Sunday, July 15, 2007

The BBC, The Queen, and Media Operations

Last week the BBC was forced to apologise to the Queen after misrepresenting events in a photo session with Annie Liebovitz. The BBC showed a preview of a documentary about Liebovitz's work with the Queen to journalists, where it seems the Queen had walked out in a huff, and BBC1channel controller, Peter Fincham, added: "Annie Leibovitz gets it slightly wrong and the Queen walks out in a huff."

The BBC was forced to apologise to the Queen, acknowledging that the video had been spliced in the wrong order, apparently deliberately. That it was the BBC is the surprise. Had it been tabloid newspapers or TV there might have been an apology, but less would of been made of the media organisation.

As long ago as 1999, Jana Wendt highlighted the public's knowledge of the sad state of "current affairs" and news reporting in Australia's television. Ten years ago, in the Andrew Olle Lecture - 1997, she said
"...journalism and entertainment are separated by a line as thin as a spider's trail (and that) On commercial television, the result has been the dimming of news priorities. ... While considerable promotional horsepower is dedicated to pumping out large claims about the quality of news and current affairs, the reality is rather sadder and more mundane. Often, the selection and order of so-called news stories bears little relation to their actual news significance. Stories trumpeted as 'in-depth' reports are often little more than a ninety second videotape pastiche...

Not surprisingly, news and current affairs have become the worthy objects of derision."
Nothing has changed in 10 years? I think it's only become worse. Jump 10 years - 2007. A heavily-promoted tv "currrent affairs" program allegedly tricked a person into meeting them with the lure that they had "secret legal documents" . A blog about the issue elicited this response:

I don't think anyone takes any of these current affairs proggrammes (sic) seriously, for me, they have resorted to sensationalism to increase ratings., facts only get in the way. I now use the option and turn both off.
On another site, about a different commercial program, and a different issue:
Since when has ACA been quality balanced journalism?
Many people in Britain rely on the BBC for quality news reporting. That is especially true given the tabloid sensationalism associated with many British newspapers We in Australia must rely on the ABC for in-depth questioning and analysis of current affairs on TV, because commercial interests seem to over-ride quality news and current affairs journalism. The full text of Jana Wendt's Anrew Olle Lecture -1997 can be read here.

I hope all news and current affairs producers and journalists read it, and address the issue.