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Matt Wells strongly criticises the BBC (and pretty much everyone) in this article about their response to the Tsunami disaster. I agree that the lack of coverage on terrestrial BBC channels was somewhat lacklustre, but I think it’s unfair to criticise BBC News 24 in this way. My defence is below; for Roger Mosey‘s, click here.
While the competition were sending anchors to Thailand (Why Thailand? Presumably because that’s where most British tourists are), the BBC News 24 anchors remained in London, giving a much less nationalistic and narrow-minded view of the crisis.
BBC News 24 presented the world view, sat at a desk with the full facts in front of them, and passing to various highly experienced local correspondents around the affected region. Sky in particular concentrated on the plights of individual British tourists, exemplified by the pseudo-public-service-broadcasting ‘Messages Home’ ticker, whilst giving second billing to the world view, and shipped out anchors with little or no historical knowledge of the region to cover the disaster.
That’s not to say, by any means, that the BBC were right and Sky were wrong. It’s just that they’re catering for different audiences: Whilst the BBC takes the considered ‘broadsheet’ view, Sky goes for the getting-the-hands-dirty sensationalist ‘tabloid’ view. Many, if not most, people in the UK respond to ‘It could have been me!’ news reporting, and they should certainly be provided for. Comerical stations do this well. BBC News 24 should be providing something different, something more analytical, and so it has been.
The Guardian criticised BBC News 24 when it followed Sky’s lead. It now criticises it for doing something different. It complained that BBC News 24 had fewer viewers than commercial rivals. Now it barely mentions viewing figures.
BBC News 24 is doing its job and doing it well. Long may it continue.