Wednesday, March 7, 2007 by Ian Jones
My desk at work is opposite a TV which shows Sky News non-stop. I’ve always found it to be a grisly, unpleasant and hysterical channel, and if the sound weren’t turned down on the television set I’m not sure if I’d be able to make it through each day. Lately, though, it seems to have become not just bombastic but bizarre.
It obsesses over things that nobody else is giving anywhere near the same kind of coverage. Today it has run the ITV premium phone line story at the top of the hour every hour. Conspiracists would argue this reflects the fact BSkyB owns just under a fifth of ITV plc. Most others would say it’s a perverse and self-defeating concern in a story which peaked in importance a few days ago and which is nowhere near the most important news of the day.
When something happens in the United States, such as a dull police chase down a California motorway or an aeroplane circling in the sky “failing to land” for some “unknown reason”, all coverage will be interrupted to bring breathless, endless live footage. Nobody cares, but Sky News does it all the same.
The horrible BREAKING NEWS graphic has been joined by a rebranded scrollbar now coloured in a nauseous banana yellow. Items are reported as BREAKING NEWS when they’re not. Other events are branded as a NEWS ALERT when there’s nothing alerting about them and they are not yet news (i.e. the start of Prime Minister’s Questions).
Rumour and hearsay are repeatedly reported as fact. The other month, when Adam Boulton was doing a live report from Downing Street, he heard a loud bang in the street nearby. This was immediately flashed up on screen as a potential bomb scare, despite it only being a car backfiring.
Whether out of a real desperation to attract viewers, or a couldn’t-care-less attitude borne of being kicked off the Virgin Media platform and its forthcoming disappearance from Freeview, Sky News is currently operating an anything-goes attitude towards its titular concern. Anything, that is, except for considered, understated and informed reporting.