Thursday, October 14, 2010

Of Human Interest

Apparently - if we're to believe The Guardian - the BBC has spent so much money covering the rescue of those miners in Chile, that it is going to have to cut back on some of its other political coverage this year. I have to confess, that it wouldn't surprise me if this story turned out to be true. Every time I saw a BBC report from Chile, it seemed to be fronted by a different reporter. They must have had so many journalists there that other stories were missing out. A suspicion which seemed to be confirmed last weekend, when I was trying to watch an edition of Click on the BBC News Channel. Now, I'd noticed the breaking news about the British hostage who had been killed during a rescue attempt in Afghanistan scrolling along the bottom of the screen, but, ten minutes or so before the end of the programme, we suddenly cut back to the news reader. Basically, she made it clear that the hostage story was so important that those of us trying to watch Click would just have to catch the repeat in three and half hours time. Fair enough, after all they are meant to be a news channel, but as the report we cut to couldn't actually add anything to the news flash which had been scrolling along the bottom of the screen, I didn't really see the point. To compound this, the next full news bulletin, a few minutes later, lead on the miners in Chile, clearly indicating that the BBC had invested so much in the Chile story, they felt obliged to push it at every opportunity.

This impression was compounded when I played back the recording of what I thought would be the repeat showing of Click. Instead of being able to watch the last ten minutes of a technology programme, I found that I had recorded yet more coverage from Chile. I was somewhat annoyed. I mean, if it had been the hostage story displacing the repeat, I could have understood. After all, it was breaking news and, after a few hours, I would have expected there to be more information available for the news to report. But no, once again the Chile story had been deemed more important, despite the fact that nothing at all seemed to be happening. But, the BBC had to justify the scale of its coverage, even if this resulted in the bizarre situation of a story not directly involving the UK or any of its citizens, apparently taking precedence over a developing story about a UK citizen. Don't misunderstand me, I do think that the events in Chile were significant, and that they should have been reported on. I just don't think that, for us in the UK, it was that important. But then again, it was a great human interest story, and journalists - particularly TV journalists - seem to like nothing better than such stories, from which they can milk every ounce of emotional trauma. Weeping, distraught relatives makes great television and allow wholesale manipulation of the audience's emotions by the reporters. But perhaps I'm just an old cynic.

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