Saturday, 19 May 2012

In which the widow comes over a bit Daily Mail

The BBC is one of this country's greatest institutions. Every so often, though, it does something makes me come over a bit Daily Mail. 

There are two main areas in which it manages to achieve this. Firstly, BBC Three's programming leaves me, for the most part, baffled and wondering whether it is worth spending the licence fee on. There, however, I am outside the target demographic and would need to step back and look at things in the round in order to make an objective judgement.

The second area is in the reporting of economic news and statistics. This sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, with a tendency for there to be a focus on the negative rather than the positive when such news is mixed (as is so often the way with economic indicators).

There was an example of this a few months ago when some government borrowing figures were released. Two of the three measures showed movement in a positive direction whilst one didn't meet expectations... Guess which one led the article? Yep, the negative news was the headline news.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the BBC or other news organisations should pretend that everything in the garden is rosy - we all know it's not. I'm not suggesting that bad news should be buried either. But in cases like the above a more neutral approach should have been adopted.

They annoyed me again this week when the unemployment figures were announced. Now, again, I don't want to pretend that unemployment levels aren't a concern - they are. And the headline figures disguise a lot of changes in the Labour market - particularly people working part-time or reduced hours when they would prefer to be in full time roles.

A drop in unemployment figures for the first quarter of the year - albeit a small drop and with qualifications - is good news. It also adds to a number of statistics which are at odds with the initial estimate of GDP growth of -0.2 for the same period. 

The internet is a visual medium and so BBC Online felt that the story needed to be illustrated. Rather than do so with a generic photo of a Job Centre sign, or something else similar, they chose a picture of a shop with closing down signs in it's window... 


Economically, it is all too easy for negative news to become a downward spiral and it's not as if there isn't enough of it around. Using negative images with positive stories is, I believe, unhelpful and disingenuous.

It may be that I over-react to these things but it does get my goat... If you're reading this BBC, sort it out!

Andrew

4 comments:

Raybeard said...

Andrew, I'm definitely with you on BBC Radio 3. Since some years ago it's been but a shadow of its former self. It used to be my most listened-to channel but now I just can't be bothered with all that damn non-stop jabber, jabber, jabber - and would rather play my own records. For a MUSIC channel it's definitely lost the plot. However much they don't like to hear it, without a doubt it has been dumbed down disastrously.

I can't argue with you on their presentation of statistics but I'm increasingly annoyed with their news bulletins becoming more and more like magazine programmes where even among the headlines we are often presented with a recording of someone saying a few words in what is meant to be a 'soundbite', or a weird sound, - and you're supposed to guess what they're talking about or what the sound is. People just do NOT talk in soundbites!

Btw: Have you noticed that there are completely different orders of priorities between the BBC's radio and TV news. Sometimes the headlines on one doesn't feature at all in the other!

I used to be a regular poster on the BBC viewpoints website where I regularly aired my complaints and suggestions for improvement - that is until a few years ago when they shut it down! (I wonder why!) Maybe they regard me and others similar as just troublesome crankies who don't deserve an opinion.

Another btw: - and on statistics. Why do so many commentators still make the error of saying that something has increased by 150% when they mean by half, or 50%? And not only that they annoyingly often fail to mention the base that it's being measured from - whether it's last year, the last quarter, one month etc.

Better stop now before my blood pressure rises any more!

Andrew Brown said...

Ehm... I was referring to BBC Three television - I quite like Radio 3 when I did into it! :-p

As for the news in general, sometimes the running order irks me, but then that applies to ITV and Channel 4 too. And the different bulletins and programmes have different identities and audiences, so slightly differing priorities are fair enough.

I do take your point on presentation of stats and failure to explain what's being compared with what though!

Paul Walter said...

Agree about the BBC and economic news. Remember all those panicky red downward graph lines on the backdrop when shares went down? Did they use green upward graph lines in backdrop when the stock market went up? - Did they 'eck as like...

Raybeard said...

oops. Sorry, Andrew. Your blog sounds (even) more sense to me now. I'll not dig the hole any deeper. :-)