So the media managers are blaming uneducated young programme-makers for failing to understand that trust is all a broadcaster has, all a journalist can offer the reader, viewer or listener. The utterly uninteresting event of another photograph of the Queen has turned into an opportunity for the BBC bosses to heckle at the programme makers. That highly trustworthy character, Michael Grade, said this morning that the BBC had been ‘deceived’.
‘We are in an age today where there has been a huge influx of young talent into the industry as it expands. They have not been trained properly, they don’t understand that you do not lie to audiences at any time, in any show – whether it’s news or whether it’s a quiz show.’
‘It’s desperately important that we restore trust and that the programme-makers get to understand – whether through hard lessons or through training or a combination of both – that you do not lie to audiences under any circumstances.’There’s no excuse for lying, or making things up (although I can imagine that filming the Queen being photographed must tempt anyone with the vaguest sense of humour into fiddling the truth a wee bit just for the hell of it), but the idea that there is now a generation of lying, cheating journalists that have somehow been bred from nowhere is sheer nonsense.
It’s the Michael Grades and Peter Finchams of the media world who have helped create a BBC in which journalists work ‘compressed hours’ to create ‘creative’ and ‘dynamic’ programmes. They are the ones who have encouraged the slashing of staff and funds and insist that it really is possible to tell the truth about war a or war b in a 45 second despatch. They are the ones who encourage a culture of news management, where the only thing that matters is audience figures, not the quality of a programme. During my stint at the BBC World Service, I stood through countless leaving parties where the manager would thank exiting staff member for their valuable contribution to increasing listenership in continent x or country y. You hear far less about investigative work to expose political and economic issues that affect people’s lives. It is, as John Humphrys pointed out, all about the lowest common denominator.
And it struck me, as I listened to the Today programme this morning, that we’ve never had such a hullabaloo about the countless citizens around the world – who don’t wear tiaras and velvet cloaks or have a lady-in-waiting to snap at – who have been misrepresented by BBC television or radio, but because no one in England really knows anything about that particular part of the world they pass by smoothly and easily.
Grade says it’s all down to training. Train the ‘young talent’ better and all will be OK. He failed to mention the fact that most young journalists working particularly in the broadcast media are trained to believe that the only thing that matters these days is audience numbers, not content. Just get the figures up. No wonder they fiddle the running order a wee bit here and a wee bit there: this is what the managers train them to do. It’s all about entertainment, innit.
P.S. If Ellis is out there, I know this isn’t really your style, but yes (Amazing But True!), I am intrigued you tease. Who? Where? and When? Please….
P.P.S. Still pondering how it was, last week, when Linton Kwesi Johnson and his revalueshanary frens came to the Southbank, that the moment he finished his poetry half the audience started walking out right through the poetry of Jane Cortez and the incredible Amiri Baraka. Where were these people dragged up? They’d been treated to the mesmerising Kendel Hippolyte (I’ve just ordered his Night Vision – try this as a taster) and Amina Baraka, and yet couldn’t be arsed to wait until the end. It was extraordinarily dumb. No wonder LKJ seemed a bit grumpy during the book signing afterwards… or was that just me?