10.4185/RLCS-2018-1289en | ISSN 1138 - 5820 | RLCS, 73-2018 | |
Reconnecting with young audiences: transmedia storytelling to transform public service television in Spain, France, Germany and the United Kingdom
Translation by CA Martínez-Arcos
Public service television in European countries - including regional public television, which is of great importance in the Spanish audiovisual sector - are making a great effort to reconnect with young audiences, in a context in which the majority of teens and young adults use the mobile phone regularly, access the news through social networks (Informe Reuters 2016), get entertainment from YouTube and stay in touch with friends on Facebook (Sjöberg and Rydin 2013). The dramatic loss of young viewers (Ofcom 2016) has forced television operators to adapt to the convergent cultural environment, which involves reflecting on how public television should be transformed to maintain its identity at a time of change (Cf. Jenkins 2006, Fanthome 2008, Moe 2008, Tambini 2014).
Since the emergence of social networks in 2006, digital convergence on public television has been redirected towards experimentation with new informative and entertainment formats and transmedia content. Some examples are:
a) In terms of information content, the multimedia lab of RTVE (Lab.rtve.es) is one of the best expressions of transmedia experimentation in information products. In a timely manner other public television channels have achieved success with information transmedia products such as “Guernika. Pintura de Guerra” (2007), produced by CCMA in Catalonia and “A History of Scotland” (2008), produced by BBC One Scotland, in the United Kingdom.
b) In terms of entertainment content, some successful products have been “El ministerio del tiempo” (2015) produced by Televisión Española La 1; “Fais pas ci, fais pas ça”, produced by France 2 (and on air for 9 years, since 2007) and the BBC series “Sherlock” (2010), “Doctor Who” (2005) and “EastEnders” (1985). Other examples of entertainment transmedia content that emerged from regional broadcasters are: “Goazen!” (2016), produced by EITB-Basque Country, and the German “Alpha 0.7 - Der Feind in dir” (2010), produced by SWR (Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate). These seven series adopt a transmedia storytelling in which play, audience participation and watching give feedback to each other.
Our research questions are:
Can public service media better meet their obligation to promote community, participation and diversity through the adoption of the new formats of convergent culture? Do these formats offer greater possibilities to engage audiences in such a way that they can evolve from passive viewers into participating citizens? Can transmedia contents help public television reconnect with young audiences?
The first stage involves a review of the existing literature on young audiences, public television and transmedia narratives. To this end, we analyse the works published between 2010 and 2017, as well as reports produced in the same period by audiovisual authorities (from Spain, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Broadcasting Union-EBU ) and two companies focused on audiences (Nielsen, Barlovento).
After establishing the contributions of transmedia contents - in terms of values, content, narrative possibilities – that are especially suitable to connect with young audiences, we will evaluate them according to the definition of public service television, as interpreted by the European Court of Justice and the European Commission, in order to determine whether investments in this area by public television corporations are justified.
The final stage consists of the analysis of a sample of successful programmes produced by European public television stations (national: RTVE Spain, France 2, BBC. Regional: EITB (Basque Country, Spain), CCMA (Catalonia, Spain), SWR (Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany) and BBC One Scotland (UK). We will try to determine whether those informative and entertainment programmes with transmedia narrative have succeeded, what are the reasons of their success, and what public service values –creation of community, participation, diversity– do they promote.
2. A review of transmedia products and their capacity to connect with young audiences
Based on studies on the contributions of transmedia storytelling to television production and broadcast (Garambato, 2017; Rodríguez Fidalgo, Paíno Ambrosio and Jiménez Iglesias 2016; Scolari, Jiménez-Guerrero 2012; and Meso Ayerdi, Larrondo Ureta, Peña Fernández and Rivero Santamarina 2014), we can affirm that the multi-platform system is key to the success of transmedia storytelling. It has allowed the development on different platforms of different contents, which are part of the same narrative universe, but are also independent, to the point that they can make complete sense by themselves and can therefore be consumed in an autonomous way. Another essential feature of transmedia content is that “consumers adopt an active role” in the unfolding of the story. And this does not only requires participating in one way or another, but also establishing “a creative dialogue with the base story, even managing to modify it in the process” (Prádanos Grijalvo and Enríquez de Salamanca, 2016, Rodríguez and Molpeceres, 2014, cited by Rodríguez Fidalgo, Paíno Ambrosio and Jiménez Iglesias 2016).
These essential aspects of transmedia storytelling are in harmony with the mission of public service audiovisual media, in so far as it obliges public television to rethink their identity as Ingegerd and Sjöberj (2013) point out; and to the extent that public audiovisual services need to be at the forefront of new modes of convergent culture (Moe 2008).
In particular, with regards to the criterion of identity, for Sjöberg and Rydin (2013), in their study on Swedish public television and its transmedia projects, the public service becomes a “social service” as it develops in non-conventional broadcasting channels, such as blogs and social networks, and because it uses a communication style that is different, more personal and more apt to communicate with young audiences. In the middle of this process of change, the public corporation, if it aspires to participate in the future audiovisual market, “is obliged to examine and reflect on its own image, traditions, habits, daily practices and organisation” (Sjöberg and Rydin 2013).
Regarding the role of the experimentation carried out by public broadcasters to incorporate transmedia content, Sjöberg and Rydin and Moe and Jenkins also consider that, in doing so, they face a big challenge: to create content that is attractive not only against other commercial TV productions, but also against other types of Internet services, like YouTube, Facebook, video games (Sjöberg and Rydin 2013). In other words, public television would be a special protagonist of the tension between broadcasting culture of the nation states of Western Europe and the culture of communication convergence (Moe 2008), of the shock between the communication coming out from consolidated organisations and the amateur culture of user-generated content (Jenkins 2006).
However, this study is based on a realistic analysis. With regards to Spain, the national and regional public televisions are many steps away from experimenting and developing transmedia narratives. As Meso Ayerdi, Larrondo Ureta, Peña Fernández and Rivero Santamarina (2014) conclude, to advance towards a “greater articulation of the interactive strategies” it is essential to invest further and develop applications and audiovisual formats for smartphones (Zeiser 2015). This is because today the mobile apps of Spanish media significantly limit the participation and interaction options of users to the point that it is a simple transfer of content created for television to the mobile screen format. The situation of French, British and German public television channels is similar as only some isolated cases of transmedia content have had remarkable audience success (Carlson 2014).
3. Public service television and the need to experiment with new formulas
The discussion on transmedia contents in public service audiovisual media occurs in a context of criticism made by commercial broadcasters about extending the term public service to new Internet services. This criticism arises from the first moment in which broadcasters – both public and commercial – begin to build their digital platforms in the second half of 2000. As Miguel de Bustos, Casado and Galindo (2012) point out, “in general, in Europe there is a favourable wind towards the existence of the public broadcasting service. However, attacks have started to be made from different angles”.
A first step in the European Union in favour of extending the concept of public service to the new communication possibilities of the Internet is represented by the judgment of the Court of Justice on Danish Public Television, TV2, (2008) , which states that the Member States must decide on the definition of public service. In particular, the Court notes that the mission of public service can - should - be defined through television, radio and the Internet (N. 115, TV2 Denmark, T-309/04).
On the other hand, the European Commission, in its Communication on the Application of State Aid Rules to Public Service Broadcasting, of 2 July 2009 , highlights the need to analyse ex-ante the impact on the market of new Internet-based audiovisual services. However, what is interesting about this document is not so much its defence of the denomination “audiovisual public services” for the content and actions of digital platforms, such as the wake-up call on the aspects that are considered incompatible with public service.
Thus, the Communication argues that regardless of the technology, referring to public service is to speak of a certain level of ‘quality’ in contents and activities. It also notes that it would be under the public service term, “the development and diversification of activities in the digital age” that would include “audiovisual services on all distribution platforms” (n. 47 Communication on State aid (2 July 2009). Thus, according to this document, public media must “provide citizens with the benefits of new audiovisual services and new ICTs” and undertake “the development and diversification of activities in the digital age” (n. 2 Communication on State aid, of 2 July 2009).
The Communication identifies as incompatible with the audiovisual public service in the era of digital connectivity those contents and services that do not satisfy democratic, social and cultural needs, such as online commerce (cf. n. 48 Communication on State aid, of 2 July 2009).
In short, for the Court of Justice and the European Commission, the digital, multi-platform audiovisual public services must respond as public service to the social, cultural and democratic needs of a society. They must contribute added value in terms public service.
4. Sample of transmedia programmes
There are many perspectives from which a transmedia content can be analysed. In our case, taking into account the fact that our objective is to determine whether this type of narrative in audiovisual contents - and their particular broadcast – can achieve a connection with young audiences and the public’s participation, the criterion used to select transmedia content is that these programmes or contents have existed and have been successful. The analysis follows the information-entertainment distinction to make a better comparison of the values of audience connection and participation.
4.1. Informative transmedia products of European public television
The informative transmedia contents selected from national and regional European public broadcasters have been pioneers in experimenting with new ways of telling stories and news. The evolution in narrative complexity is very noticeable, in such a way that the first contents, which were very simple in their way of combining film and complementary content on the Internet, have resulted in totally different narratives, which meant a new experience for the user.
4.1.1. RTVE’s Audiovisual Innovation Lab (Lab.rtve.es)
The Audiovisual Innovation Lab, which has been active since 2008 and was formerly known as the Interactive Media of RTVE, began with a citizen action, a video website - in partnership with YouTube - for the general elections of 2008. Anyone could send in questions in videos that were integrated in the website. At the same time, users could vote for their favourite questions and RTVE would make then a selection to include them in interviews with the candidates within the electoral TV spots allocated to political parties. The initiative was inspired by the hit show “Tengo una pregunta para usted” (“I have a question for you”) . But these successful beginnings have led to other experimental information content, such as the webdocs “Lo que hicimos fue secreto” (“What we did was a secret”) (2018), which in the words of Lab.rtve.es is “a historical, musical and social transmedia project that combines a webdoc and a feature film and examines the inﬂuence of the punk and hardcore subcultures in Madrid” (lab.rtve.es/webdocs/secreto/) and “Alberto García-Alix, la línea de la sombra” (“Alberto García-Alix, the shadow line”) (2017), about the work and universe of photographer Alberto García-Alix (lab.rtve.es/webdocs/la-linea-de-sombra/); and immersive reality videos such as “Cervantes VR” (2017) (lab.rtve.es/cervantes/), and “Escena 360º La Cocina” (2016), in collaboration with the National Dramatic Centre and the National Institute of Scenic Arts and Music (lab.rtve.es/escena-360/la-cocina/) with apps that resemble more demos than cultural contents.
For Miriam Hernanz, responsible for the RTVE Lab, renovated formats such as the webdoc, the journalist has more resources to better convey the message and influence the public; and at the same time, this would be the most significant change: “the user decides what to reach, how to consume it, what level of depth of knowledge to achieve, and at what pace to tell the story” (Vázquez-Herrero and López-García 2017, p. 51).
The deployment of resources is notable, as well as the diversity of narrative modes built into each of the news content. Quality, the choice of topics, place this effort from RTVE as one of the best examples of transmedia information in European public television channels.
However, access to the contents of Lab.rtve.es from mobile phones is very limited, to the extent that many of them refer to the desktop computer. In the end this limitation reduces the dissemination of the transmedia products of Lab.rtve.es among young audiences.
4.1.2. “Guernika. Pintura de guerra” (CCMA, 2007)
“Guernika. Pintura de guerra” (2007) is an interactive documentary produced by TV3, of the Catalan Corporation of Audiovisual Media (CCMA). Aired in the news programme “30 minuts”, Guernika focuses on the history of Picasso’s painting and includes previously unpublished images such as the Spanish Pavilion of Paris, filmed by the Communist Party of France, as well as interviews with Maya Picasso, the painter’s daughter; Roland Dumas, the painter’s lawyer; and Luis Iriondo, a survivor of the Guernika bombing, among other testimonies. The programme allows interaction with the audience through a website where users can watch the documentary, access bonus material with screen commentary, documents, interviews, biographies and games. Access from mobile phones consist of a link to the website of the programme “30 minuts” of TV3 and there is no specific development to use this device to connect with the young audience.
4.1.3. “A History of Scotland” (BBC One Scotland)
BBC One Scotland, the regional extension of the BBC in Scotland, began airing the historical series “A History of Scotland” in November 2008. It was a success with audiences and was also broadcast on BBC Two for all the United Kingdom. It had a second season in 2010. However, since the start of its first season, the series was criticised for its Anglocentric bias. The Independent  newspaper, among others, pointed out that the series, in a truly spectacular manner, hit the nail on the head in the portrayal of “Scotland’s society and its academic elite”, dividing those who consider that it represented a genuine and “visually stunning” perspective of Scotland’s past and those who see in it a desire to please the English perspective. From the point of view of the transmedia effort, “A History of Scotland” is a fledgling attempt to combine conventional television with the web, encompasses a newsletter, clips, previous episodes and content related to the series. It developed specific content for the mobile phone platform, within the BBC Mobile website.
4.2. Entertainment transmedia products of European public television
It is in entertainment where the deployment of the new forms of transmedia narratives have been best received by the audience. Of the successful transmedia products produced by European public broadcasters we selected those that have stayed on air longer, over two seasons, and present contents and resources in an array of platforms. In all cases they are fiction series: “El ministerio del tiempo” (2015-2017), which was produced by Television Española La 1 and lasted three seasons; “Fais pas ci, fais pas ça” (2007-2016), which was produced by France 2 and stayed on air for 9 years; and the BBC series “Sherlock” (2010-2017), which was on air until 2017 and whose fifth season is in negotiations to start in 2019, “Doctor Who” (2005-2017), currently in its 13th season and its second edition (the first edition was broadcast between 1963 and 1989) and the soap opera “EastEnders”, which has been broadcast since 1985, although its transmedia content started in 2010. The series produced by regional broadcasters include “Goazen” (2016), produced by EITB in the Basque Country, and “Alpha 0.7 - Der Feind in dir” (2010), produced by SWR (Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany). These seven series adopt a transmedia storytelling in which play, audience participation and the watching of the film give feedback to each other.
4.2.1. “El ministerio del tiempo” (RTVE, 2015-2017)
“El ministerio del tiempo”, created by Javier and Pablo Olivares for RTVE, is a historical fantasy fiction series. As described in its website (http://www.rtve.es/television/ministerio-del-tiempo/la-serie/) the story revolves around a secret Spanish government agency that manages the gates that allow traveling to other times in the history of Spain: the Ministry of Time, which aims to prevent people from traveling to the future or the past to change the course of history for their own benefit. It is the transmedia work par excellence in the Spanish television landscape. It has diverse fans and narrative platforms -web, minisodes, accounts in social networks- and has experimented with virtual reality, immersive audiovisual experience, interaction with fans, etc. Paradoxically, its audience on conventional television, in the most watched episodes, only reaches between 2.5 and 2.9 million, and a share of 12.8% to 14.8% (Fórmula TV 2018) . This is perhaps a good audience share but not good enough for this type of production, particularly taking into account the fact that its activity and the activity of fans on social networks is very important. As Zambrano (2016) points out, the interaction of “El ministerio del tiempo” on different platforms, including the mobile phone, has been decisive in terms of plot and character development and audience engagement for the development of the second and third seasons (a phenomenon widely described by Scolari and Establés, 2017). In June 2017, Netflix brought the online broadcasting and international management rights for “El ministerio del tiempo”, after the series has been broadcast in TVE. Netflix currently offers, in 190 countries, the two first seasons and will do the same with the third, 18 months after its broadcast. This is the beginning of a new era for the evolution of transmedia series.
4.2.2. “Fais pas ci, fais pas ça” (France 2, 2007-2017)
“Fais pas ci, fais pas ça” (“Do not do this, do not do that”) is a comedy series about two neighbouring families with opposing ideologies and methods of education, however. Their friendship puts them in situations that highlight their different ways to cope with everyday problems. Since its first year on air, the series has won numerous awards, being the most important the 2015 International Emmy Award for best comedy. The first season began with a series of mockumentary and reality shows, which talked about the different methods of education and their effects on children, to start with the introduction of the two protagonist families. From its fourth season, “Fais pas ci, fais pas ça” launched a website with supplementary content, previous episodes, more character information, although for the most part this site referred users to the page of the series in France 2’s website. The series has a mobile phone platform that offer access to the episodes and additional content, but it is reduced version of the web platform and is not uncomfortable for navigation. The programme has limited presence on social networks, with 176,700 followers on Facebook and 4,500 on Twitter, by December 2017. That same year, it had 3.79 million viewers and a 15.2% audience share , while in its most successful years, as in 2014, it reached 5.1 million viewers, a 19.9% audience share . The series is available in full on Netflix.
4.2.3. BBC’s “Sherlock” (2010-2017), “Doctor Who” (2005-2017) and “EastEnders” (1985)
“Sherlock” is the BBC’s great success of transmedia storytelling. It is a modern version of the classic British literature. According to Stein and Busse (2012), in addition to its interaction with the audience, “Sherlock” is a model of new narration because it performs a transmedia extension of film elements, which are in principle external to it, such as Watson’s blog and Sherlock’s detective service blog. At the same time, the protagonist’s use of text messages, Internet and GPS to solve crimes builds a coherent narrative that transcends all platforms. In the specific case of transmedia storytelling: Watson appears as a novice blogger, a not-too-clever digital citizen, while “Sherlock” maintains a detective service website, “The Science of Deduction”, where he offers his expertise and interact with potential customers. In the end, these are two different narrative forms which complete the film, given that at certain key moments the characters communicate through Sherlock’s website or get important information from Watson’s blog. The public can visit the blog and the website and explore for clues beyond the limits of the television show, although, as Busse (2012) points out, these sites do not encourage users to become fans nor aims to become a forum between viewers and screenwriters. However, “Sherlock” fan forums have spontaneously emerged on the Internet. In terms of audience, “Sherlock” has reached in some episodes -like the one broadcast on Christmas 2016- a 34.5% audience share, which is the most watched show in British television, with 11.6 million viewers[ 9]. Outside the United Kingdom, it has been distributed in 224 countries worldwide (BBC Report 2014). Netflix currently offers 4 seasons of the series. The series features an extension for the mobile phone platform in which all contents are easily accessible.
For its part, “Doctor Who” is a British cultural phenomenon (Cuen 2013). It is a science fiction series with more than 50 years on the BBC. First as a conventional film, between 1963 and 1989, and then, in 2005, as series with extensions on the Internet. Its protagonist, the Doctor, is a traveller in time and space who can be regenerated before dying and change his physique and personality, while retaining his story and memories (Cuen 2013). A peculiarity of “Doctor Who” is that, since its inception, it has had fan clubs that echo the television product in its different aspects. Along with this, also in its pre-Internet period, the series gave rise to derived fiction contents that shaped the universe of “Doctor Who”, such as “Doctor Who and The Daleks” and “Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD”, as well as a collection of books, comics and merchandising (Collins 2013). Between 1990 and 2005, writers, actors, screenwriters, producers of videos, audios and books related to “Doctor Who”, often driven by fans’ demand, helped maintain the universe of the series. So that when the BBC decided to bring back “Doctor Who”, it found a transmedia base that to be explored and expanded (Collins 2013). The protagonists’ blogs and websites visited by characters could be found on real Google. The BBC website offers downloadable derived short fictions and two secondary series which combine the universes and situations of “Doctor Who”, “Torchwood” and “The Sarah Jane Adventures”. In terms of acceptance outside the United Kingdom, it has been distributed in 98 countries in 15 different languages (BBC Report 2014). In the United Kingdom, the audience, always high, have varied over the years. In 2014, it reached an audience share of 32.5% and 6.8 million viewers on average; in 2015, its highest audience rating was 21.2% and an average of 4.6 million viewers. These figures were maintained in 2016 and 2017 (4 million viewers ). The classical and modern versions of the series were made available on Netflix until February 2016, and afterwards on Amazon Prime, which offers the last 8 seasons of “Doctor Who” together with the special Christmas episodes . Like the other transmedia products, the BBC has a specific extension for mobile phones, which gives access to all the content of the series.
“EastEnders” is a soap opera produced by BBC One and on air since 1985. The story revolves around the everyday life in a fictional urban neighbourhood characteristic of many British cities. Often the plot focuses on topics which arouse controversy or break with the social mores of the time. It has a blog -on the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/”EastEnders”)- that offers alternative content, with information about the characters and previews, and since 2010 broadened the narrative world through a spin-off called “EastEnders20”, a platform that seeks to attract the draw of teens and young people, who are invited to create episodes of the series for the Internet. “EastEnders20” has a presence on Twitter (2.5 million followers, in January 2018, dedicated to the gossip about the characters in the series), on Facebook (3.4 million followers in January 2018) and YouTube. In 2010 and 2015 it enjoyed the highest audience ratings with episodes that reached 16.6 million  and 10 million viewers , respectively. Additionally, the episode of 2015 generated 30,000 tweets in the minute after the ending and more than 500,000 tweets  in previous episodes. In both cases, the climax was caused by the revelation of the identity of the murderer who had caused great alarm in the neighbourhood. The average audience was 7.5 million viewers in 2016 and 7.1 million in 2017 . Its extension for mobile phones is an excellent tool to access content and “EastEnders20”. In addition, it has an app called “Walford East-Enders” which offers “news, videos and gossip that any EastEnders fan needs”.
4.2.4. “Goazen!” (EITB, Basque Country)
The transmedia series “Goazen” (Let’s go!) is a musical in Basque language, aimed at teens and young adults. It is based on the 2009 film “Goazen!”, produced by Pausoka and ETB. From the outset, this series encouraged fandom through a close relationship between viewers and actors. Prior to the premiere in the Basque regional television, and as part of the promotion, it was aired in 63 villages of the Basque Country. According to EITB, “Goazen!” reached a 7.5% share of television audience (in the Basque Country) with 66,000 viewers. It was watched by 24.4% of the young audience (in the Basque Country). In 2009, it was broadcast as a series (12 episodes) in EITB, with relatively good levels of audience. The second season was premiered in 2016 (10 episodes), and included an extension of online content, such as its website (eitb.eus/Goazen), which gave access to the best moments of the series, songs, photo galleries and video extras, as well as full episodes of 2009 in the section “Go!azen 2.0”. The increase in interaction channels in the third season of 2017 (13 episodes) has resulted in the launch of an app that offers access to different contents of “Goazen!”. On the other hand, the series has developed specific content for the mobile phone platform.
4.2.5. “Alpha 0.7 – Der Feind in dir” (SWR, 2010)
The regional television SWR (Südwestrundfunk) of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate (south of Germany) launched in 2010 the science fiction series “Alpha 0.7-Der Feind in dir” (Alpha 0.7-The enemy in you). Before the broadcast of the 6 25-minute-long episodes, SWR launched a promotion campaign directed to the young public that included information, blogs and video clips . The story revolves around a young woman, Johanna Berger, who comes from a future world and struggles to win control over her life. Without her knowledge, Johanna Berger gets a chip inserted in the brain and becomes the focus of a neuroscientific experiment in the Pre-Crime-Center Department. The purpose of the research is to increase security for all German citizens. Even the company that implants the neuronal chips, Protecta, presents itself to the public as a benefactor of humanity. This positive image is reinforced by a television ad in which a convicted rapist praises the citizens control system for saving him from a life in prison. The protagonist has a blog, in which he explains his reasons for accepting the contract to work for Protecta. The film shows documents from the real world, such as Wikipedia entries on brain stimulation and paranoid schizophrenia, which acquire relevance in their relationship with the fiction of “Alpha 0.7”. The protagonist, in her attempt to escape the control of Protecta, is helped out by activists from Apollo, a subversive group that fights against the government’s invasive surveillance of citizens.
The most important thing of “Alpha 0.7-Der Feind in Dir” is that, since its inception, it was designed as a transmedia narrative with independent extra narratives presented over the Internet (www.alpha07.de) and radio . In fact, the announcement of the series in November and December 2010 was made under the slogan “Not a series. A universe.” Due to a lack of funds, the series has not had an extension in immersive reality video games, which was one of the initial purposes of its creators (Leicht, 2017 p. 531). The series neither developed a specific content extension for mobile phones. The narrative scheme of “Alpha 0.7-Der Feind in dir” is summarised by Ryan (2013) in the following way:
Source: Ryan, Marie-Laure (2013), Transmedial Storytelling and Transfictionality, p. 376.
5. Application of public broadcasting principles to transmedia products
As mentioned, it is time to examine the application of the principles of public service television established by the Court of Justice on the Danish Public Television channel TV2 (2008)[ 18] and the Communication issued by the European Commission in 2009, on “State aid to public service broadcasters”, on 2 July , to determine whether the innovations made by transmedia storytelling -from the point of view of the connection with young audiences and the promotion of audience participation- can also be included within the public service mission of television.
The transmedia programmes under study would enter the conceptual area of public service audiovisual media from the point of view that they are narrative innovation experiments in the convergent media environment. They constitute a considerable effort within the “development and diversification of activities in the digital age” to “include audiovisual services on all distribution platforms” (Communication European Commission 2009: n 47).
With regards to the informative transmedia contents such as the RTVE Audiovisual innovation lab (“Lab.rtve.es”), “Guernika. Pintura de guerra” (2007) produced by CCMA and “A History of Scotland” (2008) of BBC One Scotland, the references to news and cultural realities (“Laboratorio de Innovación Audiovisual RTVE” and “Guernika. Pintura de guerra” of CCMA) and historical realities (“Guernika. Pintura de guerra” and “A History of Scotland”, of BBC One) meet the public service objective of “giving citizens access to the benefits of the new audiovisual and information services and new technologies”.
In what refers to the connection with young audiences, only “Laboratorio de Innovación Audiovisual RTVE (Lab.rtve.es)” would meet that objective.
With respect to entertainment programmes, we would address two aspects. Firstly, whether experimentation with new technological tools and narrative forms is enough to justify their offering as a public service. Secondly, whether the attempt to reconnect with young audiences also responds to a public service mission.
The sentence of the European Court of Justice on Danish Public Television, TV2, (2008) confirms that “it is legitimate for public service broadcasting to seek to reach wide audiences.” (N. 106, TV2 Denmark, T-309/04) . The Court considers as appropriate functions of public television to offer “news, information, instruction, art and entertainment” (N.115, TV2 Denmark, T-309/04).
The communication of the European Commission “on State aid”, of 2 July 2009, clarified that regardless of the technology, speaking of public service is to speak of a certain level of ‘quality’ in the contents and activities that are developed; in this sense it discards contents and services that do not meet the democratic, social and cultural needs, as for example, online commerce (cf. n 48 Communication on state aid, 2 July 2009). Thus, the effort to find new narratives based on the technology available, as all selected public television corporations have done, would not be enough if the contents were not of high quality.
In this line, the programmes that stand out in the selected entertainment transmedia contents are those that carry out cultural-historical promotion, such as “El ministerio del tiempo” (RTVE, 2015), and those that promote the use of the regional language, such as “Goazen!” (EITB, 2016). On the other hand, the issue raised by “Alpha 0.7. -Der Feind in dir” (SWR, 2010) about the freedom of citizens against government control contributes to social and political debate. And even the French series “Fais pas ci, fais pas ça” (France 2, 2010-2017) and the British soap opera “EastEnders” (BBC, 1985) attempt to contribute to social cohesion based on the portrayal of disputes and diverse citizen points of view, which are controversial topics that are reconciled in the course of the episodes. As for “Sherlock” (BBC, 2010-2017), the quality of the content is supported by the fact that it is a recreation of a classic of British literature. Meanwhile, “Doctor Who” (BBC, 2005-2017), with its previous era from 1963 to 1989, is a cultural phenomenon in itself (Cuen 2013).
The reconnection of public television with young audiences is evident in the cases in which the fan phenomenon occurs: “El ministerio del tiempo”, “Fais pas ci, fais pas ça”, “Sherlock”, “Doctor Who”, “EastEnders”. The success of direct young audiences and the presence of young people at events related to the series, as in the case of “Goazen!”, is also significant.
1. Transmedia initiatives in European public television are still a few, but represent an effort by the public service audiovisual media to integrate new narratives and connect with young audiences. They respond to the criteria established by European institutions for public television: quality content (n. 48 Communication on state aid, 2 July 2009) and universal accessibility of new formats and technologies (n. 2 Communication on state aid, 2 July 2009). They also respond to the need to reach a wide audience (n. 106 Sentence of the European Court of Justice, case TV2 Denmark, TV2 Denmark, T-309/04).
2. The majority of teens and young adults use mobile phone regularly (Informe Reuters 2016) and so the extension of transmedia content to this device is particularly suitable for public television to reconnect with young audiences, as most informative and entertainment programmes of the European television channels have done.
3. Transmedia products connect with young audiences, because they connect with their way of communicating and their desire for participation. An essential feature of transmedia contents is that “consumers adopt an active role” in the unfolding of the story. And this achieved not only by participating in one way or another, but by establishing “a creative dialogue with the base story, coming to modify it in the process” (Prádanos Grijalvo and Enríquez de Salamanca, 2016, Rodríguez and Molpeceres, 2014, cited by Rodríguez Fidalgo, Paíno Ambrosio and Jiménez Iglesias 2016). Therefore, they promote a participatory attitude in young citizens (cf. Jenkins 2006).
4. The process of change towards the use of a different communicative style that is more personal and more suitable to communicate with young audiences forces public television corporations “to examine and reflect on their own image, traditions, habits, daily practices and organisation” (Sjoberg and Rydin 2013). Only this way they can aspire to have participation in the audiovisual market. The successful transmedia contents that have been studied here are a positive example of rethinking in this sense by European public television channels.
5. Major investment is needed: money, creative talent, extension of transmedia content to smartphones and new devices that are the main channel of communication for young people. The comparison of successful transmedia programmes reveals that greater investment by broadcasters generates products of higher quality.
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How to cite this article in bibliographies / References
A Azurmendi (2018): Reconnecting with young audiences: transmedia storytelling to transform public service television in Spain, France, Germany and the United Kingdom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 73, pp. 927 to 944
Article received on 28 November 2017. Accepted on 11 May.