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If you hate BBC, be thankful they are not FOX News. Or pretty much any other local news channel in Washington DC area.

One thing I miss in US is news you can actually peruse. Last month, I got so tired of (so-called professional) newspapers. Turns out TV is worse. Most TV news start at 11pm - too late for me. There is news on ABC, NBC and CBS between 6pm and 7pm. However, this is an inconvenient time for me and I rarely watch these.

FOX News is at 10pm. Yesterday I watched the opening highlights. Incredible. And dumb.

First, the signature music plays with a heavy male voice barking out “this is FOX news at 10”.

Next, a female voice declares “tonight's top stories”, in a sufficiently concerned voice.

Story 1: “We have more thunderstorms on the way. Are these going to upset your plans?” Alarming music follows. Followed by a man pointing gravely to a map of the area.

Story 2: “Mosquitos have come back to Washington DC”. More alarming music. A lady walks towards the camera from outdoors - outside a house. As she gets nearer and nearer, her face becomes more serious. She wonders: “does this mean West Nile virus is back? More information on this later”.

Story 3: “Another crime in GeorgeTown”. Music. A Police sedan parked below a tree is shown.

Now the camera comes back to the newsroom! Anchors sigh, shuffle and goes back to the top story of the day - clouds in the distant horizon. Billions of blue blistering barnacles @#@%@%

I don't remember the exact words - but what I've written above is what I can recall now. You get the idea.

Another silly thing all stations seem to do is to advertise more live coverage. Here is a common example. If it rained overnight, you have poor newsreporters reporting live at 6am from under a tree in some county. Next to a fallen tree is considered better.

Reporting live about some FAA regulation? Get a microphone and a camera crew and speak from outside the National Airport.

I don't even want to go into interviews. Sample: “Ma'am, what do you think about yesterday's rain?” “Oooh, I'm so upset. I planned to go for a nice summer walk.”

Around 90% of this type of live coverage adds no additional value by being live. Just stay back inside the studio and speak what you want to say. Are Washingtonians so dumb that they can't comprehend it rained yesterday, without seeing wet leaves and roads next to Capitol?

To my European readers - if you hate BBC, don't. My only solace in this stupid media world is the 30 minute BBC news that comes at 6am on a public television network. I never thought it will come to this, but I miss even DoorDarshan (state run channel in India).

  1. It's like this everywhere in the USA. Everything you describe coming from your local news is exactly the same as out here in Arizona. Only good thing is here the news is on at 9 and 10 instead of 10 and 11. I just love how they "tease" you with something like "your children could be in danger if you have automatic windows in your car!" and they string you along for a half hour until they finally tell you something you already knew.

    Posted by: infidel on July 9, 2003 12:26 PM
  2. I personally think that the BBC is one of the finest institutions in this country. Worth every penny that I pay for it, and more.

    As for 'news' tv in some other places, I couldn't agree more. It would get scary if they actually featured any, and lets not even discuss covering anything from overseas.

    Posted by: Andy Todd on July 9, 2003 01:14 PM
  3. TV news is terrible. I listen to the news on NPR, or read the New York Times.

    A while back I wrote a parody of the conventions of TV news:

    Posted by: Tom on July 9, 2003 01:52 PM
  4. I'm with Andy. I think a lot of people who object to the BBC and the license fee have never watched TV in a foreign country. The BBC has a charter to make quality television, not just tripe to attract more viewers for more ad money. More importantly, the fact that the BBC doesn't show ads means that the other commercial channels in this coutnry run less of them - we get a single short ad break in the middle of every half hour programme and that's it. The few times I've seen TV in the states there have been ad breaks every 8 to 10 minutes.

    Posted by: Simon Willison on July 9, 2003 02:13 PM
  5. To a point I'd say that BBC World is better than the news coverage the BBC does for Britain, despite the stream of "feel-good interest pieces" that come up about Afghanistan and Iraq, which seem to neglect the actual situation as portrayed on other reasonable quality channels, and is (I suspect) what draws criticism from various parties. But certainly, news made for an international audience drops the parochial "it rained on my dog yesterday" trivialities as described above, concentrating on wider issues and often includes some useful background information, too.

    Sadly, BBC World does have advert breaks, but they do also have some pretty good documentaries and "Hardtalk", of course. The emperor's thumb slowly turns upwards again... ;-)

    Posted by: Paul Boddie on July 9, 2003 02:32 PM
  6. What is sadly missing is news about other 200 odd countries in the world. It is all so localized. Television in India is of much higher standards than the ones in US. Yesterday in Los Angeles the main news was that of a Kangaroo that had run away from soneone's home.

    BBC is great, but it has its biases and is mostly swooning over dictators.

    Posted by: JK on July 9, 2003 03:56 PM
  7. Agreed (as an expat Irishman living in the US).

    All the TV news channels here do an awful job; every smart American I talk to, notes that they don't watch TV news because it's so bad, instead they listen to NPR or read it on the web.

    And have you noticed the *music* dubbed over some news reports? Astonishingly manipulative!

    Posted by: Justin on July 11, 2003 01:46 PM
  8. Paul B: In the UK we now have BBC News 24, a news-only channel on sattelite and cable. I guess this is probably closer to the kind of news you get on BBC World. Certainly, it favours in-depth reportage similar to the (radio) world serivice compared to the news bulletins we get on the main terrestrial BBC channels (BBC One and Two).

    We do get FOX news in the UK too on digital satellitem although, I've no idea how similar this is to the FOX news carried on regional US tv. It's probably my least watched news channel (preferred: BBC News 24, Sky News, CNN International, CNBC).

    Posted by: Brian Duff on December 30, 2003 07:52 PM