Monday, August 22, 2011

Losing the War

If you're a rolling news channel, you're only as good as your last war, and BBC News has had some pretty dreadful ones lately. Turning to Sky News for coverage of vital events is like relying on a slightly dodgy friend for all your gossip - you know you shouldn't, but it's just so entertaining. And recently BBC News has been anything but.

Hot on the heels of BBC News's abysmal coverage of the London riots comes their coverage of The Liberation of Libya. On Sky News you could see nighttime crowds in Green Square, celebrating and firing guns. On the BBC it was still daytime as they made do with a loop of library footage from earlier in the day. At 2am they were still claiming that this was a report from "The Front Line". But the broad daylight suggested that the fighting, and the story, had long since moved on.

The picture quality on Sky and Al Jazeera was never going to win an award - but it was there, fresh and live, and a bit like chat rouelette with guns. Sky News even had a fabulous lady in a tin hat - Alex Crawford, standing right there, in the middle of Green Square, with the plucky look of someone who just knows they're going to get played by someone fabulous in the movie of all this.

Meanwhile, the BBC's man on the spot was trapped in his hotel... 5kms away. His twitter account went from initial frustration:

to an increasingly Evelyn-Waugh's-Scoop desperation, including a plea for Sky News's correspondent to come and liberate him.

His on-air appearances had a similarly hapless air, the poor man looking like a freshly-bollocked fish. It must have been terrible for him - trapped in his hotel by the government, in an increasingly dangerous situation, surrounded by minders with guns... but it made for dreadful, dreadful television. And having to carry on reporting gamely on the view from his window (er, silent night) while his rivals had jubilant crowds, gunfire, and the thrilling tearing down of flags.

After a while (out of frustration or pity), BBC News cut away from the poor man and settled for showing still pictures from the internet (like the liberation version of Tony Hart's gallery) and then a studio interview with a dull man in a beard until we gave up and went to bed.

BBC News gamely ignored the stunning coverage by its rivals, except to make the occasional petty corrections ("@SkyNews reports that looters are moving into #Rixos hotel... not really. A few."). This morning they've put on a bolder face (in an article which could only be more bathetic if called "My room service hell as Tripoli fell..."), and are pointing out at every opportunity, with wounded pride, how dangerous Libya still is. But, as the fighting continues...

...the war for news has been won. For the last few weeks, Sky have made us forget the Corpse Copter, Kay Burley and even that shouty man... and instead have proved the one thing that no-one wanted to see... that the BBC's rolling News service just isn't worth watching.


Will said...

No rolling news service is watching, unless you're a complete ghoul who gets off on human suffering.

Skip said...

..or you just wanted to see a piece of good news reported as it happened. Or even... in the case of the London riots, wanted to know your home wasn't about to get torched...