Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The thickness of it

Just caught Newsnight for the first time in years. They led with an item about the election of a new leader for the Liberal Democrats. Having obviously decided that the story was a dead duck, they decided to set it up as an X Factor pastiche, complete with fake titles and digitally got-up images of the contenders as boy band members. Television is at its most irritating when it's desperate to make everything into television first and content second. Have they done some research that indicates that people are more likely to tune into a current affairs programme if all its items are tricked up like student skits?


  1. The weak x Factor pastiche had me reaching for the remote, but then I've watched more episodes of Newsnight in the last couple of years than I have of X Factor.

    Shouldn't Jeremy be talking about Winehouse?

  2. Everything's now at a level where if it doesn't involve some element of showbiz glamour then the powers that be - in any medium - think people will turn away. Unfortunately they alienate the rest of us who couldn't give a fig about celebrity. So your core Newsnight audience who want straight news and comment get this sort of cobblers, and they don't like it.

    There should be a strict divide between news and showbiz. Showbiz and celebrity are not news, and they have no place on News at Ten or the BBC news.

    I don't want to hear about Madonna's adoption row or Pete Doherty up before the beak. Only if Amy Winehouse were to die would this merit inclusion on a news programme. Otherwise, who cares?

    The world's gone celebrity crazy and it's driving me mad.

  3. Anonymous12:48 pm

    It wasn't quite as funny as when they tried to make it more fluffy by having weather at the end instead of ...was it tomorrow's papers, or the stock exchange news can't recall?

    Yet another symptom of BBC management's identity crisis - trying to turn all the things that are best about the BBC, and justify the license fee, into cheap ratings grabs.

  4. Anonymous2:47 pm

    "Just caught Newsnight for the first time in years"

    Me too!

    I'm curious why - i happened to tune because of all this Policy Exchange stuff cracking off. So what did it for you?

  5. I'm normally in bed at that hour. I was killing time before the Carling Cup highlights.

  6. Anonymous3:12 pm

    But isn't the point here that the Lib Dems election is a form of 'beauty contest' between the parties, and an assessment of their ability to shine on a platform, as they don't really have an latitude to decide policy ?

    And that Nick Clegg may have to change this as Blair did for New Labour, by wresting the policy controls away from the NEC ??

    Agree that the concept appears a tad 'dumbed down' - but isn't this part of the point that they are trying to make, since I didn't hear to much debate on substantive policy issues from Clegg/Huhne, but maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention.

    But do stick with Newsnight - on a wider view it is pretty good, and has to balance 'light and shade' of Iraq doom and gloom with lighter stuff like this.

  7. Anonymous4:08 pm

    Newsnight ceased being a News and Current affairs programme a long time ago
    The Madonna interview was the crunch this year and sending Crick to report on the entire 2006 world cup was the decider that these presenters want showbiz and not News

  8. Anonymous8:13 pm

    Newsnight creeps ever closer to The Day Today with every passing week. Paxman long ago crossed over into self-parody - he is indistinguishable (most of the time) from Chris Morris. And what the hell is it with the increasingly insufferable correspondents? If there is a more annoying, self-regarding pair of berks than Robert Peston and Nick Robinson, my name's Collaterlie Sisters.

    With the arrival of my daughter two years ago, I had to say goodbye to Channel 4 News. Please tell me it's still the news programme of record!

  9. It was extraordinarily bad, wasn't it? Though I thought the Paxo interview was worse. FYI, we put together a list of 10 Interesting Things about Nick Clegg on Westmonster. And he is almost ridiculously interesting.

  10. If I was an ambitious young person thinking about going into public life, I would take one look at Paxman's body language at the beginning of that interview and change my mind.

  11. I was the producer of this item. I'm very aware that some of our audience are dead set against the use of a visual devices or pastiche. But I'm equally confident many appreciate a different style of presentation when the same story, with the same pictures, has run across every news outlet all day.

    I take issue with David Hepworth's assertion that "content" was at the expense of "television". I'd be interested to know what 'content' David felt was missing from the piece? Had I produced it with simple agency shots of the press conference and library pictures, the content would not have been any different.

    To David's question of whether we've done "some research that indicates that people are more likely to tune into a current affairs programme if all its items are tricked up like student skits?", the answer is I haven't seen any. But do we need to try and increase the number of people watching current affairs. I think so. And will using X factor or visual devises help on some occasions? Based on no hard research I say yes. Call it a producer's hunch.

    Neil Breakwell, Producer BBC Newsnight.

  12. Anonymous3:56 pm

    Pass the Bullingdon tea towel and I will cry into it.

    Why are they obsessed with that photo?

    Who cares ?

  13. I can't listen to Robert Peston. Within one sentence he'll chatter away like a demented typewriter (cf. Richard Briers) and then slow down to the speed of a struggling contestant on "Just A Minute". It offends my ears.