Digital pebbles

Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

Archive for the ‘bbc’ Category

Fortune-telling and Fact

Posted by alicocksworth on February 27, 2009


Last week I went to a debate at LSE entitled: ‘Why Did Nobody Tell Us? Reporting the Global Crash of 08’. The event set out to explore why the media had failed to forecast the banking crisis and the gravity of its impact around the world. In spite of an all-star line up (Vince Cable MP, Evan Davis of Radio 4, Gillian Tett from the FT among others) I left disappointed. The problem wasn’t the speakers – the majority confirmed themselves first-class thinkers – but the limitations of the topic.

At this stage of proceedings it seems not only counter-productive but pretty uninteresting to delve back into the whys and wherefores of who should have clocked the magnitude of the problem and whose fault it was that they didn’t.

Two much more engaging questions emerged out of the evening: firstly, is it the media’s job to forecast world events?

Willem Buiter (FT contributor and academic) held not:

‘I don’t blame the media – they’re not supposed to see it coming. Prophets, scientists – they’re supposed to see things coming’.

I quite agree with him.

All this criticism of the media for failing to see through the fragmented intricacies of the banking system or at least failing to report it feels a lot like a blame game that is not only ridiculous but indicative of a misplaced frustration. Journalists are meant to report and report rigorously. They cannot prophesy and nor should they be expected to. Yes, opinion and prediction are important elements of the media landscape but they cannot be allowed to infiltrate the reporting of fact – isn’t that the kind of irresponsibility we so often castigate the tabloids for? Surely Mr Peston’s ‘warning’ about NorthernRock and the consequences should stand as a lesson that the media must report, not only with clarity but with impartiality.

The second more interesting and I think more pressing issue was raised by Gillian Tett – one of the few journalists who actually understood and attempted to report the fragility of the system – and disputed by Evan Davis when he said this:

‘It’s not the media’s job to bang a drum when no-one else is’

Forgive me Evan but I think that is exactly what the media’s job is.

Some of the most brutal problems the world faces are spoken of only in blushing whispers: suffering up-close tends to inspire awkward embarrassment or a channel change to perpetuate a sense of plausible deniability.

The media wields the awesome power of being able to drag these things out of the shadows and it is the only means by which social silence can be broken and allow education – education that is desperately needed around issues like sexual violence and STIs – to begin.

I do not expect the media to champion causes or issue warnings and I certainly don’t blame them for not producing an accurate horoscope for the financial world. But keeping quiet because it’s what everyone else is doing? That is criminal.


Posted in bbc, business, journalism, newspapers, politics, trust | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A lot of newspapers say we shouldn’t trust the BBC, but why should we trust them?

Posted by Graham Hayday on October 8, 2007

More on trust and UK media.

The bruised, bowed and beleaguered BBC has been taking the kind of shoeing normally reserved for Australian prop forwards in rugby world cup quarter finals.

One reason is ‘Noddygate’, or Alan Yentob’s apparent failure to conduct several of his own interviews for arts programme Imagine.

Many columnists in the nationals have called for his resignation following this heinous example of despicable viewer deception. First there was ‘Noddygate’, then there was ‘Socksgate’… Where oh where will it end?

In this context, today’s Guardian makes interesting reading. The media section carries an article based on an interview with Alan Yentob himself. It reads:

“It turns out that, as Will Wyatt was working on his investigation into ‘Crowngate’, staff on Yentob’s arts programme Imagine were conducting a trawl into ‘Noddygate’. The results, we can reveal today, are stark. In all of the shows, in the four years since Imagine began, fake ‘noddies’ were inserted into precisely none of them. Not one.”

Yentob’s crime was in fact his own honesty. He wasn’t sure if his colleagues had inserted false noddies into his interviews, so didn’t deny it when asked if they had. Cue rabid headlines in the print media.

So can we expect articles in titles such as the Times, Sun and Daily Mail tomorrow proclaiming ‘Yentob was innocent!’

I’m not holding my breath.

There has indeed been a breakdown in trust between ‘us’ and ‘the media’. But for the press to blame the BBC for all of it smacks of rank hypocrisy. The problem may be a lot closer to home.

Posted in bbc, trust | 1 Comment »

On Alan Yentob, noddies and phone-ins

Posted by Graham Hayday on September 10, 2007

Apparently, the great British nation has suffered a breakdown in trust with our broadcast media. The revelation that Alan Yentob’s visage was edited into interviews he didn’t actually conduct has been greeted with outrage in some newspapers (who are whiter than white when it comes to fakery, right? They never make up quotes or anything, do they?)

First dodgy phone-ins, now dodgy noddies. Whatever next?

This whole debate has long struck me as a trifle bizarre. I guess I’m fairly media literate these days (or at least I hope I am), but I suspected years before I started my working life that competitions were rigged. I often wondered why every region seemed so evenly represented on radio phone-ins and the like. Now we know.

But it was no major surprise when it emerged that some – and it really is only some – of these competitions weren’t quite as they seemed. For the most part I don’t care, and I think the same is true of most of the people I know. Admittedly that’s hardly a scientific study of the nation’s mood, but I certainly don’t think all BBC journalism is flawed just because a runner on Blue Peter won a rocket ship made out of a Fairy Liquid bottle (or whatever it was). It’s bad that people were conned out of spending money on texts and phone calls of course, but in the grand scheme of things that’s not a sufficiently heinous crime to trigger some of the headlines we’re seeing in the press at the moment.

There is a bigger problem when broadcasters such as ITV or Channel 4 make money out of people who are participating in unwinnable competitions. That’s disgraceful (and should be illegal). But again, I don’t think the phrase ‘breakdown in trust’ is right in this context. It implies that all of Channel 4’s output is tainted by something that happened on Richard and Judy. For me, it isn’t. I still trust Jon Snow.

And as for Five News banning noddies and other tricks of the editors’ trade – well, that’s just plain daft. There’s a huge difference between something like that – which doesn’t really matter to anyone – and the phone-in scandal, which does (although I’d still say that scandal is too strong a word).

The whole issue has been blown out of proportion and has given the media the opportunity to write about its favourite subject, i.e. itself. Meanwhile the defensive, post-Hutton BBC now has an excuse to beat itself up – again. There isn’t a crisis – or if there is, this isn’t the cause (I’ll write more about this subject later). The breakdown in trust isn’t necessarily terminal.

Let’s save words like ‘scandal’ and ‘crisis’ for occasions that really demand them.

Posted in bbc | 2 Comments »