Jacqueline Dalton
Publication Date

This guide aims to support humanitarian organisations to work with broadcasters to produce programming that will help save lives and reduce suffering as part of an emergency response. As stated in the guide, local and national broadcasters can play a critical role in helping populations in humanitarian emergencies because they can: 

  • Reach thousands, if not millions, of people very quickly;
  • Reach areas that are remote or difficult to access and where literacy rates are low;
  • Provide life-saving information to help people help themselves;
  • Restore calm;
  • Inspire hope and give people the space to express themselves, sharing their solutions to the new problems they face, asking questions; and
  • Help hold relief providers to account

The guide explains that “[I]mmediately after a crisis, often before physical aid can get there, broadcast media can provide life-saving information. To do this, broadcasters need accurate information from aid agencies on risks and on what communities can do to help themselves. As the situation evolves, broadcasters can play a key role in providing two-way communication with the affected.”

The tips and guidance contained in this document are based on BBC Media Action’s extensive experience of working closely with local and national broadcasters during times of crisis to produce “Lifeline programming” – dedicated broadcasting to help audiences survive, stay safe, and recover.

The guide is divided into the following sections:

  • Introduction - discusses the purpose of the guide.
  • Lifeline broadcasting – what will help audiences during crises? - looks at giving journalist the correct information - those related to solutions, not problems (such as statistics on the death toll or how much money is needed for the response) - that will help people. 
  • Understanding the media context - in order to be able to make the right decisions about which media to work with and how to work with them, aid organisations need to gain an understanding of issues such as: how people consume media; which stations people listen to at what times; which stations have the biggest audiences and where; what the most trusted channels are, etc.
  • Formal partnerships with broadcasters - information on how to choose a partner, the different kinds of broadcasters - community, state, and commercial - and tips on making successful partnerships.
  • Collaborating with broadcasters beyond partnerships - looks at other ways of getting lifeline content out to audiences, such as media releases, and media and press conferences.
  • Four common complaints from journalists about dealing with aid workers in emergencies - these include, among other, the fact that aid organisations do not make information available easily, and wrong use of language.  
  • Do no harm - steps to ensure that the information that aid organisations are providing, or the partnership they are in, is carefully managed to minimise the risk of harming communities.
  • Co-ordination - looks at the need for communication efforts to be coordinated between agencies to ensure consistent information and advice.
  • 10 steps for organisational preparedness - actions organisations can take to better prepare themselves for working with broadcasters in emergencies.
  • Resources
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BBC Media Action website on December 6 2016.