I'm a great fan of Sky Television these days for two reasons. Firstly, watching Sky TV puts the world into perspective and also makes me think that despite our troubles in South Africa, it’s still a great country to live. We think that only SA has problems, but the world is full of bad news, not least the UK . I was interested to watch the Prime Minister of the UK Gordon Brown’s press conference on Sky this evening where he tabled a whole lot of proposed reforms to deal with the UK’s ailing economy and social framework. What really caught my attention was on the podium from which he addressed the press briefing there was a large white signboard which advertised www.pm.gov.uk. It certainly wasn't subtle! The UK has a very high penetration of Internet users, in fact it is estimated that in this coming year, advertising investment online will outperform television. So clearly Gordon Brown and his government recognise the need to direct people to the official government website at any opportunity. They got me interested and I went to take a look. It has all the stuff you would expect from government, with a strong emphasis on interaction with consumer polls and opportunities to vent back or even email the PM. What I thought was really cool was a whole section aimed at kids. Now I don’t know how many parents and or their children are visiting the site, but what impressed me was the initiative taken to drive home key social issues to UK’s youth. The site highlights the plight of Africa and the impact of HIV, it talks to Climate Change issues. It asks; “What does the Prime Minister mean when he talks about "respect", and what are the Government doing to make our communities better places to live?” There's even a section on healthy eating featuring well known UK chef Jamie Oliver. Not forgetting how popular stories on celebrities are to the youth, they have included celebrity section on which celebrities have visited 10 Downing street recently.
The second reason I enjoy Sky is that every evening between 20h30 and 21h00 SA time they talk about the hot Internet news stories of the day, most popular video downloads and most clicked stories. This evening, the stabbing to death on Oxford Street in London of a man convicted of gang raping a young girl was most popular, followed by the earthquake in China with riveting video material supplied by a citizen reporter and third, Duchess Ferguson defending the weight of her daughter Beatrix. Sky is an Award winning broadcaster and is living proof of a media harnessing the growing influence of the Internet through its own programming. They are not alone of course, CNN are going to great lengths to encourage citizen journalism and actively interact their audiences. Locally I have noticed that Radio 702 is actively encouraging citizen journalism and is placing their editorial contributions increasingly in the hands of Joe Public out there. They consistently encourage listeners to visit their website and interact with them via mobile or other devices and report the news. They are also doing a brilliant job with their community efforts with the 702 crime line. As a talk station this transition into the digital space is quite seamless and painless it seems. Of course The Times, South Africa’s first interactive newspaper which was launched just under a year ago has lead the way with this and is growing from strength to strength. Now what I would really like to see them (and/or others do) do, is take a leaf out of Downing street's book when it comes to children. After all, they are the digital natives of today and the world's hope for the future.