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Home > Media

TVJism: The new British code of conduct

29 June 2005

This week the BBC published a comprehensive overhaul of its editorial guidelines, on the grounds that there are new demands being placed on its journalists, thanks to 24 hour news and breaking stories on the Internet. The main theme will be 'accuracy is more important than speed', ie. don't run stories saying we've all been implanted with mind control chips because you read it on David Icke's website.

The new guidelines will no doubt be warmly welcomed by BBC staff, who already have the ignominy of working under screes of management directives. What's even more galling is the thought that the guidelines appear to be stating the obvious. 'Accuracy is more important than speed' is really just a different way of saying 'Don't commit libel' or 'Get your facts right', both fairly well known tenets of journalism. In any case, the fundamental tension of journalism - getting the story out against tight deadlines while being sure that it's accurate - remains, and is something that individual journalists and news editors will have to deal with on a story-by-story basis.

One of the guidelines will advise news types to delay broadcasting footage when showing live footage of 'sensitive and challenging events', an unnecessarily vague reference to showing horrific uncut footage, as happened during the Beslan school siege and other news stories. But again, are guidelines really necessary? Surely a bollocking of any producer who shows pictures of mutilated corpses at tea time would suffice?

From the public's point of view, it's also irksome to think that the BBC is once again doing what it does best - rearranging the deckchairs with more internal management tinkering while only putting out one in 50 programmes that's actually any good. Recently Private Eye reported that despite 15 per cent budget cuts at the BBC, the corporation has added a new art installation to its hated White City offices (dubbed 'Shite City' by staff.) The installation is a piece of art made up of 10,000 stickers, with a short poem on each. Staff are invited 'to peel off any sticker they take a liking to and take it with them - so the words travel literally around the community'.

Oh how the world needs more pseudy art wankery. But to return to the subject of guidelines, what the BBC probably needs is not guidelines that effectively tell journos to do their jobs properly, but guidelines to force the whole organisation to get some decent fucking telly out. Guidelines like:

...

1. Try not to show whole evenings of unadulterated shit, eg. Cash in the Attic, Eastenders, the billionth series of Airport, National Lottery Blow Your Housing Benefit, Julie Walters A Bafta Tribute, The Lenny Henry Show, etc.

2. Start coming up with decent programme ideas instead of just hitching some overpaid, overexposed celeb to a show and hoping it will work, eg, Julian Clary's Cat Owners vs. Dog Owners IQ Test Challenge.

3. Remember that straightforward formats like drama, comedy and documentary exist because they've been proven to work. A programme about the Romans doesn't need a thousand CGI legionaries fighting the Goths under the command of team leaders Johnny Vegas and Natasha Kaplinsky, with a 'VOTE NOW!' scam crudely grafted on.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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