All entries for July 2006
July 28, 2006
…but sometimes it's just too easy.
Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2006/07/the_statistics_of_war.html
This week, the Editor of the BBC Ten O'Clock News made an interesting point about deaths, body counts and statistics. He pointed out that on average 30 – 40 people are dying every day in Israel and Lebanon. Time devoted on the average news bulletin: 10–15 minutes. Meanwhile in Iraq 100 die daily. Time devoted: 3–5 minutes (provided its something more substantial than your average car bombing). And in the war in the Congo, 1,200 people die every day. Yes, there's a war in the Congo.
To their credit, the Ten ran a piece on the conflict on Monday night, but the programme's editor Craig Oliver felt it neccessary to justify his running order:
…our judgement is that Middle East (sic) is currently the biggest story in the world – by a wide margin – and it has the greatest implications for us all.
The Congo conflict is "desperately" important he says but it's being going on for decades. Does that make it any less important?
Yesterday, Holly argued that the Lebanese are getting more media "sympathy" because more people are dying in Lebanon than in Israel and so appear more readily as the victims. Surely then, by this rule, the Congolese should get more attention, as their daily death toll is 30x greater? Of course this isn't the case – the death toll is but one facet in any conflict.
So why is the Middle East conflict more important? Well as most people point out, the Middle East has oil and Israel has nukes. And of course our glorious western governments have their grubby fingers in many a pie in the region so we all follow the Bush/Blair party with interest – it's a British angle on an international conflict.
I fully appreciate this, but I'm sorry, I can't ignore some of the world's more severe conflicts on the African conflict as not as important. Even putting Congo aside, there's a potentially devastating war about to erupt on the Horn of Africa as Somali Islamists steadily take over more of the lawless country with Ethiopia and Eritrea sharpening their bayonets ready to fight over the spoils. And this weekend, hugely significant elections are taking place in the enormous D.R. Congo, which have been marred by scores of deaths. And the Democratic Republic has its own fair share of oil and diamonds.
Will these events get a dozen correspondents plus their entourage of satellite trucks? No.
One person responded to Craig Oliver by accusing the media of being institutionally racist:
The main reason wars in Africa get barely a mention in the mainstream media is obvious: The media is owned, controlled, and bought by white people…White people don't care about starving blacks killing each other.
Unfortunately, I believe this is a sad truth. Do editors in London give a toss about Africans killing each other? And even more sad, do audiences in Britain give a toss?
The complexity of it all
Craig Oliver's second justification for the importance of the Middle East over African conflicts went simply:
The sheer complexity of the situation requires space to help provide context and analysis.
The Middle East conflict is complex. But so is the Congolese conflict. And the Somali one. Even more so, and I'd wager a bet and say while the average joe on the street could profer a vague explanation of the Israel/Lebanon crisis, they'd be flicking through an atlas trying to find out where the hell the Congo is.
Context and analysis are vital – in all serious conflicts. But the mainstream media has conclusively failed in "context". The BBC et al have had 6 years to explain and analyse the rise of Hizbullah. Similarly, they've had decades to explain and contextualise why Israel and Palestine don't get on. They had two years to explain and contextualise the genocide in Darfur.
But they didn't.
Instead the mainstream media waits for a situation to explode in a television friendly way before they cover it, and thus find themselves talking to an audience who they haven't prepared.
It was decent of the Ten O'clock News to try and justify their editorial decisions, but Craig Oliver's explanation doesn't even begin to accept nor address the deeper more worrying trends within the international news media, contextual, racist or otherwise.
July 27, 2006
There's an email doing the rounds in Lebanon at the moment, pointing out a spooky coincidence.
- In 1982, Italy won the world cup and Israel invaded Lebanon.
- In 2006, Italy won the world cup and Israel invaded Lebanon.
So the message to the Lebanese is: if Italy win the World Cup again, get the fuck out of there!
Nice to see they can still laugh about something.
July 22, 2006
Writing about web page http://www.thankyoutony.com
He's besieged by the media over the cash–for–peerages row. His Deputy is accused of breaking the ministerial code. He's hated for sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. He's taken the wrap for cocking up the Home Office, and more than ever appears as Bush's poodle panting at the president's side. In fact, right now he'd get more votes on Pop Idol than in a general election.
But that's OK - the Americans love him
Dear Lord. Meanwhile in America.
July 10, 2006
The response to my earlier post on the ordering of last weekend's television bulletins (which put David Beckham's resignation as England Captain above the death of two soldiers in Afghanistan) was decidedly pro-broadcaster.
Yet as I expected, nearly two hundred complaints hit the BBC a week ago, prompting responses on both Newswatch, the BBC's post-Hutton Points of View programme, and on the latest addition to editorial transparency, the Editors' Blog.
The daytime editor of BBC News dismissed criticism saying the Beckham story was a "national issue". Yet the criticism was harsh: "disgusting" "sheer tabloidism" and "shame on the people who made these choices" were just some of the comments read out on Newswatch. Martin Bell even chimed in with similar sentiments.
The BBC remained resilient, but you'd think other news outlets were watching and taking note wouldn't you? Clearly not. The top story on today's Channel 4 News at Noon? Zidane's player of the tournament award of course.
July 03, 2006
Can't blame them really….
July 02, 2006
Yesterday England were knocked out of the World Cup, with a 3-1 loss to Portugal on penalties. It was the end of a long campaign that many people really thought we could win; thousands of fans, not to mention the players, left Germany in defeat with tears streaming down their faces.
And, two British soldiers died in Afghanistan, taking the total to five within the past three weeks.
The two men were with the 3rd Para Battlegroup. Four others were injured in the attack in the Helman Province in the south of the country.
Two undoubtedly big stories for today's broadcasters. What do you think they led their bulletins with?
Now I'm not one for being pernickity, but does it seem right for both the BBC and Sky News to give the resignation of David Beckham as England captain greater editorial importance than the death of two serviceman in what is becoming a more violent and dangerous mission in Afghanistan? I can't imagine the families of the two soldiers taking that decision well.
There are other factors to consider of course.
The World Cup is over for England and so it's the broadcasters last chance to make lengthy air time out of it. The events on the pitch certainly held the nation for over two hours yesterday and the media should reflect that too. Also, for television, the pictures of events in Afghanistan were sparse, in fact a map of the country was all we were treated to on BBC News 24. Compare this with emotive images of a teary Beckham trying to read his handwriting. The war in Afghanistan, much like Iraq, has become one of those chronic events dragging on without conclusion; it seems the public has lost its taste for war coverage.
Perhaps I am being to Points of Viewish. Middle aged men with balding hair wearing shorts with socks up to their knees will undoubtedly write into Raymond Snoddy and complain; and equally a BBC editor will stand up and say "we felt it was the right decision under the circumstances" and perhaps they're right. But I can't help but feel that we only lost a football match yesterday, and when two soldiers who would rather have been watching the game lost their lives, the media should step back for a second and consider what's really important.