Tag Archives: 24-hour rolling news

Are we sitting comfortably?

Then I shall begin. This is a story about a humble chair.

Read this article from the BBC, which adds little to what was broadcast on their breakfast show today. Then go and read this article, about the same chair, at the Guardian.

(The choices of source show my own biases. While I am not ashamed of this, you may want to check out the same story at other news outlets, just for the heck of it.)

My point here is that the BBC report implies the chair, originally owned by author JK Rowling when she was a lot less well off and famous than she is now, was sold at auction. The article implies the sale was by Rowling, tells us how much the chair made at the auction, but doesn’t really tell us who bought it or what the money made might be used for. Anyone that knows Rowling would guess she might donate some or all of the cash to a charity, rather than simply pocket the cash.

As it transpires, when you fill out the details from the Guardian version, Ms Rowling was not selling the chair. She sold it back in 2002, after she’d painted the various words on it. Now, didn’t the BBC article just imply it was Ms Rowling selling the chair? A supposedly impartial news broadcaster, as the BBC keeps telling us it should be, seems to be only telling half the story. Why hold back some of the information? Was it felt unnecessary? Who decided we should think Rowling was selling the chair, which ticks the “celebrity” box at least, when it was the second or third owner of the object selling this time, who made a fair amount of money on the sale and, it turns out, is donating 10 per cent of the proceeds to a Rowling charity?

While you mull that notion over in your mind, consider what other more important and grave news stories may be being moulded to an agenda before they are broadcast or published to us. My favourite parlour game is pointing out errors and omissions in reports which cover things I actually know about. It makes you really stop and wonder how much is missed out or erroneous in coverage of many other things.

Question everything. Believe nothing.


UPDATE (10/4/16): It seems the BBC article has been updated to clarify the chain of ownership. This is a good thing, and shows someone pays attention to how things can be, even accidentally, skewed. I feel my original point about media biases and how we should try to be aware of them still stands.

I understand now


For the past week or so here in Blighty, the weather forecasters have been building us up for a major bout of bad weather. They’ve been going on at length, for a week or more now, about a warm front in the west meeting a cold front in the east (the same cold weather that has caused the deaths of over 100 people in eastern Europe and caused Venetian canals to freeze over), with dire warnings about massive snowfall on the eastern side of the UK. Threats of two to six centimetres—gulp! (did that sound sarcastic enough?—and ensuing travel chaos.

The snow finally hit, more or less as predicted, on Saturday night. We got a healthy dump of it here in Kent, but nothing to get too bothered about. I happily ignored it. I know the local authorities had been out gritting the local bus routes. We woke to probably 10cm of snow in places. That’s a scary four inches; barely enough to get your boots damp.

Best Beloved and some friends had planned a trip to an amateur radio rally on Canvey Island. We checked the motorway cameras on the internet, and all seemed clear and running well. The only doubt was whether the roads around the rally venue were clear, but reports began to come in that all was well, the rally was going ahead, and people were clearing the car park. No problems. Just be careful out there. They all went, and came home, safely.

Meanwhile, the news media was full of snowmageddon. Now the snow had hit London, it was big news. Never mind folk in the north-west and parts of Scotland have had snow like this for some time already. It’s not really news until the Tube is affected, or people had to clear a sprinkling of snow from their Chelsea Tractors.

We were told in breathless terms, accompanied by shaky cameraphone video, that some people had been stuck on the M40 for a while. A train or two got stuck somewhere. Flights from the London airports had been cancelled. It was the usual story of idiot drivers or unfortunate icing in strategically important places.

Nothing to get excited about, frankly, but having built us up for it the news channels had to make it into the end of the world as we knew it.

They had, after all, been priming us for days that it was going to be 1947/1963/2010 all over again. Endless rolling video of snowploughs, cars with wheels spinning, people digging out snow drifts—all from the archives, of course—were aired as the teleprompter jockeys intoned the bad news coming. The BBC News channel had a poor bloke in front of Heathrow, bemoaning the cancelled flights and troubles with the roads, while traffic flowed freely about him. He had his script, and he had to fit the agenda. The reality behind him just made it more and more surreal, frankly. I spotted one shot of a van stuck in the snow. The camera zoomed frantically in to catch the desperate attempts to move in the snow and ice… Wait, oh, it’s at a traffic light. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Now, as the thaw sets in, we’re warned of sub-zero temperatures leading to ice on the roads, freezing fog, and so on, ad infinitum. This morning, as I sit at my desk and type this, a weak sun is warming the snow so it begins to thaw. Most of it will be gone by tomorrow. I realise now why the media goes through this every time.

First, they have to justify their existence, so they manufacture news to fit their agenda. That’s a given, as far as any sceptic is concerned.

Second, having cried wolf for a week or more, having been proved right (if only for a few hours), they continue to big up the badness to make us all really scared.

Third, once we’re all really scared, stripped the supermarkets of supplies, battened down the hatches and prepared for the end of the civilised world, we wake the morning after and discover it’s not so bad after all. We all feel better about things. “Well, that wasn’t so bad,” we say to ourselves. “Seen a lot worse than that,” we tell our friends. “Have you seen this fabulous snowman the kids have made in the street?” we inform Facebook.

The media plays pyschological games with us. They tell us how bad it’s going to be, ramping up the fear and paranoia, and when it turns out not to be so bad after all we all feel better about life.

The problem is, the news media does this with all the news. That’s a scary thought.

BBC News – Dartford crossing fee suspension proposed

A six-month trial of the suspension of charges at the Dartford Crossing at times of severe congestion is being proposed.

The suspension would come into force “when the severity of congestion is such as to constitute an emergency” said the government consultation paper.

The paper, published by Mike Penning, the Under Secretary for Transport, also proposes a “free flow charging system”.

Car drivers will see a rise from £1.50 to £2.50 come into force in 2012.

My reaction to the last line there, I think, is “facepalm”. It wouldn’t surprise me if they proposed adding border crossing to check who was travelling between Essex and Kent.

I’ll edit later to link to other posts about the Dartford crossings.

What’s the agenda here?

Universities will be able to charge £6,000 with a higher tier of £9,000 – nearly treble existing levels – if they promote access for poorer students.

(My emphasis above.)

Why is the BBC reporting the student fees review as something that is actual fact? The report is published today, but outlines proposals. The whole thing has to be passed into law after the usual process in Parliament, and that’s probably not going to happen until just before Christmas this year.

So, why am I reading stuff like “Universities will be able to charge £6,000 with a higher tier of £9,000 – nearly treble existing levels”?

Here are some screen grabs from the BBC News channel to illustrate what I mean about the wording being used:


I think there should be a “could” in there.


Perhaps “may” instead of “will”?


Increase could affect students…


Increased limit on tuition fees may begin in 2012.

There’s some kind of agenda being pushed here, isn’t there? The media is trying to chip away at the Liberal Democrat MPs in the coalition because they all pledged at the election that tuition fees would not rise if they were elected.

Quite what the media will say or do if all the Lib-Dem MPs actually had the balls to stand by their pledge and vote against the coalition on this matter remains to be seen.

I’ve not checked how Sky are covering this, mainly because I avoid them like the plague. I suspect it’ll be much the same kind of sniping, frankly.

BBC News – Naomi Campbell in war crimes court over Taylor diamonds


So, we’re only seeing coverage of the trial of Charles Taylor because a supermodel looks better on telly?

It strikes me the news media’s priorities here are inverted. Celebrity trumps alleged genocide. We’d not be watching wall-to-wall coverage of this trial if it wasn’t a celeb on the witness stand – more’s the pity.

I give up.

*EDIT* It’s over now. All the news vultures can do is endlessly replay random footage while a reporter tells us what just happened over and over again. As the testimony finished I had a mental image of all the news studios in a mad scramble to clear the desks of coffee cups and cake crumbs, frantically wiping sugar from around mouths before the director cut back to them.

The end result of all this? Not sure it even matters, to be honest.

Raoul Moat: Seven Questions the Media Should Answer » Martin Robbins

In the aftermath of Raoul Moat’s death serious questions will asked about the man and the manhunt. But there are some extremely serious questions that the media themselves should answer about their coverage of Raoul Moat.

I was sort of hoping we could let this story rest, but I don’t think I can, and I don’t think any of us should either. Martin Robbins poses seven questions the media really should ask themselves about the coverage of the Raoul Moat story.

I doubt such questions will be asked at all, and they won’t all the time the vultures perceive a ratings increase with each lurid tale.

Tip of the hat to Anton Vowl at Enemies of Reason.