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Alex Deane: Our news broadcasters need to think carefully about their purpose

Alex Deane headshotBy Alex Deane.

As I type, chunks of central Athens are on fire and thousands of protesters are on the streets, often behaving very violently. I know this, because Twitter tells me so. Both BBC News and Sky News are streaming the arrivals at the BAFTAs.

I don't mean that they just haven't caught up yet: This has been the case for quite some time this evening. And to be clear - I'm not talking about networks with set, pre-recorded schedules - I'm talking about live news channels which are supposedly flexible and nimble, able to bring us the news of the day all-but immediately.

Some would say that this is our modern day "bread and circuses". That may be right: if one thinks about it there's actually something pretty unhealthy about a society in which this happens. But more prosaically, what's the point of our live networks if they don't get this sort of thing right? I accept that I'm generally out of tune with the media (I care about the global economic crisis, politics and world events; I don't care about football, or the BAFTAs - so it would seem that I'm in a distinct minority) - but even so, isn't this sort of serious crisis they're supposed to cover? I mean - if they don't break into their schedules to report on a European capital on fire and facing meltdown... what would it take?

And not to repeat an argument that I've made many times, but it seems to me that our national broadcaster's position is once again the worst in the spectrum when it behaves like this - because producing "excellence" is supposedly its raison d'etre - to use its guaranteed position and lofty, no-need-to-advertise-so-no-need-to-worry-about-ratings status to address those important issues which commercial stations might fail to take on. Instead, yet again, the BBC tonight pursues exactly the same agenda as the commercial outfits, pumping out footage of precisely the same event as everyone else (albeit, on past form, presumably with far more staff), neglecting the most important story of the hour. 


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