A TV column by Jamie Hill
There’s something I love about the ‘impartiality’ rules of the UK’s television news.
Especially during elections.
Ofcom rules state that television news programmes have to show due impartiality throughout their programming and you can get a sense if they’re succeeding or not by the simple test of seeing who is accusing the news programmers of being impartial.
If it’s both sides of an argument, they’ve probably got it about right.
In recent weeks the BBC has been renamed the British Biased Corporation by people on the left and on the right. In my view, and I might be biased, that probably means that most of the time they get it about right.
But it’s a bloody difficult tightrope to walk. Why for instance, did the BBC give so much airtime to UKIP, who have no sitting MPs and hardly any to the Green Party, who have one sitting MP?
The BBC would claim that this is because they are still a political force who have had a massive impact on the country for good or for bad in recent years. They might feel a bit differently after the recent election though with only about two people and a pigeon coming out to vote for them.
Out of all the UK broadcasters the BBC has the most difficult job when it comes to impartiality of its news programming. As an institution it’s expected to be above reproach and at times mistakes are bound to be made.
Personally, I’m just a tiny bit in love with Channel 4 News and it’s hour long insightful news coverage. It’s got room to breathe and to have proper debate. And it just feels like there’s proper gravitas compared to the frivolous flirtation of the now retired Bill and Carole on BBC Breakfast.
But compared with the US all of our TV news programming has a sense of gravitas that the Americans would kill for (probably with guns).
News as entertainment is the order of the day across the pond where celebrity stories are given as much credence as a hard-hitting political stories. And they wear their bias on their sleeves (just like our UK newspapers do).
It’s easy to look down on this style of news, and you can blame the 24 hour news cycle all you want, but we live in a world where a segment about the impending impeachment of the leader of the free world can be immediately followed by a story concerning a raccoon which got stuck in a fridge. I like that world. It kind of pops the self-important bubble between serious and frivolous. Just as long as the racoon is alright.