13 September 2009

Shoot the Fox

Today saw a very rare occasion for me: in an idle moment, I ended up watching Sky News. This is rare for me as I prefer the BBC News Channel. Being a news junkie, I also watch CNN, EuroNews, NHK World, NDTV 24x7 and al-Jazeera English. Occasionally, something will catch my eye on France 24. If I'm in the mood for blatant propaganda, I can dip into Russia Today, Press TV or of course, Fox News. And in one of my few nods to male stereotyping, I'm drawn to Sky Sports News like a moth to a flame.

But today, I was watching that channel's front page equivalent, Sky News. They were discussing the German election, and how incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel and her SPD rival (and Vice-Chancellor) Frank-Walter Steinmeier are going head-to-head in a TV debate. Well, they weren't actually discussing that. They were using that fact as a vehicle to flag up Sky's campaign for a Leaders' Debate in the UK.

This is now part of a trend for Sky News. This is their baby, it's their campaign and they're trying to get our attention and support for it. They've also jumped on the Save Election Night bandwagon.

It makes sense: their Leaders' Debate would draw in viewers to Sky News and, having gone it alone on this one, would put one over on the BBC and ITV, while the time of election counts and declarations will affect their coverage of events (media coverage will be disrupted when there are still so many counts on Thursday night, but enough on Friday morning to lengthen the result process considerably).

And, in one way, it's not all that bad: it's getting people engaged and interested not just in politics but in the political process, the sort of stuff that has for so long been the preserve of geeks and wonks like myself. Any discussion of how campaigns are fought and how results are declared that involves the public has to be a good thing, right?


Well, in this case, wrong. Very wrong! This is a broadcaster, a television news service, crossing the boundaries from fact to opinion, from news to editorial. Now, claims of media bias are a familiar feature of television news, and it's inevitable that a journalist's political feelings will come through from time to time. Also, the BBC has occasionally run 'awareness' days and telethons like Children in Need and Comic Relief which do cross into editorial country. But this is a first: a concerned, dedicated overt effort by a news provider - not a TV station but specifically its news provider - to organise a specific campaign and garner public support for its viewpoint.

This is a dangerous precedent.

Of course, the only surprise is that it's taken this long for them to try it: look at some of Sky's corporate relatives.

Take The Sun, for instance. Does Luscious Lisa, 22, really believe that we should have a referendum on EU membership? Can we believe that "the busty brunette" actually said "I'm fed up being told how to live by Brussels bureaucrats and it's time the British people had their say"?

Or are they the words of the family Murdoch?

Look into the tits, don't look around the tits, look into the tits. You're under. When you turn the page, you'll believe that the EU has been devised by the devil himself and you'll demand that Gordon Brown finally grow a pair and give us the referendum on withdrawl that will allow us to junk all those pesky social, employment and health and safety laws that piss off Rupert Murdoch. By the way, don't forget to shell out a tenner on our Fantasy Football game. Three, two, one, and... you're back in the room.

Then there's their American TV news stablemate, Fox News, the network that, in their words, America trusts for "fair and balanced" news. Ha! This would be the same station that, when they were reporting another suicide bombing in Iraq, the female anchor sighed and said, "You know, it's a shame that all those foreigners are going into Iraq and destabilising it.", to grunts of agreement from her co-presenters and without even the merest hint of irony. This would also be the station that gives the blustering Bill O'Reilly (who makes George Foulkes look like Gandhi) and the tin-foil-hat-wearing Glenn Beck.

Is Fox the future of Sky News? Is Jeff Randall just the thin end of a very nasty, right-wing wedge?

If you ask me, it's time to shoot the Fox.


subrosa said...

Ahem, dare I ask how you know 22 year old Luscious Lisa is a busty brunette Will?

As for the topic I agree with you, but then Murdoch knows how to generate viewers and viewers = cash.

The BBC just knows how to spend the money thrown at them.

Will said...

I think you just dared ask, subrosa, and the answer is that I was briefly channelling the spirit of a Sun copy editor. ;)

Murdoch's method of generating viewers is impressive and all the other stations are playing catch up, and on many occasions, losing.

My worry is, now that we're a captive audience, what if we start to come down with a sort of televisual Stockholm Syndrome?

Bill said...

Much as I loathe Murdoch and all his works, it's a pity more people didn't follow what Jeff Randall says (for example Brown and Darling!); much better value and sense any day of the week than John Peston and his Labour/BBC-speak propaganda.

subrosa said...

Oh we're well on the way to that Will and, combined with the dumbed down education we give children these days, many of the younger generation don't realise they're being force fed what the government want them to view.

Aye, I never thought I'd ever see the day when TV viewing wasn't a small part of my daily life.

I'm agreeing with Bill again - that must stop!