Tuesday, September 21, 2010

If It Doesn't Happen Here...

Listening to Sky earlier I was horrified by the way they were reporting the tragic death of nine US troops in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. They were so keen to point out that none of the dead were British that the subliminal message was that it wasn't quite so serious if they weren't from this country.

This is not a new trend in the media. Think, for example, of the ferry accidents which happen regularly in South East Asia killing hundreds. They barely rate a mention on our news bulletins - yet if a single Brit is involved the news coverage increases hugely.

Even the coverage of the Pakistan floods was less than blanket, and yet it was one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in years.

You can take the view that these are far away countries of which we know little, and therefore it is to be expected that disasters won't be reported in such detail as they would be if they occured closer to home. Or you can bemoan the fact that the reporting of foreign news in this country is lamentable - and that's true across the mediam but especially true of television. Even BBC World is a shadow of what it ought to be. The truth is that the best all round world news coverage is provided on Al Jazeera English. If you haven't seen it, give it a try. It's a revelation. And frankly, it's what BBC World ought to be.

28 comments:

Guthrum said...

Think that you have called this wrong. In a world of instant communications a helicopter going down would be flashed round the world in minutes. In terms of news management, the message was clearly being sent out to the families of UK servicemen that one of their loved ones was not involved. These families are glued to the media and are in a state of low level anxiety for months on end. This does not mean that the loss of any life US,UK or Afghan is any less regarded.

albertmbankment said...

Gosh. Coming soon, further startling revelations that the Sun rises in the East, today is Tuesday (all day) and the Archduke Franz Ferdinand has recently been shot in Sarajevo.

It is ignoble, and every country's media do it. BBC World Service news is far less parochial than Radio 4. Your own beloved LBC gives prominence to London news.

You interpret the coverage as insensitive, as devaluing the deaths on non-Britons. I look at it somewhat differently. Isn't it the duty of a national broadcaster such as Sky to give the earliest reassurance to its customers that their family/friends/townsfolk/acquaintances are not the victims of this particular event?

It's the same thinking that guides the solemn suffix to a report of death that "the family has been informed". It allows anyone not affected to know that the Grim Reaper has passed them by, this time.

starfish said...

You are making the mistake of expecting the BBC to report news

It doesn't do that - it educates us through its own prism by choosing to tell us only those things that promote and influence the policies of which it approves

Hence the current messages about 'savage' spending cuts with no mention at all of why they are necessary and the incoherence of the Labour position, which was planning similar cuts up until the election

Coalition bad - look for splits
Israel bad - under report Hams vilolence

Iraq/Afghanistan bad - talk up security concerns, talk down progress

Immigration good- criticise all attempts to curb it or reduce the scams

Bankers bonuses bad/benefits takers good etc etc

An instant public spending cut - scrap the BBC poll tax

Most families will be around £150 a year better off

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I agree with you about Al Jaz. Al Jazeera is a model of unbiased reporting, compared to the Bolshy Bastard Corporation.

Vishal said...

I didn't hear the broadcast you mention but maybe they said there were no British soldiers just to reassure families back here? They don't always get to know right away, and I presume every time there is an announcement of a death on Afghanistan or Iraq, every soldier's family will fear for their loved one?

Dave said...

TV only reports stories if they come with pictures, and the more spectacular the better.
TV news is another branch of light entertainment, plus there's bias in what they choose to report.
The BBC is pro-Obama, anti-Israel, pro-Islam, anti-Christian, pro- socialism, anti- libertarianism.
Pro-EU, pro-AGW, etc etc.
So they don't report non UK deaths in combat? I wouldn't expect them to.


Everyone is biased- even you Iain.

Thomas said...

I suppose that while I do lament the lack of world news on most of our news programming, as a Scot I am acutely aware that what is a big story here in Scotland does not necessarily get picked up by the main news broadcasters. This is not a xenophobic rant but just one of the facts of life and is equally true of many news stories from the 'North' where ever that is in the BBC view of Great Britain.

Brian said...

During the Labour government, what passes for defence journalists in this country would have used the story to ask why "Our Boys" lacked sufficient Britished roundelled helicopters to be transported in, forgetting that Coalition aircraft are shared on the cabrank principle.What's needed is firstly accurate reporting - not copying MoD press notices, then in depth analysis, not biased editorialising. But a grown-up news media wouldn't survive in our soap'n'strictly vacuum.

Q said...

Iain, you are offended when an American helicopter crashes and the news points out that none of the dead are British.

For balance, try spending some time watching American news. You'll wait in vain for any mention of the fact that non-American troops are even in Afghanistan.

Further, I well remember the "So what? We don't give a f*ck" attitude of the US media when the USAF butchered a dozen Canadian troops in Afghanistan - and the same dance plays out every time the American military engages in "friendly fire" or "collateral damage".

Whatever the issues of British news media, they are so far beyond their American counterparts in quality, balance and scope that they'd need the Hubble telescope to see one another.

Max Atkinson said...

I agree about hopeless foreign news coverage by the UK media - and was moved the other day to start tweeting about how it was becoming more like the ultra local focus of news in the USA.

What prompted this was the discovery on Friday, from some Swedes I'd met at a conference, that there was a general election in Sweden on Sunday. Thanks to wonders of our British media, that was the first I'd heard of it. And I haven't heard much of it since, either.

IanVisits said...

I'll endorse the comment about Al Jazeera TV News.

I tend to switch on the BBC News to find out what is going on in the UK (and what BBC1 shows they are plugging under the guise of news stories) - then I switch over to Al Jazeera for the rest of the morning.

France 24 is also quite good at giving another perspective on world news.

It is always interesting how different channels have evident bias about which parts of the world they cover.

BBC News: UK & USA

Al Jazeera: Mid East and Asia

France 24: Europe and Africa.

Martin said...

Glad to hear the war with the BBC is over. Were there any casualties?

Brian said...

Thank goodness the BBC Popeathon has ended. That was overkill. BBC DG just happens to be RC.

Unsworth said...

There is another view. In many of these cases the local population have a different attitude to death and destruction.

I recall coming across a particularly nasty road accident in Thailand many years ago. A bus had come off the road - the monsoon rain had turned the Laterite dust road into a skating rink. The bus, as always, was being driven at reckless speed with 'passengers' also clinging to the outside and on the roof. The result of it rolling over and over into the deep monsoon ditch was pure carnage.

We dismounted from our vehicles and did what we could to help the injured until emergency services arrived - some considerable time. What was particularly strange was that there was almost no noise from the wounded. They were mostly silent.

I spoke to a Buddhist monk later about this incident - many will know that Thailand has a very large Buddhist population - and his comment was that this was the mute acceptance of their fate. There was barely a mention of it, even in the local media.

Contrast that with the pictures of outpourings of grief and rage in such places as Iraq, the Lebanon, Afghanistan, etc.

Sometimes reporting is about what makes for 'good' TV or headlines. As to Al Jazeera - yes, it's certainly improving, although not yet entirely impartial.

Ian said...

I am afraid to say this is true. Where I was at school, the history teacher gave us the following example of 1 man dead in Linlithgow = 10 men dead in London = 100 men dead in Paris = 1,000 men dead in New Tork = 1,000,000 dead in Peking

George said...

So, what's the problem.
Sky have it right.
US chopper full of GI's crashes, not of interest to the UK public, other than apassing news story.
Sky's sister station Fox will run with it, and get quite macro with the local towms of the victims.
Floods in Pakistan, long way away, in a country which has supported terrorism and regularly has attacks on the local populus and has irregulars attacking NATO logistic convoys taking stuff to Afghan.
News is made for consumption by those that care and have an interest.
Pakistan and US soldiers are not top of the list for Brits.
And you Iain should recognise that.

neil craig said...

Well think of the coverage when our "police" murdered at least 210 unarmed civilians outside the UK base in Kosovo. It was as wholly censored as Lidice or Auschwitz ever were by the equally free press in Nazi Germany.

If you are going to say the deaths of foreigners are not being well reported in our media I hardly think that our reporting US combat deaths is a good example.

Our media fawn over all things American (well actually USAish) while quite deliberately censoring any mention of the real atrocities of which our racist politicians are personally guilty.

Claire Davies said...

You don't still watch the news on TV do you? How on earth do you manage it? It's non-stop repeats of shallow reporting on mostly non-events.

The blogosphere is a far quicker way to find the real news, and to understand what's happening in the world. TV is for those with an IQ under 80, who can't think for themselves, and are entirely gullible.

strapworld said...

Strangely, Fox News rarely mentions British casualities in Afghanistan.

Piers said...

Twas ever thus Mr D.

There's an urban legend about Aberdeen's notoriously parochial Press & Journal whose (apparent) 1912 headline on the sinking of the Titanic was:

"Aberdeenshire Man Drowned At Sea"

Actually I've heard the same story about an Irish paper too, but you get the drift.

SadButMadLad said...

Sky TV news is a British TV service (admittedly watched elsewhere but it's part of a British TV company). They will of course concentrate on news related to Britain. To report all news would just be information overload and it wouldn't be entertaining - for that is what news is, just a form of gossip.

The reason British broadcasters don't tell us about Norwegian general elections is because it doesn't affect Britian. That's why they tend to report on the American elections - because it affects Britain indirectly.

Little Black Sambo said...

"Barnstaple man dies in nuclear holocaust".

Alfred said...

"... these are far away countries of which we no little."

Iain, were you at skool with N. Molesworth?

Ray said...

You cannot blame the BBC, they are very busy, they have a government to undermine, and a union to support, along with dozens of other stories to misrepresent. Come on give them a break they have a whole enormous axe to grind and all on their own,that is if you forget the Guardian.

The Purpleline said...

I think Guthrum is absolutely correct on this one.

However, with 24-hour rolling news I do always feel they are waiting for a disaster to happen. I'm so fed up with Sky breaking to Fox for shootings at work or schools or Car chases. They are local news and should remain so.

Iain as an aside how do you feel prostituting yourself for callers and texters to LBC as a source of their revenue?

JMB said...

I didn't see Sky's coverage, never watch them. BBC were just neutral with reports of nine dead and I am sure that most people then wondered whether any British casualties which seems the natural reaction. Just as a local newspaper will give more coverage to someone from their own area who is killed.

I am sure that if a well known blogger was murdered then you would give it some prominence in your column which you would not do for any other murder.

Martin said...

... Captain Cutlass raping and pillaging on the High Seas?

What next Iain? Little Green Men landing in Borneo? How will they repell them, with smoke-signals?

This blog has become a joke, and I am cutting off diplomatic relations immediately. This = pogsurf v. Dale, to the death.

norman said...

I think our media concentrates too much on news outside Britain. But for the major news networks in America, for the listner and watcher there, the world outside America does not exist. When I lived in America in 1970s, except the Yom Kippur War and the Arabs raising the crude oil price when an American has to pay another dime for the gallon of gas, I did not know the outside world at all for a period.