How about unsophisticated or lacking in gravitas or maybe plain ignorant? Two lightweight presenters laughed their way through the day, with others popping up from different places. The overall lack of experience was shocking. Some commentators did not know the bow of a boat from the stern. What was the difference between a boat and a ship? They talked about going downstairs. They got the displacement of HMS Belfast hopelessly wrong. They thought Admiral Nelson was still alive at the Battle of Waterloo. They could not read semaphore. And I can go on and on. Coverage on day two improved as Huw Edwards was hurriedly wheeled in, to add some professionalism.
So the decision to grant privileged access to the BBC to cover the Diamond Jubilee celebrations on Monday turned out to be a disaster. ITV or Sky would have done a much better job. What does this tell us about the BBC’s attitude to current affairs? Forget about facts and analysis and concentrate on what it feels like to be there. Get chatty inexperienced presenters to talk bollocks that would only excite teenagers.
Just look at the coverage of Syria. There are lots of reporters concentrating on what it’s like to be under fire and so on. Great. But what is more important is why there is gunfire. Who is being targeted and why? The viewer needs to understand the context, the history, the disposition of the various forces and the significance of what is being described. Only a veteran reporter can do this. The struggle in Syria is between the minority Alawite Shia sect that rules the country and the Sunnis who make up the majority of the population. Minorities such as Kurds, Christians and Circassians are not supporting the insurgents. They feel they would be persecuted if the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood came to power. How much of this comes through in BBC reports? Very little. None in fact. No wonder viewers, who want an in depth analysis of Middle East politics, turn to Al Jazeera. Its Inside Story provides some of the best analysis on the box.
So what am I saying here? The BBC has dumbed down news to the point where it describes events in the simplest of terms and often inaccurately but does not analyse them. The BBC is Europhile so don’t expect a withering report on the bumbling ineptitude of José Manuel Barroso or Herman van Rompuy. You are not sure what offices they fill? The BBC will certainly not explain it to you. The BBC loves US President Barack Obama. There are no devastating exposés of his incompetence from BBC mouths. The BBC is left of centre. There are no conservative commentators on its staff – none at all. And now it is getting a left-wing Director General who had served New Labour. How crazy is that?
So what is the inevitable conclusion which comes to mind? The BBC should either take news seriously or get out of the news business. ITV, Sky, Al Jazeera and others cover what is happening in the world much better.
The main problem is that the BBC is a publicly funded monopoly. This makes it inefficient, complacent and lazy. If it had to earn its money from advertising, it would have had to improve its performance. Perhaps the time has come for it to be privatised. Let’s see if it survives in commercial broadcasting.