I stopped watching BBC television news after their coverage of the death and funeral of Margaret Thatcher in 2013. I was born in Nottinghamshire but have lived in South Yorkshire since I was a year old and Thatcher was a very unpopular prime minister in these parts, although you would not have realised that from the eulogising on the BBC.
But Broadcasting House is a long way from Orgreave, and the BBC’s recently replaced chairman, Chris Patten, has come a long way since his days as Secretary of State for the Environment when guess-who was prime minister. I doubt those two things are connected.
My wife has been getting increasingly irritated with my whinging about television news broadcasting, so I’m going to stop bothering her and bother you instead. For some time I have been complaining about what I perceived as a disproportionate obsession, particularly on the part of Channel 4 News, with British jidahis and general xenophobia. But this was all just subjective, so I decided to try a little documentary experiment.
I am not a journalist, but I am a critical consumer of the news, and I decided to log the proportions of time spent, and the subject of the stories reported, on the main 7pm Channel 4 News bulletin over a period of seven consecutive days. This is day one.
Timings are to the nearest minute.
19.00 – 19.11 They led with the story of Bolton teacher Jamshed Javeed who has admitted charges that he was intending to travel to Syria to fight the Assad regime.
19.11 – 19.14 David Cameron is bumped into by a “jogger”.
19.14 – 19.26 David Cameron is refusing to pay up the European Union’s bill for £1.7 billion, followed by an item on the European Arrest Warrant.
19.26 – 19.30 A story about Michael Fallon claiming that some places in Britain are being “swamped” with immigrants.
19.30 – 19.40 Sex trafficking by Romanian gangsters.
19.40 – 19.42 Surfers die in Newquay.
19.42 – 19.43 British troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
19.43 – 1946 The proposed High Speed rail link (HS3).
19.46 – 19.50 Boko Haram jihadis kidnapping women and girls in Nigeria.
19.50 – 19.52 Adverts
19.52 – 19.55 The proliferation of civilian drone aircraft and the need for regulation.
19.55 – 19.56 European illegal migration, including a quotation from a trafficker “I take all the dirt”.
Out of a 55 minute program (not including adverts and weather), 42 minutes (give or take a minute) were spent reporting about Muslim jihadis, anti-EU politics and immigration. All panic-mongering stories about Johnny Foreigner.
There is plenty happening in the world other than immigration, including climate change, the disappearance of wildlife, increasing inequality, Iain Duncan Smith’s re-designation of degenerative diseases as curable, the commissioning of Hinckley C, US-led war-based economics, coal gasification etc etc etc.
Oh yes, and all those Occupy Democracy protesters in London, but I guess the Channel 4 News editors didn’t walk through Parliament Square.
Whilst I do not doubt the integrity of the individual journalists and broadcasters on Channel 4 News (Paul Mason in particular has published some very insightful and critical online articles recently), there is something deeply troubling about the editorial balance of the program. There is a poisonous xenophobia and paranoid nationalism evident throughout the mainstream media and it is something to be resisted.
I have no doubt that the editorial policy will change once Channel 4 find out I am on the case, so expect more balanced reporting by the weekend, and at least they didn’t mention UKIP today.
One down, six to go.