Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Local TV Is Still Hell

The other day my local TV news programme had the local news story to end all local news stories: coach hit by steam train on level crossing. How esoteric is that, eh? It sums up how regional TV seems always to be living forty-odd years in the past! Mind you, there's no denying that this story had it all: school children were involved (although, disappointingly, they weren't in the coach, but on the train); a rural unmanned level crossing (a favourite rallying point for local campaigns aimed at preserving the gene pool of people too stupid to be allowed behind the wheel of a car); and, of course, a steam locomotive. In a truly bizarre coda to the story, the on-the-scene reported assured all of us worried viewers at home that "the steam locomotive involved isn't the same one featured in our title sequence"! Well, thank God for that then!

Mind you, when all is said and done, this programme is still superior to its ITV equivalent. The other week that programme had a really sensationalised piece of reporting that you'd only find in a tabloid, or on local TV. Once again, it had it all. It had a public interest pretext, ostensibly being about a pensioner being told that the local NHS Trust had decided that it couldn't afford to fund a drug treatment he needed to prevent a deterioration in his sight. Now, any real news organisation would have developed the story as an interrogation of NHS spending policies and priorities, whether the needs of individual patients should be subsumed to those of the majority merely on grounds of cost, etc. But this was local TV. So, we instead were treated to entirely intrusive and gratuitous scenes of the gentleman receiving the phone call from the trust live, and his response to them of "you'd rather see me go blind then". As if this wasn't bad enough, they turned the screws even further in order to elicit the emotional response from the audience, by telling us that his wife was disabled and that if he lost his sight, he'd no longer be able to care for her. Cue tear-jerking interview with said wife.

By this time all opportunities for a serious piece on social health provision had been missed. But what the hell - who needs serious journalism when you can tug at the heart strings instead, eh? That's local TV in the twenty first century folks!



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