Is it me or have standards at the BBC sunk to a new low recently?
I was as keen as anyone to find out what the Chancellor had to say when he announced the results of his spending review on Wednesday. To find out, I tuned into the BBC News Channel. I discovered that our publicly paid for broadcaster had decided that to help build the tension before George Osborne’s speech we should be treated to the sight of his car travelling the quarter of a mile from 11 Downing Street to the Houses of Parliament from a helicopter! What news editor in their right mind thought that was a good way to spend our money? How on earth did he or she think that was newsworthy?
Then there’s the ever-controversial Russell Brand. Now like him or loathe him (and I appreciate that in itself is controversial) I really can’t believe many people would see him being a prime candidate for Question Time but on Thursday last there he was. Then, as if one appearance to promote his up and coming comedy tour wasn’t enough, three days later he was on Andrew Marr’s programme reviewing the Sunday papers. This time he didn’t hold back from promoting his tour: he blatantly squeezed in an advert and then thanked the BBC for the opportunity to do so. I have no idea how much Mr Brand pays his manager/promoter but I would hazard a guess that he gets great value for money!
On Thursday, seven men were convicted at the Old Bailey for their part in a “sadistic sex grooming ring”. The details of what they did are horrendous and I wouldn’t expect the BBC to go into that but I would have expected some of the emphasis of the reporting to be about the bravery of the victims who gave evidence and praise for the severity of the sentences handed out. On the 10 O’Clock News that night the headline ran something like this: “Seven men were convicted today at the Old Bailey……. We’ll be looking at whether the police and social services could have acted sooner and brought the gang to justice earlier”. I accept that mistakes were apparently made by both Oxford Social Services and Thames Valley Police but is that really the most important thing to stress? Surely the bad people here are the men who were committing the crimes or is that too simplistic a view? It seems to me that whenever some sort of abusive crime is committed the media start a witch hunt for someone to blame other than the wretched person who actually did it.
Finally there is still this obsession with sending reporters to a location when doing so adds absolutely nothing to the coverage (something I’ve ranted about before!) Nelson Mandela’s eldest daughter Makaziwe Mandela has criticised the international media camped outside his hospital in the capital Pretoria, calling them “vultures” but has that changed anything? Not at the BBC apparently. This morning their South Africa correspondent was still reporting from outside the hospital with, one assumes, all the paraphernalia that goes with sending an outside broadcast by satellite from another country.
The only thing that surprises me about the BBC’s coverage of Mr Mandela’s illness by the way is that there appears to be just the one reporter there. At the recent G8 summit, out of the 150 odd UK reporters in attendance nearly one third of them were from the BBC.
I’m sure nobody from the BBC will read this but for what it’s worth here are my recommendations:
- Stop filming the roofs of cars as they drive from one place to another from a helicopter: it adds precisely nothing to the news coverage and is a waste of licence payers’ money;
- Stop paying celebrities to appear on shows when all they want to do is publicise their up and coming tour, recently released film, latest album or newly published book. They are supposed to pay for advertising not get it free from you and get paid in the process;
- Focus at least some of your crime reporting on the criminals and the possible reasons for them turning to crime. Stop seeking to criticise people who are trying to do their best but are almost certainly working under extreme pressure with limited or too little resources;
- Stop camping outside hospitals, police stations, courts, etc. I am more than happy to hear how Mr Mandela is getting on from a newscaster in the studio. I don’t need to see the outside of the hospital to know he is very ill and possibly at death’s door. Give the poor man and his family some peace and let the nurse and doctors do their job (the same applies to the Royal Family when they are ill or giving birth);
- Just send one reporter, one camera man and one sound engineer to cover an event. That’s if attendance at the event is required at all of course!