Tuesday, April 25, 2006

BBC TV News Part Two (Anna Ford)

The hornet's nest I appear to have kicked over in writing about the condition of BBC TV news (see earlier posting) continues to generate a flood of responses, most now very much in favour of my criticisms. One comes from Anna Ford whom I described in the piece as "uncommonly beautiful". I subsequently felt guilty about not excluding her from my tirade. She has agreed the publication of her response here.

Dear Bryan,
I was bowled over by your uncommonly sweet compliment. Dear Reggie may have been rather drunk some of the time but he was enormous fun and very clever, and streets ahead of the average newscaster today..
I agree with your news thesis ,which is why I'm off. I've never had less to do nor less input into a prgramme than now, and feel my time's being wasted.
There's more fun to be had elswhere and things to learn.
I shall continue to enjoy reading and so often agreeing with your views
Best wishes


  1. Television news nowadays seems to consist almost entirely of journalists interviewing each other. To make it appear like 'breaking news' the producers send one of the journalists out into the street (usually in the dark and the rain) to reply breathlessly to excited questions fired out from the studio. I recall one poor hack standing drenched outside a closed up factory in Leicestershire in the middle of the night spouting on about reported redundancies. Personally, I don't want to know what these television journalists think, I simply want to know what's happening out there in the world. In the good old days that's what the news used to tell me - and if they had 'analysis' it came from interviewing experts in the field, not one another.

  2. The criticism of current television news conventions is surely reaching a crescendo, and the time is ripe for change. I therefore propose the following manifesto:

    1) There should computer graphics in TV news. When something needs to be explained, it should be explained by clear verbal exposition and clear diagrams.

    2) There should be one, and only one, set of headlines, delivered at the beginning of the news. Thereafter, no further reference should be made to the stories and features "coming up later."

    3) There should be one, and only one, newsreader. The newsreader should sit down at all times, behind a desk, and never, ever, tap at a computer keyboard.

    4) There should be no live discussions with journalists "at the scene" of some prior or anticipated event. Reports should be pre-recorded unless the event in question really is happening NOW.

    5) When there is no original and relevant video footage to accompany a report or piece of analysis, the newsreader or journalist should speak engagingly and incisively, without cliche or platitude, straight to camera. The attention of the viewer should be retained by the strength of the journalist or newsreader's knowledge, integrity, and personality, in the style of John Simpson.

    Any news broadcast which employed these principles would instantly stand out from the crowd, attracting all those viewers repulsed by the facile content of current television news. I suspect such a programme would also engender huge levels of viewer-loyalty, the holy grail of modern TV.

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