I hope you have noticed IAM RoadSmart on the TV during 2017. We have been very successful in getting our spokespeople onto BBC News and Sky News as spokespeople, and also onto other shows promoting our work as a road safety charity.
Many may remember our appearance on The One Show in early March, as father-and-daughter Gordon and Lili Herbert were put through their paces in elements of the new-style driving test by Rebecca Ashton, head of driver behaviour.
We admit that sometimes TV broadcasts don’t always turn out as we hoped. And quite often, our members come back to the IAM RoadSmart press office expressing concerns about it. In my blog this week, I want to explain the way TV companies operate and the influence we have – or don’t have.
Firstly, we don’t see the broadcast before it is aired. We see it at the exact same time you do. We do not have editorial control over anything that is filmed or aired, nor would we expect to.
Many times we are given only a few days’ notice of their interest in filming with us – or in the case of radio, only a few hours. In fact my record for the shortest notice given for a radio interview request was 30 minutes!
When a broadcaster asks to film with us, we always have a press office representative on hand. We offer advice on what we feel is most important to road safety matters and the subject in hand. However, we cannot do any more than advise – not dictate.
Members and groups often ask why we can’t we tell them to do, say or broadcast something. It’s very simple – we have a free media which cannot be allowed to be coerced, censored or manipulated by outside bodies. If the BBC or others allowed us to do this, they would allow others to do the same – and you would end up with a channel full of ‘adverts’ for businesses promoting only the things they want you to see (or buy).
Allowing big business and governments to have editorial control over TV programmes just because they want to be seen in the best light cannot be allowed to happen, it has to be fair. Many remember state control over entire TV stations in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere – and how control over the media became a weapon for some nations in allowing its people access to uncensored truth.
So we ask that if you see IAM RoadSmart on the TV and feel annoyed at how it came out, please bear in mind that what you see is a result of the free media that must be allowed to exist in the UK. And a free media that some countries can only dream of.
Rodney Kumar, IAM RoadSmart senior communications executive