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How BBC News is combating fake news problem 

Television Post , Mar 13, 2019

Fake news is an epidemic that has implications not just for the media industry but is also a threat to society at large. News organisations including public broadcasters have a duty to combat the menace of fake news.

This is the sum and substance of the panel discussion ‘How public broadcasters are combating fake news’ on the second day of FICCI Frames 2019. The panelists were Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati and BBC Global News CEO Jim Egan.

Egan said that BBC is joining the fight against fake news and it’s crucial for news organisations to not only highlight this threat but also to do something concrete about it. He also provided a report to show how fake news is affecting Indian society. During the election season, BBC will be providing daily feeds in India on Reality Check of fake news, he added.

“I want to tell you, how BBC is joining the fight against fake news. I think it’s crucial for news organisations to not only highlight this threat but also to do something concrete about it,” Egan said during the panel discussion.

“With the spread of this information having consequences beyond the media industry for democracy and even as we’ve seen in a number of countries, including the UK and India, leading to loss of lives has never been a greater indeed for high quality trusted news to help citizens understanding of complex national and international stories.”

Egan also provided solutions on combating fake news. Apart from the daily BBC Reality Check service, he also highlighted how BBC is taking the fight to fake news by investing in open source investigative techniques to tell stories with the burden of proof like never before.

“We have the good fortune of being a global entity. Whatever the BBC does can only play a part. It is the combined impact of everyone in this room, which in the end will make a difference,” he stated.

Fake news, Egan said, must be seen as not just as an issue for audiences, it’s important for all news publishers with a commitment to accuracy and reliability. “News organisations whose credibility rests on audiences being able to believe what they see hear and read to respond decisively to the fake news crisis and to be seen to do so.”

A study carried out by the BBC in India two years ago highlighted that 83% of India news consumers told us they’re concerned about fake news and nearly three quarters said they find it hard to distinguish real fake news. “In addition, more than 70% of consumers say advertising and untrusted media outlet are the problem,” Egan noted.

One way of combating fake news is to improve media literacy. “If news consumers can be better educated on how to spot the signs of fakery, and how to cross reference news stories and read the news items they get forwarded ona platform such as WhatsApp with savvy critical eyes, I believe we could significantly limit the damage and the reach of dangerous fake stories.”

BBC is also developing a number of tools to combat fake news by helping the public understand why the context behind news stories. “This is one of the most exciting and innovative areas of the work is also a practical response to the fake news crisis by showcasing journalism which basically unequivocally works in pursuit of truth.”

In November last year, the BBC launched the beyond fake news project, which included the roll-out of real news workshops to school pupils and college students in various locations across India is a free film showing those projects.

“It’s not always possible to see where the next fake news can come from but sometimes you can by looking ahead it’s around hotly contested and divisive moments such as elections. The audience is tell us they might have an independent analysis to help them separate fact from fiction,” he stated.

BBC, he said, has made unprecedented investments in India over the past two years. He also stated that BBC today is better placed than ever to report on Indian stories and engage with Indian audiences. “We don’t want to be remembered just as a colonial new service broadcasting on shortwave radio many decades ago. Our aim is to be a modern relevant part of the present day in the landscape.”

He also pointed out that BBC’s Delhi bureau is now the second biggest anywhere outside the UK. It is also a TV and digital content production hub for the whole of South Asia in nine languages.

“For journalists working right across India, the BBC is a better place than ever to bring global stories in different languages and formats to audiences around India and just as importantly relates richness of India. Our editorial independence remains as important as it has ever been. Audience around trust us because we are independent of any government or commercial influence, impartial and committed to accuracy,” he said.

CEO Vempati spoke on the ways to combat fake news in today’s social media age. He also said that Prasar Bharati has an important role to play during the election environment. Earlier, he said, that DD India is now becoming the English language news channel under Prasar Bharati. This will play an important role in the global outreach. On Prime Minister Modi’s recent blog on voter awareness, he said this will create awareness and also call out all the first time voters to cast their votes.

 

 

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