Monday, June 11, 2012

Why we did not need a Dimbleby

The rumbles about the BBC coverage of the Diamond Jubilee have continued, with the latest rumours suggesting that the poor coverage may even have a serious impact on who will be appointed as the next Director General of the BBC when Mark Thompson steps down shortly. 

The essence of the complaints has been that the coverage was neither informative nor entertaining- which from the little I saw, seems justified. The "send for a Dimbleby" message that has summed up the complaints seems to me just to underline the scale of the problems, not just of the BBC but of the wider media.

In the BBC, it could have been "send for a Snow" or send for a Beurk", or indeed send for any one of half a dozen other families that have at least two members working for the Beeb. 

The BBC, like virtually all the media, is a nest of nepotism. Indeed, without a public school education and family connections, it is exceptionally difficult to break into journalism of any kind.

The narrow pool of journalist and editorial staff at the BBC and elsewhere has increasingly dumbed down, because they are isolated from the viewers and listeners- they patronize rather than inform, educate or entertain. 

The allegations that news opinion-formers take their cue from an agenda set from a generally Labour-supporting perspective sometimes seems increasingly justified, but what shocks me the most is the abysmally low standards of fact checking that was not only revealed in the Jubilee coverage, but has become the norm, even in "quality" news coverage or in so-called newspapers of record.

The British media has become sloppy with the facts and casual in its biases. Almost always, when I see coverage of a story within my areas of experience, I see material errors of fact. 

In that sense, the reason why the Jubilee coverage has been so pasted, is that a very large number of people already know that the Queen is Her Majesty (HM), and not Her Royal Highness (HRH). 

In fact the media makes mistakes like this all the time- and often far more material mistakes.

So, although the BBC coverage of the Jubilee was irritating and banal, it was not dramatically worse than its coverage of other stories, and at least it lacked the deliberate twisting of the facts that is now the norm across virtually all of the newspapers. The Daily Express, for example, does not even pretend to accuracy and is not even a member of the Press Complaints Commission. The Daily Mail seems to publish stories on a daily basis that it knows to be false, while the press ethics of the Daily Telegraph includes the theft of private information but withholding such information where it has a commercial interest-  which is what would have happened had Robert Peston not blown the whistle on their coverage of the Murdoch scandal.

Inaccurate, biased, corrupt and riddled with nepotism: just another snap-shot of the modern British media, Dimbleby or no Dimbleby 

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