Wednesday, April 26, 2006

And so it goes on - BBC 3

After an initial wave of abuse for my attack on BBC TV news, an even larger wave of support has rolled in. This support is growing extremely distinguished. This comes from Professor David Lynn, editor of the awesome American literary periodical The Kenyon Review - site here.

"Just read your piece on BBC news. Funny timing: I'd just emailed them (naturally to a general site with no hope of anyone reading or replying, just out of a kind of futile desperation) yesterday to say that I couldn't take it anymore, that their news is too bland, too tabloid, too lacking in ANY international coverage, and that after many years of watching (I come over to Britain every five years or so for a year), I was giving up and switching to CNN, god help me. I do also agree with you about their website and Radio 4."


  1. Prof. Jason JacobsApril 27, 2006 5:06 am

    I?ve just read your piece on BBC news and you are dead right of course. The fact is the BBC were always iffy when it came to journalism ? it?s well known that ITV pushed further in their first two decades and the beeb was blighted by some awful news management (Tahu Hole and others). But there is another issue that your piece raised that I think is just as uncomfortable for brit tv which is the fact that there is very good American television and there always has been. Not just news and HBO, but drama and sitcom as well. I often hear, for example, that nothing beats UK television comedy. But the fact is that all that is fresh and innovative in UK comedy has US inspiration (obviously The Office derives its tone from US output such Spinal Tap, Larry Sanders, and Larry David?s work).
    The anti-American mode of thinking that is evident in so many BBC programmes is just lazy and ultimately self-defeating. The brits could do with some of their ambition and boldness on television.

  2. Alex Bensky (Detroit)April 27, 2006 5:09 am

    Well, Mr. Appleyard, I am not susceptible to the widespread American idea that British tv is better than ours overall, because I've seen British tv, not just the stuff that appears on our public tv stations. I don't happen to share your opinion of Katie Couric but lots of people disagree with me. What I have seen of your national newscasts tends to confirm your conclusions. I'd add that reflexively anti-American as they are, their views on the U.S. seem rigidly objective by comparison with their coverage of a certain small country at the eastern end of the Mediterranean.
    But as to American tv news...have you seen much local news? Within my experience the worst, by far, was Los Angeles. One station spent a month hyping its "special five-part investigative series on the history of the bikini." But generally it's pretty bad. I watch it rarely but every so often when I do I want to run over to the news director's house and scream, "An interview with a star on your network's show is not what the First Amendment has in mind!" And of course, if the network's movie of the week is about some disease, as sure as death and taxes the main news story at eleven will be about some ordinary local citizen dealing heroically with that disease.
    The local news tends to be relentlessly trivial and focuses on crime, sex, celebrities, and "news you can use," usually promoted during the evening along the lines of, "Your morning grapefruit could kill you. Find out why on News Center's eleven o' clock report." The rise of videotape has made it worse because now even if it's local news, if they've got some cool tape of a fire in California they'll show that. Issues in the election? No time for that as they have to do an in-depth report on suburban teen drinking parties. I don't know if there's a British equivalent of our local tv news, but it's hard to think that it could be worse.
    Our local newspapers here have gotten laughably bad as well, but that's another story.

  3. Leafing through your back catalogue obviously Bryan......and your scandalous attack on the BBC, though I'm not quite sure what it was, brings to mind an extract from John Pilger's excellent Freedom Next Time.
    "When the BBC's Director of News, Helen Baden, was asked in January 2006 to explain how one of her "embedded" reporters could possibly describe the aim of the Anglo-American invasion as "bringing democracy and human rights to Iraq", she replied with sheaves of quotations from Tony Blair that ths was indeed the aim,as if his now notorious mendacity and the truth were compatible. No other evidence was required. Such matter of fact servility to the state used to bemuse Soviet journalists visiting the West during the Cold War. "How do you achieve that?" one of them once joked. "In our country, to get that result, we tear out fingernalis!"

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