23 October 2008

BBC Television NEWS: produced for or by morons?

I’d very much like to know if I’m alone in noticing that BBC television news programmes are making more and more use of slide shows and graphics in their bulletins.

So I’ve put together some edited highlights from the 10 o’clock News on 8th October to illustrate the style of news coverage that seems to be taking up an increasing proportion of the available air time (see below to view), and there follows a step-by-step commentary on some of the news stories as they unfolded that night.

Before writing any more on the subject, I’d really like to get an idea of what other people think and would very much appreciate it if, after reading the commentary and watching the video, you could let me know your views on the subject (either on the blog or by email).

BBC TELEVISION NEWS, 10.00 p.m., 8th October 2008:

The news starts with a picture of a revolving globe as the number “0.5%” appears with a red arrow pointing downwards and a voice-over from Huw Edwards, tonight’s newsreader, telling us that interest rates around the world have fallen, and in Britain by “half a point”.

There follows the normal opening tune and swirling graphics which fade away to reveal Mr Edwards standing next to a slide with “GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS” written on it against a background of a globe and red graphs.

Click below to watch video:

He’s clutching a mysterious piece of paper that he occasionally looks at while telling us about the crisis and the fact that the government is making £400 billion available (and if you missed the number, don’t worry because you’ll be hearing and seeing it again). He announces that our specialist correspondents are going to explain the magnitude of what’s happened.

The globe on the slide next to him now disappears behind a picture of Robert Peston and the subtitle “BANK RESCUE PLAN” appears below “GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS” – as Edwards informs us that our business editor Robert Peston will tell us about the rescue plan for the banks.

Then the picture of Peston changes to one of Hugh Pym and the new subtitle “GLOBAL RATES CUT” appears below “GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS" – as Edwards informs us that our economics editor Hugh Pym will look at the likely impact of the lower interest rates.

The Picture of Pym changes to one of Nick Robinson and the words beneath “GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS” disappear – Edwards tells us that our political editor Nick Robinson is coming on first to report on “the most dramatic day so far in the global financial crisis.”

Then we hear Robinson’s voice-over a picture of the City of London in the background, as £400,000,000,000 appears in the foreground and another £400,000,000,000 tracks across the screen behind it, while Nick Robinson helpfully tells us that the key figure is £400,000,000,000 – and, if you still haven’t got it, he informs us “that’s eleven naughts at the end”.

A digital clock appears showing the time 7.30, as Robinson tells us what happened “first thing this morning” (presumably at 7.30 a.m.).

His voice-over continues as we’re shown pictures of dealing screens, a shot of the Bank of England quickly followed by ominous-looking red graph lines moving across the screen while a red arrow points downwards through the graphs.

Robinson goes on to ask “what exactly is the deal” as another slide appears with “what’s the DEAL?” written on it, along with pictures of the Bank of England and more descending red graphs.

He tells us that banks will be part-nationalised, and, if you didn’t hear that, red letters drop down from above to form the words “Part Nationalisation”.

He tells us the cost will be “50 billion pounds of tax payers’ money”, as more red numbers and letters fall into place so we can now read “£50 bn taxpayers’ money” – and so it goes on, with more letters and numbers falling into place to coincide with what Robinson has to say.

Then it’s back to Huw Edwards, who is now sitting at a table next to the screen with “GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS” written on it. It’s an oval table with a mirror in the middle that reflects part of whatever’s on the screen at his side.

He reminds us that, “as Nick Robinson’s just told us”, the full cost could be as much as – yes, you’ve guessed it – “£400,000,000,000”. He also repeats various other facts already mentioned before handing over to “our business editor Robert Peston who examines the detail and asks if this will work.”

What we get from Peston is a carefully prepared PowerPoint presentation, with him standing next to a screen as ten slide changes repeat most of what he’s saying in written bullet points. He too has a slide with “£400,000,000,000” written on it – the eighth time we’ve been shown or told about this number since the news began.

When it comes to Hugh Pym’s turn, we hear his voice-over and see a picture of the City of London behind the number “0.5%” with a red arrow pointing downwards. As he proceeds, a revolving globe with numbers materialises in the background while two red graph lines move across the screen in the foreground. As he speaks, written phrases zoom out towards us four times in quick succession, and, apart from the first one, each one tells us something different from what he’s actually saying.

Finally, we get to some of ‘today’s other news”. Edwards shuffles his mysterious pieces of paper, presumably to let us know that we’re moving on to something new (if only he can find it). But we are given a hint of what to expect on the screen next to him, where there’s a picture of a blue shirt with a badge on it that could just be an American flag.

As he starts to talk about last night’s presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, the badge zooms towards us and disintegrates into hundreds of small bubbles. The legend “US08” appears before shrinking back into the top right hand corner, to be make room for the words “ELECTION DAY 27 days to go”, superimposed over rows of tiddly winks going round in a circle.


Anonymous said...

and your point is? you object to clarity? to visual aids in a visual medium?

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