Wednesday, 3 August 2005

Let us entertain you!

A plane skids on the landing strip and bursts into flames, but, by some miracle, the passengers come out unscathed; thousands of people and animals are dying in Africa; war and strife is going on in several corners of the world… the news is as intense and compulsive as ever, but not enough, it seems, for BBC Radio 4.

It has recently started to trail the news after practically every programme (and some of them are only 30 minutes long). If that wasn’t moronic enough, it's also trying to “hook” us with entertaining pieces of triviality, “… also on PM, find out why the pussycat didn’t come down from the tree…” I’m only slightly exaggerating. And those trailers pop up in the middle of the actual bulletin too, in case, after hearing one piece of bad news too many, we drift away, I suppose.

Have we all become so desensitized that we need to be told, “Don’t worry it’s not all gloom and doom and the usual death and destruction, about which you couldn’t care less any more, there will also be fun stuff, so please listen to our news programme.”?

PM, at 5 p.m. on Radio 4, used to be one of the best, in-depth news programmes anywhere, but it’s slowly turning into fluff.

A slap to the BBC for giving in to the demands of people with an ever-shortening attention span and a slap to us for becoming so insensitive and letting them.

Update (4 Aug): Today they went one step further: they trailed another programme altogether in the middle of the news!


  1. It's been ages since I've actually watched the news, but I remember that as being a big, big part of the Network news shows in the states for years. Now if CNN starts in...

  2. It drives me potty. I've been listening to BBC Radio 4 since 1969 (I started when I first visited the UK and I've never really stopped. I used to listen to that station even in France). Also, we pay a licence fee every year so the BBC is doing things most of us don't want without asking us.

    The funny thing is that it doesn't really happen on the TV, not on the BBC anyway. They announce the menu at the beginning and then they get on with it, and the programme is not trailed all over the place.

  3. Uch, the news coverage and what passes for news, and the everlasting asinine COMMENTARY on what passes for news here! I think the American media is absolutely trying to turn us into complete idiots. And I think it's working!


  4. Are they turning us into idiots or are we already idiots and asking them to deal with us in that way? There is no doubt that some young people have the attention span of a gnat - too many video clips, or something.

  5. My subslap is for the "we must fill airtime even if we have nothing to say, especially when we have nothing to say." CNN's coverage of the miraculous Air France landing-with-all-survivors included some fantastical reportage on "gee, was it windshear, bet it was windshear, well, here's how windshear works, and other famous accidents involving windshear." Well, it wasn't windshear. For God's sake. *that felt good, thanks*

  6. LOL! Glad to be of service, M.

  7. Blech. In the US, the news has been becoming a subset of the entertainment industry for a long time. In fact, I think it sort of *started* that way, with Hearst and his silly sensationalist papers. Then it got morals, and now it's losing them again. FOX News is the worst. The other day I was flipping channels, looking for something to cheer me up after I'd finished reading a particularly dour and complicated New Yorker article, when I saw an entire 5-minute FOX News clip about a local woman who believed the image of Jesus had appeared in the grain of her entryway door. Lots and lots of long, slow zoom shots of some abstract swirl in the wood grain then followed, and throughout the narrative, they kept recycling the same images, as if they believed we had forgotten we had seen them ten seconds ago. Will and I began running around the house, pointing at the drapes, at a stain on the ceiling, at a chip of paint on the floor, shouting, "I see Jesus! No, wait, it's Humphrey Bogart! No, come here, this one looks like a rabbit!"

    See, that is why we have no attention spans these days. Because we've been only punished, not rewarded when we've paid attention. My friend Doug has written books claiming that ADD is a reaction to the bombardment of marketing messages children have to be exposed to every day. He thinks it's a protective reflex, to avoid paying attention to things that are worthless or harmful. I tend to agree, since it's hard to imagine what else is causing the deterioration of attention span.

    Slap slap slap!

  8. As if we need any other outlets to continue to manipulate us! Huge mother slap to all of them!

  9. The BBC has a huge reputation all over the world; it was, until recently, the last bastion of serious reporting, etc.; once the BBC becomes like commercial stations, that's it!:-(


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