If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 9 July 2010

Filling in the Moat

I'm a news junkie, self-confessed, and I've been keeping an eye on the developing 'manhunt' in Northumberland over the last few days. I haven't mentioned it here, because there was nothing to say.

A headline on the BBC News site caught my eye a while ago, suggesting that Raoul Moat had been cornered and the net was closing in (how many more cliches can I get in here?), so I switched on the BBC News channel.

The spectacle was very unedifying. Jon Sopel was practically wetting himself with excitement that the action was taking place only a few hundred yards from where he was actually standing, in front of long-lens shots of a street with some police cars and some crime-scene tape. The cameras were trying to get a view of the actual scene, and showed, mainly, unsteady shots of foliage. It was like being drunk in an arboretum. At one point, Sopel had spoken to three shaken residents and two other BBC correspondents, and was reduced to interviewing his own cameraman, who may have seen something interesting but wasn't sure.

The police weren't giving a running commentary to the media, which Sopel seemed to think was a dereliction of their duty. Meanwhile, we had shots from the BBC helicopter of the Police helicopter, and then the heat-seeking plane, and then back to the Police helicopter again. It was getting rather incestuous.

He kept returning to a near-hysterical woman whose mother had been told to remain indoors by an armed officer and who was in there alone, and who was only contactable by phone, for yet another "so how do you feel now" piece. It was utterly pathetic.

Our national broadcaster, dumbed down to the level of The News Of The World. It was embarrassing.


  1. They have 24 hours to fill with news. So you get to watch the rubbish they usually edit out for the scheduled programmes.

    To be fair to the reporters and camera operators they probably have over-excitable twenty-something newly qualified graduates as producers running the production suite shouting in their ears that they have to 'FIND THE STORY' because Sky (or whoever) is doing something very similar....!

  2. I appreciate the problems of 24-hr reporting - a degree of repetition is inevitable, I suppose. What I find unacceptable is the tabloid tone of it all. BBC Wales is the worst offender in this respect: full of calls to 'send us the stories that interest you' and items about lost budgies. Over the Moat story, the tone of the reporting was unworthy of the Sun. The days when the BBC was the solemn recorder and reporter of national events are long gone. I regret that.

  3. Jon Sopel is an especially loathsome cretin in a close-run field. He was sent up here to cover the Glasgow East by-election. Every time the result was delayed you could see his infantile rage building. Far too grand to be sent up to the sticks here you see. A whole night out of London, and on a salary like his too.

  4. Why do the BBC do it? I hate this 'new' approach (actually copied from US new stations of 20 years ago). Can't the BBC see that measured, non tabloid reporting of news and current affairs is their 'unique selling point'? If they keep dumbing down the TV and radio output they will be just like the commercial stations and there will be no point in stumping up the licence fee. Slitting their own throats with a butter knife.

  5. endemoniada_8810 July 2010 at 16:30

    Too much time to fill, unfortunately. It was much more to the point when the whole day's news had to be broken down into half-an-hour's pertinent summary. With a 24x7 schedule, it's inevitable that a lot of crap gets thrown in. "Breaking" stories are particularly annoying, although fractionally less so (imho) than predicting the content of tomorrow's speech by whoever. "It is expected the Queen will say...": well, frankly, lads, I can stand the suspense of waiting 24 hours to find out what she actually said.

    It was probably a mistake to ever allow newsreaders/reporters to introduce themselves before the article. They seem to take that as some endorsement of the public caring about their opinions rather than the facts.

    It's also a mistake to put so many of them in the field, presumably to add some kind of authenticity to proceedings. It adds nothing, in most cases, to have some herbert standing in Downing St rather than sitting in the studio (for example).

    Oh, and while on the subject, I particularly hate it when they cover the "human interest" angle. It's news that a soldier died in Afghanistan. Not only isn't it news to follow on with a close-up interview of his grieving family (preferably weeping): it isn't even dignified to intrude on grief in that way.

    Don't suppose the BBC are reading this, but I feel better for ranting about it!

  6. @Jim: I quite liked Sopel when he was reporting from the newsroom, especially if he was teamed up with Joanna Gosling or Louise Minchin. When he's reading from a script, he's fine. When he extemporises, he comes across as a dick.

    @Derf: sound point about the BBC's USP. They'll need to tread carefully with the new government, though. They rely on the public's 'love' of the 'good old BBC', but once people realise that they are no better than the others - that we aren't forced to pay for - their protection is gone. And think how much the Govt could save by selling it off.

    @Endo: Well-ranted, and all points agreed, especially about the intrusion into private grief, which is generally sickening. If you can get it via satellite, watch BBC Wales News sometime. It's appalling. Blue-Peter chummy in tone and Jerry Springer in content.


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