Bias: Bias is when a documentary has an inclination towards a particular view or opinion. It is important when creating a documentary that all opinions and views are recognised and explored in the film and that it doesn’t focus entirely on one side of the story. An example of a documentary that is biased is Super Size Me, directed by Morgan Spurlock. The documentary primarily focuses on the detrimental effects of fast food and it does not mention any positive effects it could have. The documentary shows Spurlock living off McDonald’s food for 30 days in order to display to the audience how badly his health is affected.
However, Spurlock purposely limits the amount of exercise he does and mainly chooses high calorie food from the menu. This is influencing the documentary as he could have chosen a salad or done some more exercise and the negative health effects would not have been so severe. The only factual information used in the documentary highlights how bad fast food is and there is no discussion between different views, leading the audience to believe that fast food is bad and should be completely avoided at all costs.
It is important to ensure that your documentary does not contain bias and instead you should provide your audience with information from different views and opinions and allow them to make their own judgement about the topic. Representation: Representation is the way a person or thing is shown in the media. Especially the way race, disability, sexuality, gender, age and culture is portrayed or stereotyped across different media outlets.
It is important that stereotypes and negative representation is not used in documentaries because it could cause offence to certain groups of people and it could lead the audience to have a negative opinion about them. For example, representation of teenagers is common in the media especially if they are wearing hoodies. They are often stereotyped and shown to be people who cause trouble in society when in reality, only a small percentage of teenagers actually cause problems. Accuracy: Accuracy is how truthful and correct the information is in the media.
It is important to make sure that the information that is given to the audience is correct as if they are constantly being given false information, they will eventually stop trusting the media provider and get their information from somewhere else. For example, if a documentary gives the audience incorrect information, then the audience may be weary about watching and believing future documentaries from the same filmmaker. When making a documentary, it is important to make sure that the truth is given and facts and information are not exaggerated.
Balance: Balance is when a programme shows both sides of the story and it is not biased in any way. To ensure that a documentary is balanced, it is important to include lots of different views and opinions so that the documentary is fair to both sides. It is vital that documentaries are balanced because it allows the audience to have their own opinion on the subject without a specific view being forced upon them. If a documentary is not balanced then the audience might not keep watching until the end as they feel like their opinion on the topic is being decided for them.
For example, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, directed by Joe Cross, is an example of a documentary that is balanced and shows both sides of the story, allowing the audience to make their own judgement. Impartiality: Impartiality is when both sides or opinions are treated the same and one specific side is not taken – it is neutral. When creating a documentary, it is important to make sure that your personal opinion will not influence the story. For example, news readers must make sure that their opinion doesn’t influence the story that they are telling.
If the news reader was to base the report off of their personal view then this will cause bias and the audience will lose interest. For this reason it is vital to include all opinions and come to a fair and balanced conclusion. An example of a factual programme that includes both sides of the story equally and is balanced is Supersize Vs. Super Skinny. In this programme, the health issues surrounding over-eating are discussed, however they also give a fair argument about the health issues surrounding under-eating.
For this reason, I think that this programme is balanced as it informs the audience on how to eat correctly. Objectivity: Objectivity is when the entire truth is given in a programme and facts are given so that both arguments are fair and balanced. The supporting facts mean that the documentary is balanced and unbiased. Facts are given to support both sides of the argument and no opinions are used. The BBC Three documentary Cannabis: What’s The Harm? is an example of objectivity.
The filmmaker explores the positive health benefits and the negative health issues equally and no bias is shown throughout. Subjectivity: Subjectivity is the opposite of objectivity and it is when a documentary features people’s personal opinions, particularly those of the filmmaker. This makes the programme biased and unbalanced and there are a lack of evidence and facts to support the argument. Subjectivity is generally avoided in factual programming as it can lead to the truthful facts being overruled by people’s opinions and bias.
Subjectivity is rare in factual programming because most of the time, points are supported by hard facts that act as evidence. Opinion: Opinion is a personal view that someone may have about a particular topic. It is not a fact as there is a lack of evidence to support it. Opinions are sometimes used in factual programming to support facts and to gain an insight into what people think about a particular subject. If opinions are used in documentaries, then it is important that they also include people with an opposite opinion to balance out the argument.
For example, sometimes on the news they will interview people about a certain topic and they will give their opinions and they will also interview someone whose opinion is the opposite so that it remains balanced. Opinions are useful because they allow the audience to see what different groups of people think about subjects. It is important however that presenters or filmmakers do not state their opinions to the audience as this could lead to their own opinions being influenced as the programme will no longer be biased.
Access: Access is when you are given permission to film a certain thing or person or when you are granted permission to film in a certain place. It is important to gain permission before you start making your documentary because if permissison is not granted, then you may be sued for using the footage. For example, if you wanted to film in MediaCity, you need to go to the permit office and get a filming pass so that the security guards know that you have been granted permission to film in that location. Privacy: Privacy is when a person is kept out of the public eye and everyone has the right to privacy.
When making a documentary, people’s privacy needs to be respected and taken into account. Usually if a person is featuring in a documentary or in an interview, they will sign an Artist Release Form which gives the filmmaker permission to use the footage of them. It is important that stories or documentaries do not invade people’s privacy too much and usually factual TV steers away from people’s personal lives, unless they think it will have an affect on the general public. An example of the invasion of privacy is the phone hacking scandal linked to the News of the World newspaper.
They deliberately hacked into 13 year old Milly Dowler’s mobile phone and listened to her voicemail messages in order to create the best story possible. This is an example of how people’s privacy can be disrespected in the media. The suspects in charge of the phone hacking were eventually arrested and this is one reason why it is vital that people’s privacy is respected. When creating a documentary, if you do not respect people’s privacy then you could get into a lot of legal trouble Contract with the Viewer: This is an unwritten contract between the filmmaker.
It promises the audience that the documentary that they watch is the documentary that you have described to them. This means that you as a filmmaker must deliver to the audience what you tell them the documentary is about. For example, if you tell your audience that you have created a non-biased poetic documentary about flying cats then that is what you would have to deliver to the audience. The unwritten contract also promises the audience that the content that they watch is accurate and truthful.