TV newscasts. The impact of studio background photos, headlines and camera angles on viewers’ information processing

The German public broadcasting system, ARD, the largest in Europe with more than 12 million viewers per day, modernized the visual arrangement of its traditional newscast, Tagesschau. Before starting to use a brand new studio with a large media wall, for a number of weeks, ARD presented Tagesschau live from the old studio and produced, concurrently, for testing purposes, a recorded version of the same Tagesschau episode in the new studio. The verbal content was identical in both versions; only the visual presentation was different. Because we were able to access both versions, we had a unique opportunity to compare viewers’ processing of TV news information in relation to screen background design and camera angles, in a real-world setting. With the aid of eye tracking, thinking aloud and interviewing tools, we investigated the effect of both version of the presentation. To review and supplement our findings, we then produced our own newscast in a university’s TV studio. Our study revealed how powerfully background photos, headlines and camera angles can support or impair a viewers’ processing of TV news information.