The research showed that UGC is used across the 24-hour news industry on a daily basis. As Richard Porter, controller of BBC World (English), explained, “It has become a central element of the newsgathering process now. No question about that.” Throughout our sampling period, all channels used content from activist groups to report the Syrian conflict.5the only story that included any type of UGC, and our interviewees emphasized the news organizations’ total reliance on content from Syria because of the difficulties in using their own correspondents. However, our findings also highlighted a dependence on UGC at times when other pictures weren’t available, such as in the very early stages of breaking news stories. For example, a helicopter crash in Glasgow happened very late at night (GMT) on November 29, 2013, and UGC featured heavily as the story broke. As professional pictures from their own camera crews or news agencies appeared on Saturday morning, broadcasters chose to update their packages and reports with these, replacing the UGC. However, there were also a number of instances when stories ran only because there was UGC to provide imagery—for example a story about police brutality in Egypt, which included a secret recording in a police cell.
Many interviewees framed UGC as something to use when nothing else is available, whereas others saw it as an invaluable resource for keeping stories alive, discovering different angles, and guaranteeing a diversity of voices and perspectives.