Thursday, 12 June 2008

Spare us this BBC tokenism

It had started on this morning's 8.00 Radio 4 news. Kim Catcheside's report about skills accounts for youngsters in England (with "England" repeated several times) was accompanied by news of apprenticeships in the Welsh valleys. The former is a genuine innovation; the latter was the sort of filler that normally gets a decent airing in a local evening paper. Apprenticeships like this are being offered across the UK. The Welsh story was not even strong enough in its own right to get a headline on the BBC Wales Online News website (at least as of 9.37 this morning).

The reason for this sudden interest in the Valleys? A report from the BBC Trust whose chairman Sir Michael Lyons tells us: "The good news is that the public have told us that they want to learn about other parts of the UK. This should inspire the BBC to meet this challenge and search for opportunities to make what is happening in different parts of the UK relevant and interesting to all audiences." What Sir Michael has decided this means is that we need to be told what's happening in Swansea, Aberdeen and Derry every time we learn about schools or hospitals in England, whether it is genuinely of wider interest or not.

Now, I happen to agree that where there is a genuine innovation in a nation or region, the BBC could do more to tell us about it. Maybe they should have reported the Welsh and Scottish elections more fully. And I have a bigger beef about the BBC World News which generally regards British news as inferior and chooses to report even less news about the UK than CNN.

But the idea that what the public wants are lots of tokenistic out-takes from dismal regional news bulletins is fanciful. Why don't the BBC sharpen up their regional and national news rather than patronising us with tokenistic stories that would not make the UK bulletins on their own merits?

No comments: