BBC Six O’Clock News For Dummies v.2.1

BBC-6-oclock-newsBack in March of this year…

I have just finished watching the BBC Six O’clock News for the first time in about a year, and all I can say is…”What???!!”

It seems that times have changed both in broadcasting and in the way we speak and address each other. It was like watching something in a foreign language.

I thought: Ah, this’ll be good – I’ll watch the good old BBC News for half an hour and get an idea of what’s going on in the world, with pictures for a change. Well, if that was the News, then I don’t know what sort of people make it up and I honestly don’t think I’m missing much by not having a TV.

The supposed ‘top’ news item was pictures of truckloads of turkeys being taken to some warehouse to be slaughtered, and a minister telling us that “as long as we cook the meat to at least 70 degrees then it’ll be perfectly safe to eat” (! Excuse me! I think I’ll be the judge of that!). Next it was pictures of a man standing on a dark road watching loads of traffic go past, followed by pictures of a computer screen close-up, showing “1,455,692 signatures – no! Now 1,455,891 signatures!” on an ‘online’ petition by drivers campaigning against a proposed new road tax. Everything has to be ‘online’ these days or it’s not worth reporting. Riveting!

Also, I object to being announced to as though I were in the same room as the newsreader. I don’t want to be talked down to, in that “Now, if you’ve ever considered eating turkey without first checking the cooking instructions then you might want to listen up to this! Because…” tone. It is demeaning, it isn’t interesting, and it doesn’t make me feel any more ‘engaged’ with the news item or the giggle-eyed newsreader.

Then there was an interview in a sandwich shop where a plump and burly lady who made sandwiches all day was complaining about the new campaign to offer employees flexible working – “We do most our business in rush hour so I need all the employees I can get at busy times to make sandwiches – I can’t have people waiting for hours to get a sandwich, they’ll go elsewhere,” she commented. Very incisive.

The bit of footage that followed showed – I kid you not – two halves of a sandwich – one of which was fully laden with fillings, the other with a mere wafer-thin slice of ham. The reporter then used the sandwich analogy to explain to the viewers that while some employees can get lots of flexible working, others have very little.

I also watched as the same reporter then went on to quiz an ordinary woman in the street about the new proposals for flexible working hours. Her response? “Oh yeah, I mean, that would be great, if you had a hen night or something then it’d be good if you could use it for a bit of recovery time the next day, you know, to come in a bit later the next morning…ha ha ha!” Still, in this politically c’rect world, everybody’s opinion counts.

Next I had to watch about 7 minutes of footage going into all the detail of Camilla Parker-Bowles’s supposed planned hysterectomy, in which doctors and reporters and ‘experts’ told me how long she would be off work, and how many other women have had the operation this year, and how soon she could expect to get back to her regular ‘schedule’. – All this despite the fact that the op itself was a good few weeks away.

Is this all I am to expect in the way of News? I asked myself, about halfway through the bulletin. A petition, a womb, and a sandwich? But there was more. A good ten minutes were devoted to the next item, which was all about The Police (the band, not the Constab) reforming as a group. Wow! A sentence would have sufficed for the avid music fan, but no – they had to string it out with interviews with a bunch of fawning Americans jumping up and down with joy, and old footage of Sting back in the ’80s, then they appeared to turn the whole item into a mini music feature all about boy bands reforming to make money. A new figure emerged on screen. Who’s this? I thought. It was Phil Collins from the band Genesis. Apparently they (or ‘it’ as the reporter insisted on calling the bands, in the singular – he may have a point…) are reforming too. So is/are Crowded House. So has/have Take That. Brilliant. I honestly wasn’t sure now whether I was watching the BBC News or just some MTV ‘100 Greatest Bands’ documentary.

Then there was more – this time a piece on how we “like to book our package holidays on the Internet now rather than go to a travel agent”, along with a reporter taking us through the steps on a white computer just in case we didn’t know how. Apparently more and more of us are taking more exotic holidays and booking not the whole package but flights and hotels separately, or even just flights themselves. Some of us are even taking more than one such holiday each year. Wow. The reporter grinned at me as though he was enlightening the human race with this item that was deemed to be ‘newsworthy’.

My patience by now slightly thinned by the fact that I was wasting 28 minutes of my time watching this, I cringed as the reporters made the all too common hilarious banter between themselves about going to see The Police … “And will you be wearing your tight jeans, George?” – “A-hah-hah-hah-hahh…!” GET ON WITH IT AND TELL ME SOMETHING I NEED TO KNOW, YOU CRETINS!

Some other pictures showed Kate Winslet on a red carpet shaking hands with ordinary punters as she “denied claims that she had ever been on a diet”. Again, highly important stuff.

Then the weather (“Get your brollies out! It’s raining folks!” – etc, etc, don’t get me started…), then more inane and totally unnecessary ‘witty exchange’ between the newsreaders before I was told that that was the end of the Six O’Clock News. Excuse me? Have I missed something? Twenty-eight minutes of celebrity non-news and some total nobody with a tie on the telly telling me how to book a flight on the Internet! More like: chit-chat, pointless speculation, and dull social commentary on some of the most banal facets of human life: this truly was BBC NewsLite!

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