Monday, November 15, 2010

The Great News Swindle

I'm quite disappointed that the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have called off their threatened strike at BBC News, which was scheduled for later this week. Not because of any ideological considerations. It's just that I enjoyed their last forty-eight hour strike so much. It really was fun watching the BBC's management desperately scrabbling around, trying to fill up the schedule on the BBC News Channel. It got to the stage on the second day, that I was sure that they were just making it up as they went along. It was all reminiscent of the situation you usually get between Christmas and New Year, when there's absolutely nothing to report on and all the 'A-list' presenters and journalists are on holiday. Consequently, you get newspapers and TV news bulletins full of trivia, retrospectives and top ten-type lists, all presented or written by unfamiliar faces. By early evening of the second day, they were giving the distinct impression that their news agenda, such as it was, was being driven by what they could find on line. Certainly, that's the only explanation I could think of for poor Lily Allen's health problems suddenly being promoted to being the second lead item in the evening news bulletin - it really did seem like something they'd found on a tabloid website.

I was also fascinated by the newsreaders they managed to find - sourced, it seemed, from local television and cable channels. (I've been told that the guy who ended up anchoring the BBC News Channel for most of Saturday used to be married to my favourite local TV weather girl. All I can say is, it's no wonder she's been smiling a lot more since she divorced him earlier this year). The only foreign correspondent the BBC seemed to have filing reports normally was in Haiti, (which consequently became the lead story all day), whilst other overseas reports seemed be being filed by local journalists. Not only was the whole thing entertainingly different, (not to mention desperate), it emphasised how relatively easy it is for news channels to find non-news stories to fill up their schedules. The difference, of course, is that normally they're able to give the whole thing a more polished and professional veneer, to disguise the vacuity.

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