated Press (AP), and Thomson-Reuters. Control of the international news business is increasingly concentrated in North America, now the home to the headquarters of AP, Bloomberg, and Thomson-Reuters, but global production and distribution of video news is essentially run from Associated Press Television News (APTN) and Reuters newsrooms in London. No book has focused on these giants until now. Author Chris Paterson is a senior lecturer in broadcast journalism at the University of Leeds. In gestation over two decades, his work reflects extensive ethnographic research in newsrooms and on battlefields, interviews, and content analysis.

The agencies' main product, ex-Reuters editor Jonathan Fenby once remarked, is the impression of omnipresence. Maintaining eighty bureaus worldwide, APTN serves 88 percenr of the world's broadcasters and reaches 50 percent of the world's daily viewing population. Particularly well-served clients include the business sector, developed world media, and governments of developed countries. Despite the growth in numbers and the diversity of mainstream news media, the agencies' importance as sources has grown in response to twenty-four hour TV news channels and cost-cutting by older networks. In the 1990s, a typical station saved $70,000 a day on each major story that it took from agencies rather than report independently, and clients now pay up to tens of millions of dollars annually for subscriptions. The result? Around the world, we see the same pictures, used in the same ways - often edinocentrically and stereotypically - through the same ideological lenses. News may come faster and more cheaply yet there are fewer providers, less variety of perspective and topic, and no social purpose. Agencies focus on the visually arresting developments across the major stories that they have mutually elevated to the top of international news agendas, mainly related to military happenings, international politics, and domestic conflict.

News actors are principally males, state officials, or nations. Over a quarter of the news is just about the United States, and another third covers the developing nations while China and India are a tiny percentage. Most nations, especially African, are missing most of the time. This has not stalled a huge increase in sport and entertainment, fueling the tabloidization of television news. Meanwhile, Paterson finds little evidence that foreign news is domesticated by local stations. …

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