Media in Choice Britannia: bland sofa-speak v lawless phone-hackers. Place your bets…Having enjoyed a seven-month break without BBCNews, the benefit of that gap is just getting home to me: it enables your correspondent to more fully appreciate what an increasingly tooth and issue-free zone old Auntie is becoming.
For a few minutes this morning, it paused from the usual Janet-and-John about Obama meeting a real Briddish family and six-inch snails in the garden to stare blindly up its own bottom. This feature is called Newswatch (I don’t really know why) and consists of various Disgusteds of Gateshead Having Their Say while a bland Beeb News executive blathers about how carefully everything is thought about before it is shown to the public.
The subject was the BBC’s coverage of the search-mission put together by the South Yorkshire
Stürm Abteilung police force to trespass on Sir Cliff Richard’s UK property, based on one allegation from over thirty years ago. Two viewers wanted to know why the BBC had used a helicopter to cover the “story”, and why they made it their lead item for much of a day that really ought to live in infamy. The bloke viewer said it wasn’t a story at all, and the woman viewer asked why the BBC was acting like a trial-by-media tabloid.
I thought they were ripping questions, but Beebland Executive dismissed the queries by not answering them, following which he was thanked by the anchor lady. There was not the scintilla of a hint that the Burning Questions re this one are how did they get there at the same time as the police, and who tipped them off? No concerned doubts were raised about media/police collusion, or the loose-cannon harebrains who tend to leak such things in order to build their business. No link was made to Elm House in Richmond. The item simply came and went as BBC used helicopter to watch cops searching pop-star’s home….which we all knew already anyway.
The same was true of the lead news item concerning Ashya King’s parents being ‘allowed’ most generously by cops and medics to proceed as planned to Prague, where a private Slovac clinic is ready to offer the young cancer-sufferer proton treatment for his brain tumour. The vital dimensions of this story – who allowed the cops to treat the parents as kidnappers, why any kid can be a Ward of Court when his loving parents are with him, what the row with Southampton hospital was about, and why one Spanish judge has so far been the sole European to display any common sense on the issue – were left off-stage, as the sofa duo asked a Slovak hospital administrator several pointless questions.
The piece was all about timings, private planes, and why did the clinic contradict a Southampton specialist who dismissed proton treatment as “unlikely to be any better” for Ashya. The Slovak lady tried to explain why, which went in one ear and out of the fourth in the studio, and was abruptly curtailed in favour of when she expected the boy to arrive. This is a pity, because proton treatment of tumours is a variation on the British invention, stereotactic radiosurgery. The technique pulses the radiation so it hits only the tumour and leaves other brain areas free of damage. The specialist in Southamption was thus talking cobblers – and probably knew he was. I should know: the NHS tried to palm me off with the same bollocks: finding SR and the amazing maverick Dr Thompson at Hallam Hospital saved my daughter’s life, banishing a deadly veinous malformation from her brain.
I suspect this is the reason why the ‘relationship between parents and doctors broke down’ – as one phone-in expert told Radio 4 last Tuesday: the parents used their common sense, and took the child out of the hands of a medical turf-war.
It says a lot about how the professions in Britain view their powers these days that Southampton Hospital’s medics felt justified in calling the cops, and Plod immediately blundered into the case in an accusatory manner. If caring parents are not allowed to demand responsibility for what happens to their children any more, then we really have arrived at the Jackboot State so fondly wished for by the Harriet Harmans and Boris Johnsons in the political class.
But none of this was aired. The programme continued with further unpardonably amateurish and defamatory remarks from the sofa (“Jihadi John who as we know was seen killing James Foley in a horrific ISIS video last week”) but after twenty minutes I could stand no more of it.
When Margaret Thatcher came to power on a wave of soundbites about choice within open markets, I confess at first (as a marketing man) to having some time for the woman. We would all do well to think on, some thirty-eight years later, and grasp that we have gone from having a choice of one to a choice of sh*t. I find it very hard to see this as progress – and it applies above all to our increasingly supine, lazy media executives.
The choice we’re being offered in this, the twilight of the unbiased UK television news age, is between a spineless organisation running scared of everyone from Ali Campbell and Lord Mandelson to Machiacalpine and Rebekah Brooks….and a lowest common denominator wannabe channel from the tabloid stable that brought you lies about everything from Hackgate and Elton John to Plebgate and the Iraq War.
In a nutshell, we can have Common Purpose or Rupert Murdoch. Controlling europhile socialists or censorious corporacratic fascists.
Sighs, goes to shop to buy bread prior to taking spade and shifting more soil. French bureaucracy is a nightmare, but it beats living in the Septic Isle.