An Evaluation of the Impact of the Digital Platform on Hard News Storytelling at the BBC and SABC Online News Sites

Deffor, Sally Selase (2015) An Evaluation of the Impact of the Digital Platform on Hard News Storytelling at the BBC and SABC Online News Sites. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

[thumbnail of Thesis document]
PDF (Thesis document) - Submitted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.



Digital technologies are impacting news cultures across the globe in various ways. In this thesis, I explore specifically how the digital platform is influencing hard news reporting practices at the online news websites of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). I investigate how the formats of the news reports, as well as the techniques and practices adopted for producing them are changing within these institutions. I also investigate the extents to which the role and identity of newsmakers are seen to be shifting in response to specific influences of digital technologies. These analyses are grounded on the theory that media convergence is a significant influencer in this changing space. This thesis finds that the context within which a news organisation operates is a strong influence on how it adapts digital techniques into the existing newsmaking practice. Consequently, the BBC as a PSB (Public Service Broadcaster) from a developed world is seen as having experiences that differ significantly from its counterpart, the SABC which is from the global South. Together, they are both being impacted in ways that are significantly different from private-sector mainstream or alternative news organisations across the two contexts.

It also finds that the norms that govern the production of hard online news are deeply rooted in the old media platforms of print, radio and television such that significant continuities can be seen with respect to specific techniques and practices. Further, it finds that some of the hypothesised affordances of the space with regards to the combined use of multimedia, hypertextuality and interactivity to engage the audience are not fully experienced. This thesis therefore concludes that though the digital platform is evolving and hard to predict, its impact on hard news reporting practices is not particularly revolutionary at this present time within these two contexts. However, it is acknowledged that the web does have the immense capacity to support highly innovative interactive forms of storytelling demonstrated through news platforms, formats, and genres such as mobile, live blogs, and multimedia magazine-style soft news projects. Hence, this thesis’ deficiency is that it does not explore the significance of these newest and growing forms. However, in addition to drawing out specific nuances of the British and the South African digital media space, it contributes to providing a non-Western standard for measuring how the online news space is evolving, and fills the perceived gap about how under-researched contexts are appropriating specific digital techniques.

Repository Staff Only: item control page