TV News & Current Affairs – the future's looking rosey… apparently

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Agree with what Peter Bazalgette says or disagree (and much of it I wholeheartedly disagree with), but he has the knack of capturing a contemporary truth with a telling analogy.

Attacking the complacency of the big broadcasters at the Royal Television Society, Bazalgette said the current debate about topslicing the BBC’s income “resembles the first class passengers in the bar of the Titanic arguing furiously over who should pay the bill” (from Owen Gibson).

That’s what it felt like this morning as a series of senior people from TV news and current affairs lined up to say things are looking rosey, that they were very optimistic about the future of news and current affairs on TV, and that the Daily Express was a fine and upstanding newspaper (I made this last one up) – at the Voice of the Listener and Viewer’s annual spring conference.

Huh? Wasn’t it less than two weeks ago that the broadcasting regulator, OFCOM (an organisation not known for acting quickly) announced it was bringing its public service broadcasting review forward by two years because the current situation is not sustainable? At the same time didn’t it say that by 2011, less than three years away, ‘the costs of their public service broadcasting commitments may outweigh the benefits’ for commercially funded public service broadcasters? And aren’t the economic pressures on broadcast news already affecting local newsgathering and the editorial resources of ITN? (Hence Michael Grade’s proposals to reduce ITV’s local broadcasting commitments significantly).

Yet here were heads and editors from the channels themselves, including Simon Bucks (Associate Editor, Sky News), Robin Elias (Managing Editor, ITN News), Helen Boaden (Director of BBC News), Dorothy Byrne (Head of C4 News and Current Affairs), Clive Edwards (Executive Editor & Commissioning Editor, BBC), Mike Lewis (Editor, ITV Tonight), and Kevin Sutcliffe (Editor of C4′s Dispatches), saying they were happy with the status quo and sanguine about the future.

We should applaud their bulldog spirit. And optimism is, of course, more comforting than prophecies of doom. But, as the editors congratulated themselves on the quality of their output and on how well they were serving their audiences, one couldn’t help but hear the clinking of glasses as the iceberg hoves into view.

Written by Martin Moore

April 23rd, 2008 at 1:55 pm

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