EDITORIAL: Media must look beyond Iraq war

At PRWeek's PR and the Media conference last week, Martin Fewell, deputy editor of Channel 4 News, congratulated PRWeek on choosing the 'quietest broadcast day for years' on which to hold its conference. 'There must be a term for when this happens,' he mused, referring to the effect on PR campaigns and coverage when carefully laid plans coincide with acts of god, governments and natural disasters.

Indeed, as we report on our analysis page this week, the unprecendented level of coverage of the war in Iraq is creating an almost insurmountable challenge for PROs, and in particular those dealing with the broadcast media. The presence of 'embedded' journalists has for the first time created access to almost 24-hour rolling footage of activity on the ground. As a result, the domestic news agenda has been all but forgotten. What business coverage has made it to the screens has related primarily to continually fluctuating responses of the markets to incoming news. In fact, only the Oscars managed to break through the back-to-back war coverage in any meaningful way this week.

Yet, there are already rumbles of discontent among a section of the public that is beginning to tire of the 24/7 diet of tank movements and sand storms. And if the first Gulf war was the making of 24-hour news channels, there is every possibility that the second could contribute to its undoing.

As this war now looks likely to last longer than expected, it is time for broadcast news editors to broaden their horizons again.

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