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Rachel Corp delivers keynote speech at Future of Media Technology Conference


Wednesday 21st September 2022

ITN CEO Rachel Corp today delivered the keynote speech at the Press Gazette Future of Media Conference.

Read the full transcript below:

For many of us in broadcast news, marking the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II was one of the biggest stories of our professional lives. These were scenes and a scale we had never experienced before and quite frankly are unlikely to experience again. The responsibility weighed heavy: how to be an eyewitness to history; how to do justice to an extraordinary 70-year reign; how to celebrate and commiserate while also daring to contemplate the thornier questions about the future.

Yes, we undertook years of planning, but nothing can quite prepare you for the actual moment when it happens. And yet, right across the board, I feel news organisations struck the right chord. We provided depth and context, awe and spectacle, warmth and community. We intuitively knew when to add value with context and commentary. But we bravely knew when the stunning cinematography could speak for itself while we held a very long, very powerful, silence.

Our teams around the UK spoke to those who took great pride in the British pomp, British history and British broadcasting as it played out for the world to see.

We stand here on the brink of some of the biggest changes to the media landscape in decades; we're awaiting a new Media Bill under new political leadership; we're facing a climate of uncertainty about the future funding of the BBC and the ownership of Channel 4 and watching support for many public service channels across Europe being ripped away. But just as we can let pictures speak for themselves, so too we can let our journalism speak for itself. We have just experienced the most powerful reminder, when it's needed most, of the power of British public service television; of our ability to come together to produce extraordinary events at a global scale; of our prowess in taking pooled footage and re-shaping it for our distinct audiences, and of our continued relevance to the nation no matter how deep the pockets of the US streamers.

The hundreds of hours of effort, creative energy and expertise demonstrated by journalists, producers, planners, crew and technical staff was not only inspiring to watch, it saw incredible results. The funeral of the late Queen saw a huge 27m viewers in the UK on TV, with millions more online, and reports of over a billion globally. Over the 11-day period, ITN alone produced hours and hours of live news specials and extended bulletins, while ITN Productions turned around obituaries, documentaries and discussion programmes hosted by Andrew Neil and Jeremy Vine across ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. We also helped satisfy the huge global appetite with bespoke programming for scores of international channels, as well as through digital specials across social platforms, including for our own Royal Family Channel on YouTube which doubled its subscribers in a matter of days.

What's more, we ensured those in the long queues or wishing to watch with others were able to, by supplying those large screens in London parks with ITV News' coverage.

We even made sure British Airways's long-haul passengers didn't miss proceedings on Monday, because 40,000 feet above sea level or not we were able to livestream ITV News' funeral coverage. Some of the images may have resembled a bygone era, but the technology was firmly 21st century.

But beyond demonstrating journalistic prowess and technical innovation in the field, in the studio - and yes, even in the sky you may be asking what does this one-off event covering an historic seven decades on the throne, have to do with the future of media, which is why we're here today?'

You could well draw some parallels between the monarchy and the media. The difficult questions we were asking about the monarchy can easily be turned on us: how do we adapt; how do we maintain loyalty; how do we reach a new generation, and even, how do we survive?

Put into consideration, the news agenda we've had in recent years. From Brexit to a pandemic; the war in Ukraine to an energy crisis; partygate to a new PM it's no wonder that journalists, I think, have been on the brink of burn out and audiences saying at times they are sick of the relentlessly negative news cycle. We could sense that, and the recent Reuters report proved it, with what they described as a rising wave of news avoiders'.

I believe, however, that our unprecedented coverage and the overwhelming response, gives us cause for optimism that goes beyond celebrating the huge numbers turning to traditional' TV news programmes at those times of national importance (surely putting paid, actually, to the idea that the TV bulletin is dead'). Once we take stock of the last fortnight, it could represent something of a turning point where news media can come back stronger. The challenge for all of us, is how to sustain the momentum and harness some of these positives, when we know that around the corner, we have a new government, a fragile Union, divisive public discourse, whatever is going on in Ukraine, and a cost-of-living crisis. (There go those news avoiders', running a mile )

We could start with our journalists. I've been struck by just how much recent events have given our teams a renewed sense of purpose; a fresh awareness of actively contributing to the annals of history. But given the challenging climate ahead, we all need to think hard about how we maintain the huge sense of motivation we're witnessing and crucially, how we harness it in the future. Is a sense of purpose' going to be enough to retain our best talent or attract the best people into the industry when business models are challenged as we know.

We should also consider our audience
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