Monday, October 15, 2007

News (Not News) Revisited

America needs its own Charlie Brooker...when our TV aims for media criticism with a bit of cheek, it usually ends up with either something painfully earnest which only works on pre-sold true believers or (most likely) a more caustic version of TV Burp. Last week, Brooker's excellent BBC4 series Screenwipe went in for a game I call "news/not news". The whole show is good, so of course somebody posted the whole show. And of course there's a dig at Fox News. Why wouldn't there be?

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

(Or if you just can't be bothered, here's the part that takes the piss out of Bill O'Reilly. For a better representation of Brooker's style, here's his view of the British media's Madeline McCann coverage. Nice to see they're coming around to the American plan.)

American TV news used to be an FCC-mandated requirement with equal time for opposing viewpoints to keep the threat of one-sided commentary in check, and not just another whored-up profit center accountable only to ad revenues and audience ratings. My main issue with the so-called 24-hour news cycle is that the jerks spend so much time telling you what they think it all means that they often forget to tell you what happened in the first place. For that reason, Brooker's lead-off point is right on the nose: we got a better quality of information out of TV when the actually stuck to the simple idea of telling us what happened. The no-frills, guy-at-a-desk half-hour newscast might seem quaint to people in love with production bells and whistles, but I miss it more and more each day. It's not sexy, but it's important.

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