UK Media Blog

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Archive for May, 2007

Madeleine McCann – Welcome to the Media Circus

Posted by Daniel on May 23, 2007

BBC/APThe search for Madeleine McCann goes on and, unfortunately, so does the media coverage. Whilst I’m sure we can all agree that the media can be used effectively in order to find a missing person, there is a sense of going overboard in this case.

Take a few cute photos, a shocking ‘snatched from her bed’ plot-line and two humble, loving parents in grief and you have the recipe for a media orgy, all falling over each other to catch on to what little information can be garnered from this event. Despite the fact of thousands of British children missing, politicians walk round with a yellow ribbon adorning their sweaty jackets ‘for Madeleine’ along with The Sun, dressing their website’s masthead for all to see and generally slapping every half-baked story about her on the front page.

Naturally, it’s not a point on its own to simply say “there are thousands of people missing, why is she so special?” because it’s obvious why. It makes a great story and I agree, it should certainly be in the news as it does have a high news value. However, there comes a point where the newsers turn to users.

As BBC’s Newswatch reports (yes, I am aware it’s the Daily Mail of news criticism), there have been as many as 5 live reports from Portugal within an hour of BBC News 24 and all with different reporters. ITN has been even worse with their wall-to-wall coverage and, in my mind, ITV news is about as tabloid as TV news gets, making them as bad as The Sun in my opinion. Lots and lots of reporting… yet no developments. The nature news media dictates that celebrities must also get involved in order to raise their profile and so consequently there’s been an auction for the person who can donate the most to the reward for finding her, with media attention sold to the highest bidder. Incidentally, the reward fund now stands at £2.6 million and I’m sure the National Missing Persons Helpline can only dream of raising such a large amount of money so quickly.

After the news coverage, the celebrities and the donations come the moral public reaction. Not only have there been websites, blogs and other general online ‘help’ as well as the much-reported offline support too. Cycling along Sunderland’s high street today I even saw a poster asking us to report any sightings of her, stuck to a phone box.

Put simply, there is nothing more special about this little 4-year-old girl than there is with any other British child. The family are certainly lucky to get this media attention and would be fools not to use it – and the media are right to report it. However, now that her face is out there and everyone knows what she looks like and what happened to her, the reporting should slow down to a trickle until there is actually something new to report.

It must be considered though, that this is news and newspapers thrive on it, obviously. So wouldn’t they be stupid not to capitalise on this? Your comments are much appreciated.



Posted in BBC, ITV, Journalism, Madeleine McCann, Print, Radio, Television | 1 Comment »

Getting Unhooked

Posted by Daniel on May 16, 2007

The NHS has recently had its knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards AuthGuardianority for a series of adverts depicting people being caught by a fish hook and being dragged to the shops for a packet of cigarettes. The campaign’s complaints mainly centred around its poster and TV output. With 774 complaints, this is already the ‘most offensive’ advert in the past few years.

This seems like utter blindness on the side of the Department of Health. Whilst I understand these adverts are meant to shock, how can an advert continue to shock people if it gets banned by the ASA? Having people being violently dragged around by a hook in their mouth is not something most kids and even adults want to see as part of their day’s entertainment.

There are times when shocking ads slip through the net and simple usual ads get swept up in the hysteria of the Mary Whitehouses out there. One example is the KFC commercial of a couple of years ago, the most complained about ad of its year… because of call centre staff eating whilst singing. It was complained about 1,671 times because it encouraged children to talk whilst eating. Thank goodness the ASA has sense (sometimes) and didn’t ban the advert.

BBCThe issue here is the fine line between controversy and insanity. How did the DoH think they could get away with adverts which even depict mild violence? Did they talk the old ‘if they can run a woman over with a table in a pub, then we can drag people around with fish hooks’? Education is good enough in this country that everyone knows smoking is bad for them and if they want to give up, then they will. An advert with the phone number and website is enough to make people aware there is help out there.

Modern advertising is a complex market, with fractured audiences and so many different media to advertise on. Shock adverts are there to stand out from the crowd but, as I mentioned, getting your advert banned doesn’t help your promotion.

Thanks to everyone who responded to the previous post, I hope you’re aboard as regular readers now. If there’s anything you’re infuriated by or agree with, please post a comment.


Posted in Advertising, Print, Regulation, Television | Leave a Comment »

Sweeney Snaps – Scientology & the BBC

Posted by Daniel on May 15, 2007

BBC/PAJohn Sweeney is well-known in journalistic circles for his bold-and-brash approach to his reports. Whether it’s drinking moonshine/knock-off vodka in Russia (and risking a serious liver disease doing so) or exposing knock-off paediatricians to the General Medical Council, he certainly does what he can to stretch his reporting to the limits, something which you can certainly admire the man for.

However, in a recent ‘documentary’ for the BBC, John Sweeney investigates Scientology and, despite his unblemished track record for the truth, he loses his cool in what he terms an ‘exploding tomato’ moment. Who wouldn’t end up shouting for all they’re worth, after being stalked relentlessly for days by the mad professor of Scientology in the USA, Tommy Davis. They filmed interviews and confrontations and made their own videos which they posted on YouTube as a counter stratagem.

Scientology is a religion like no other and I mean that in a negative sense. Whilst they don’t go round claiming holy war on everyone they see like some clichéd ‘Islamic extremist organisation’, they are clearly the blind leading the blind. What the hell do they think they’re doing, stalking a prominent British journalist?

I don’t say this in defence of John, rather, how stupid do you have to be? Surely if you stalk someone in a blacked-out car, block access to key churches and criticise the journalist in question, then your religion is going to be seen as some oppressive, flighty and insane organisation, intent on quashing negativity from the outside. Doesn’t it make sense to fluff the reporter as much as possible, with posh dinners and friendly meetings in order to make Scientology seem like the quaint, expensive social club that it is, rather than some fascist cult? They shot themselves in the foot twice over, not only by denying a perfect vision of the sci-fi fantasists’ way of doing things but they forgot the Golden Rule of news – bad news is good news (for the channel broadcasting it, at least). Panorama achieved a 19% (4.4m) share of the viewers for that time, a boon for the programme’s editors.

As for the BBC, I can understand Tommy’s concerns after the previous ‘neutral’ and ‘unbiased’ documentaries that have been coming out of the BBC News tosh factory of late. Anything from the BBC that claims to blow the whistle on something or investigate malpractice I take an instant disregard to. I’ve yet to see an episode of Panorama that genuinely allows the other side a chance to exercise their right-to-reply beyond being shouted at by a Paxman wannabe in a suit two sizes too big. Either that or a ‘serious reporter’ in the new style of poly-skilled female newsreaders who overcompensate with glasses way too big for her face…

Sweeney will undoubtedly get a slap on the wrist and told not to do it again but, thankfully, be back to bite the head off some other jumped-up figurehead or other. The pay-as-you-go religion, as Sweeney describes it, has a lot of lessons to learn if anyone is going to take them seriously but, with millions under their belt already, they’re laughing.

Taking a quick glance at ‘Sweeney Panorama’ search results on YouTube brings up a startling anti-BBC response. Do these stupid defenders of the faith need reminding that, as in Scientology, the BBC is an organisation of individuals with varying opinions and reactions? You can’t say he is representative of the BBC.

Still, I wonder who came off looking stupid here, the BBC’s irratic journalism or Scientology’s censorship tactics? BBC, one. Scientology, nil. The BBC wins over any whinging, money grabbing fabulists.


Posted in BBC, Television | 4 Comments »