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Famine, Drought and Handbags

October 22, 2009

I sit here incredulous, hardly believing what I saw on the television less than an hour ago.  I was not watching a soap opera, a drama series or a quiz show.  No, instead I was catching up on current affairs with that bastion of credibility and serious journalism, the BBC News at Ten.  It is now nearly half past eleven at night, and I am so annoyed by what I witnessed that I am here blogging about it, instead of in my bed asleep (not that I necessarily would be asleep, as I rarely am, but that is beside the point).

The programme started off innocently enough, as it always does.  The top story, followed by the more minor ones, concluding with the less serious – if not entirely light-hearted – article at the end of the broadcast.  Fine, all that is well and good.  But surely someone, somewhere, must have looked at the running order of stories for tonight’s show and had second thoughts.  Certainly the lovely Fiona Bruce, fronting the bulletin single-handedly, seemed to spot the problem and had the grace to look uncomfortable even as she was so eloquently spouting her lines from the autocue.

The issue, you see, was with the last two stories of the broadcast.  The penultimate report focused on the extreme drought currently being experienced in parts of east Africa – particularly north-western Kenya.  The effect of the drought and the famine that came with it was highlighted by interviews with local tribesmen and officials, who were struggling to find enough food and water.  They are being forced to sell of their precious livestock in exchange for small amounts of food which will run out within days.  One of the final shots was of a group of people scrabbling around in the dirt and the dust of that parched landscape to find a few grains to eat.  The report was moving and serious – if a little heavy-handed in its approach.

What happened next beggars belief.  We cut from the pictures of these poor, starving people back to the studio and Fiona Bruce.  Her next words were to introduce the final story of the night… “So what do luxury, designer handbags have to do with the [football] World Cup?…”  Pardon me?  What did you just say, love?  Because for a minute there I thought you switched effortlessly from famine and death to a story about designer handbags!  Oh.  You did.  Now, I accept that the story was a serious exposé on bribery being used to secure sporting fixtures for certain nations.  But really, to follow those pictures from the African report with pictures of handbags in Mulberry’s London storefront?  To me, that is crass in the extreme.

Maybe I am overreacting.  Maybe it is not such a big deal.  But would it really have killed someone to look at it and think:  ‘Hang on a second, maybe we could switch those reports around so it doesn’t look so terrible’?  Or maybe it is just indicative of the BBC as a whole at the moment – certainly it is not the same corporation that once inspired reporters – and that they aspired to work for.  Maybe there is something in the water at the moment.  But coming on the same night as the odious Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, was invited onto the BBC’s flagship Question Time, one has to question the wisdom and the judgement of those at the top of the corporation – and wonder whether all of this isn’t indicative of a wider problem coming from within.

Or maybe the BBC – like the Royal Mail – has, for reasons currently unknown, got a suicidal tendency.  Whatever is going on, and whatever the reasons behind it, I found tonights’ news and current affairs programming on the BBC left a bitter taste in the mouth.  I think maybe I shall watch the ITV 10 o’Clock News in future…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lona permalink
    October 22, 2009 23:05

    It happens all too frequently here in the US too, Hannah. Ridiculous filler stories under the guise of news deflate the strength and power of REAL news. Sickening.

  2. Leonard permalink
    October 23, 2009 05:08

    Well, since they were the last two stories of the broadcast, ending with famine and death would be a very big downer, so maybe the handbags would brighten up a mood before the news ended. But, ultimately, it is poor taste and I agree with you about the pairing of the two. Very poorly chosen!!!

  3. tndaisy1960 permalink
    October 23, 2009 15:50

    And here I was thinking that it was only American journalism that had gone down the loo. Thanks so much for the international insight!

    • bubbleboo permalink
      October 24, 2009 19:00

      You’re very welcome – never let it be said that my random ramblings don’t provide a service! xoxox

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