This documentary set out to explore meningitis in young people, touching on: its effects on survivors and the bereaved, the science behind it, why students are at a greater risk, and what they can do to protect themselves. The idea impressed during the pitch, the only concern was whether it would become an appeal and not be fully led by the interviewees and their stories, but the final production has avoided this.
Throughout the process, the initial thought that the main issue is persuading students to take time to get the vaccination, was confirmed. Most interviewees were frustrated by the lack of thought and concern young people had for the disease, and this documentary aims to highlight the danger of meningitis, and therefore encourage a higher uptake of the vaccination. The original idea that this was a case of students being ignorant was proven through the research, but another problem was also discovered. Some students do seem to be aware of meningitis but aren’t making the effort to protect themselves. This was something that was addressed in the production blog and additional video content.
The documentary automatically tailors itself to the audience of BBC Radio 1 because it is talking about their peers and so naturally draws their attention. It has a captivating start which hooks the listener with its hard-hitting soundbites. The cue also makes it clear that this is a piece which is going to be talking about young people. The angle of the documentary was chosen to fit a Radio 1 demographic of 15-29 year olds (BBC Trust, 2016), and the final product has achieved this.
The research for this project included listening to previous documentaries made by Radio 1 in order to ascertain their house style. For example: they tend to change the music when each new person speaks, with each track reflecting the mood and tone of the discussion topic. Radio 1 generally use tracks which are current. This was not possible for this documentary due to copyright restrictions, so the music used has been chosen purely to reflect the subject matter.
The interviews really lead this documentary. From the start it was clear that: a survivor, a medical professional, and a bereaved person were needed to demonstrate all aspects of meningitis. As the piece was aimed at young people, the stories these people told needed to relate to the audience.
Danny Sweatman lost two brothers, one of which was in his first year at university when he died. This contribution is intended to shock audiences into realising the danger meningitis can pose, and highlight that it is something that can affect them. This interview was meant to have been done in person, however once in Norwich, the interviewee had to cancel last minute due to illness. The interview was eventually completed over Skype. Danny was contacted due to previous knowledge of his link with meningitis through his campaigning.
Melanie Corney has previously interviewed for the Bournemouth Echo, amongst others, and she got involved in the documentary after making contact on Facebook. She survived meningitis and had a very unique story to tell. Medically she should not have survived. Melanie believes that any awareness of meningitis is good and so was keen to share her story to try and persuade the young listeners that meningitis is something they should be thinking about. Melanie’s interview took place in person.
Finally, Claire Donovan provided the medical reasoning behind meningitis, which was required to give a rounded and informative end product. She works for Meningitis Now but is also a registered nurse, and so was able to give insight from two different perspectives. Her interview was also recorded over skype, as offices were not within a reasonable and affordable travelling distance.
As this documentary has been made for Radio 1, BBC Editorial Guidelines were taken into account during production (BBC, 2017). A few ethical considerations were made, all of which are highlighted on the production blog. One of the most relevant sections is Section 7, which outlines privacy. The BBC states when reporting on topics involving death and grieving relatives, no person should be pressured to interview (BBC, Section 7, 2017). This area of the guidelines normally refers just to interviewing grieving families immediately after an accident or tragic event, however this clause did seem to apply to these interviewees. Danny was asked to talk about his brothers’ deaths, this interview required a sympathetic approach and due care when reporting. Melanie should also be considered under this section, as she was being asked to recall a particularly traumatic time in her life. Other areas taken into consideration include: Section 6: consent and fairness of contribution, and Section 18: The Law; Copyright and other Intellectual Property Rights.
Music proved to be an editorial issue throughout this project. Sourcing copyright free tracks which were appropriate for both my documentary and my target station was very difficult. A lot of the sad pieces available online are all piano based, which is not necessarily what Radio 1 would normally use. As many tracks as possible, that weren’t piano led, have been used, however it proved impossible to repeat this throughout the whole documentary.
This documentary brings something original to Radio 1 Stories, as they don’t often have presenters, who are of the same demographic as the audience, reporting on a topic which not only affects the audience, but also themselves. This in turn makes the delivery more sincere, and has a greater impact on the audience knowing that this message isn’t coming from the older generation being ‘unnecessarily over-cautious’, but from someone their own age. Furthermore, the issues raised in this documentary haven’t been covered in the Stories segment by this station before.
Meningitis: The Killer in Disguise, already seems to have had an impact. Several students who have followed the progress of the documentary and production blog have since been out and got their vaccinations. The Meningitis Research Foundation have also picked up on this project and have been sharing links to the blog in the hope of furthering its impact.
BBC Trust. (2016). BBC Radio 1. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/services/radio/service_licences/bbc_radio_1.html. Last accessed 11th January 2017.
BBC. (2017). BBC Editorial Guidelines. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidelines. Last accessed 11th January 2017.
BBC. (2017). Section 7: Privacy. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidelines/privacy. Last accessed 11th January 2017.
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