Sunday, September 09, 2007

News Channel of the Year?

Sky News has become obsessed with describing itself as ‘the news channel of the year’. They love nothing more than announcing that they’ve won another award for news coverage and animating their latest trophy in lovely shiny 3D graphics. Sky News are great at self-promotion. Perhaps it's the reporting of that sort of news which wins them all the awards. The other news – you know, about the things that actually affect those of us in the UK – is all a bit below them now they’ve streamlined and have their own helicopter.

It’s probably a question of money. Sky News has been something of a loss leader for News Corporation. Last year, Sky News sacked many of their staff, reducing their workforce as part of a relaunch of the channel. The same relaunch brought in the promise of a 15 minute news cycle and the Sky News Helicopter, which they said would help them bring us the news as soon as it happens. They haven’t failed to live up to either of their promises.

This morning I’ve watched an hour of news coverage, including forty minutes of an SUV going down a road. The McCann’s had arrived back in the UK at noon. An EasyJet plane landed in the East Midlands, an event that the Sky News anchor described as an ‘extraordinary moment’. Then came the SUV carrying them home. It was like watching a police chase but without the element of the chase. It certainly was the latest news but only in the way that standing on a street corner watching traffic pass by is the 'lastest news' about something happen to someone.

There was a time when Sky News deserved all their accolades. They were, head and shoulders, the best news channel in the UK. The BBC had lagged behind (as they usually do) in investing in a rolling news channel. Then the BBC caught up and (as they usually do) with the full resources of the license fee behind them, provided the best service that money can buy. They’ve done the same on their website. Slow to respond but unbeatable once they get going, the BBC now provide the sort of news coverage that Sky News invented. They report a wide range of subjects, have a good variety of special features, and their anchors have lost the stuffiness that was once their biggest problem. They now chat casually between themselves, giving the news a welcome bit of unscripted humour. It was precisely this kind of casual reporting of the news that made Sky News so watchable in the days of the great Bob Friend.

Now Sky have streamlined their schedule and the whole operation has the stench of professionalism. They now report less news, do so in a totally scripted and unedifying way, and have become the most boring news channel. I’ve give them an award only I’d worry that they’d turn up to accept it.


Momentary Academic said...

During a few of my stays in your lovely nation, I found myself watching Sky news but preferring the BBC because of its general ethos of perfection.

I still watch BBC news from America. I'm just a wannabe Brit.

I know this.

Why ever do you put up with me, Chip?

Big Chip Dale said...

Ah, MA, I'm determined to write you something about becoming a Brit. Give me a day or two and I'll see if I can produce the definative guidebook to this lovely nation.