Thursday, 19 February 2015

BBC News

Michael Church in the Independent expresses my feelings about BBC News Channel. True, he chooses different examples of trivia (Prince Charles' views on Islam, an Ed Miliband non-speech and a David Cameron non-response, the BAFTA awards) from the one that roused me: the extensive coverage of soap opera. The wallowing in the death of Anne Kirkbride (a simple report would have sufficed) was bad enough, but the recent extensive plugging of East Enders was too much. This dragged the BBC into the same area as the hyping of Fox movies and Sky TV productions by newspapers in another Murdoch company, News International, or, while Channel 5 was owned by Richard Desmond, the prominence given to Channel 5 content by the Daily Express and the Daily Star. BBC News Channel also runs too much footage from its partner in the States, ABC, even when the incidents covered would not rate a report if they had occurred in Scotland or Wales.

Church contrasts the trivia with the absence of breaking international news stories. He praises the corporation for its handling of the Charlie Hebdo massacres (though I would contend that its coverage of the ensuing demonstrations was excessive) and in my view it has done justice to Ukraine and political developments in Greece. It was right to report on Australian PM Tony Abbott's difficulties - though it was some way behind the Australian press in doing so, and rather superficially at that - the one point on which I disagree with Church. But it was slow to pick up on the political collapse in Libya and it has not addressed the implications of the fascist leanings of the government in Hungary, an EU member state. South Africa, an important Commonwealth member, receives spasmodic attention but has largely been forgotten since the Oscar Pistorius trial. This is a pity, because the rise of a new political party, the EFF, has been entertaining as well as newsworthy (more of this anon, I hope).

I share Church's enthusiasm for al-Jazeera. Its blind spot in Qatar, its sponsor, apart, it is remarkably objective and makes great use of local reporters. Church says that BBC "has the resources to effortlessly trump its rivals", It does not look like that when you see the extent of al-Jazeera's coverage. (RT is probably its equal in financial muscle, but it is so obviously the mouthpiece of Putin's Russia that it is not in the same league as a news organisation.)

I hope the BBC takes note of Church's criticism and suggestions - apart from the removal of the weather forecast. That would be too un-British.

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