Saturday, January 9, 2010

Moving Pictures and Talking Heads

Much against both my better judgement and my usual practice, I have twice in the last few days watched a bit of news on the television, both times in English, as it happens. On the first occasion it was BBC World, in the hope of getting the Test score (since I had neither internet nor teletext in the hotel). I had to watch a series of unprepossessing people with stupid faces and silly grins chatting inanely and superficially about what was mostly gossip and anecdote, and who obviously thought they were important, clever chaps doing serious analysis of the major events in the world. I learnt nothing of any real interest (not even the Test score) and even what they did say could not be taken to be reliable, such was their obvious ignorance, and dependence on speculation rather than research. A complete waste of time and money, and a total absence of that, ‘brave souls taking a stand against tyranny on behalf of the freedom of all’, which journalists like to claim to be.

On the other occasion it was Sky news, and this was on Thursday so they didn’t even have to pretend to find real news, they just showed pictures of snow and ice and talked to people about how difficult it all was. Again, they didn’t tell us anything interesting or useful, it was all about brave reporters daring to enter Manchester or Scotland or Watford or Gatwick and the desperate scenes of horror and tragedy they had witnessed on our behalf. Almost everyone they spoke to was moaning, and they all seemed to have the very clear idea that it was someone else’s fault. I haven’t yet reached the age where you shout at the screen but I kept wanting to say, ‘Haven’t you got a bloody spade, you lazy bugger, or a pair of walking boots?’ at healthy youngish types who ‘can’t go to work because the council haven’t cleared the roads.’ And then we kept hearing from people waiting at Gatwick, ‘it’s complete chaos and no one’s doing anything.’ I know it’s not much fun being stuck at an airport without knowing when you’ll get out- the reason I was watching was that I was stuck in one myself- but it would have been rather more informative to find out what the situation really was and who was in fact doing what to try to palliate the problems to some extent. But that would have meant effort, of course, so we just got the moaning.

It reminded me again why I never watch television news. It’s very difficult to get proper news anywhere. A few newspapers do contain a bit of real news and proper analysis by people who actually know what they are talking about, but in Britain that means bits of the FT, on a good day, and that’s it. Over here it’s only a little bit better. Fortunately it’s now relatively easy to find the news yourself, but it’s still hard work and takes a lot of time. The press, which, if it has any serious purpose at all, is supposed to save us the time and trouble and do it much better than we could, doesn’t bother, and never has.

1 comment:

Vincent said...

I tend to find almost all TV intolerable, even though the UK seems to be admired throughout the world for its innovative programmes. We watch them on DVD, years later - series like Black Books, the Office, or dramas by Stephen Poliakoff.

Mostly I get news from BBC Radio 4, though its standards of journalism seem to decline further each day.

It seems essential to be an elitist snob, to avoid apoplexy; though noblesse oblige and all that, it's never anything personal.